“Brazil isn’t exactly the Mecca of golf”

  • Golf Ville

    Brazilian golf architect Claudio Golombek has completed a nine-hole par-three course

  • Golf Ville

    The architect favoured huge waste bunkers to make the course more challenging

  • Golf Ville

    The course is part of a development with 99 four-storey buildings

  • Golf Ville

    Holes range from 70 to 200 yards

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Brazilian golf course architect Claudio Golombek talks to GCA about a nine-hole par-three course he created at the Golf Ville Resort in Aquiraz, Brazil, and his thoughts on the state of game in the country.

Having studied agronomic engineering at the University of São Paulo – School of Agriculture and obtaining a Master of Science from the University of Illinois, Golombek set up his own firm in 2007, with an executive team that consists of one other University of São Paulo alumni and two from other local universities.

In 2017, Golombek completed the Golf Ville Resort layout in the north-east of Brazil.

How did the project come about?

We interacted with the Urban Planning Office – Hissa Arquitetos Associados – to fit a golf course into a limited space in Aquiraz, conceptually. We then developed the design and executive plans in 2011/12.

Permission to build the course was granted in 2015, with Golf Ville hiring an irrigation contractor to install the watering system. Construction of the golf course was contracted by Henrique Belem, a Portuguese contractor who, at the time, lived in the region. It was completed in 18 months, and at a later stage we developed the illumination project as well as the landscaping plans.

Can you tell us a bit more about Golf Ville?

The course doesn’t have a name itself, it’s part of a small development with 99 four-storey buildings called Golf Ville. Each building has seven or eight apartments.

So, one may say it is a real estate initiative and this small course is an attraction within several other attractions, such as tennis courts, swimming pools, playgrounds, gardens, the beach front, other sports courts and the like.

The developers sold 60 per cent when they launched the development, in the middle of one of the worst economic depressions we have had in Brazil’s history and amidst corruption scandals climbing all the way to the top! Every apartment was sold just three years later.

The golf course project had to fit in the middle of the mentioned buildings, so there was no space for longer shots due to safety. Besides, the limited space didn’t allow for par fours and they needed something they could run small local tournaments in.

What design features can golfers expect?

The environment was very favourable, with dunes, lots of wind and sun. However, we were a little bit restricted with water. So, we decided to favour huge waste bunkers and reduce the turfgrass area.

Greens were made quite big – they average larger than 600 square metres – in case Golf Ville decided to include two flags per green.

There are undulating greens and deep bunkers, which compensate for the easiness of some holes. Two of them require shots that go over water with small carries so there are still some imposing psychological threats.

Holes range from 70 to 200 yards, and there was enough space for a 240-yard driving range. It used to be 280 yards, but they needed to include a wastewater treatment plant that took a good chunk out of the training facility.

A 1,200-square-metre putting green has been built as well as one bunker for short game practice.

And it’s playable at night, too?

Since the course is located in a warm region, the developer decided to light it for night play, so it became the second lighted golf course in the country. Although it is small, it’s lots of fun and a challenge.

The fact that it’s a very warm place motivated the investors to install the course lighting. So far, people have used the course about the same at night as they do during the day. Some people with skin issues love the idea of playing at night, with a plus of not getting too hot and sweaty when playing.

Why is a golf development like this important in Brazil?

Thirty minutes down the road from Golf Ville is an 18-hole course called Clube de Golfe Aquiraz Riviera, which was developed by a Portuguese real estate company.

Donald Steel originally designed the nine-hole Aquiraz Riviera layout, which was expanded to 18 holes around the same time that we were working at Golf Ville. The fact that this course was under construction when we decided to design this nine-hole par-three course did help in our decision. The way we see it, is that if the golfer wants to have some fun and practice, they can do so at Golf Ville. If they want a full experience they will go and play at Aquiraz Riviera. We see them as complementary to each other.

I read the feature in Golf Course Architecture magazine about the design trends regarding new layouts and I identified well with the view that golf courses were getting too long and not as much fun.

We don’t have a golf culture like Argentina does, but our 15,000 or so players enjoy maybe 100 courses around the country. Brazil isn’t exactly the Mecca of golf, but we manage to build here and there.