Infinite Variety Golf Design, led by Frank Pont, is making progress with restoration work on the Harry Colt-designed Upper course at Real Club Puerta de Hierro in Madrid, Spain.
“Real Club Puerta de Hierro is truly an amazing club located right in the heart of the city of Madrid,” said Pont. “From an architectural perspective, its two beautiful courses have very compelling and historic pedigrees. It is an honour and privilege to have been entrusted with the responsibility of helping slowly restore Colt’s Upper course. The intention is to bring back important features of his design and, in the process, make the course more fun to play by reinstating some strategic options which had been lost over time.”
Most of the Upper course was originally designed by Harry Colt, while the club’s Lower course features different sections designed by Colt, Tom Simpson and Kyle Phillips. The club also has a nine-hole Buena Vista course, designed by Phillips.
Pont was contacted when the club began the process to select an architect to consult on the restoration of the Upper course. “Prior to the selection process, I had visited the club several times as part of my research into the work of both Colt and Arana in Spain,” said Pont. “In the end, IVGD was selected from a shortlist of three architects. This was, I believe, in part due to our proven track record of successfully restoring other high-profile Colt courses throughout Europe and the British Isles.”
Pont produced an extensive course plan that showed the historic changes made to the course, allowing the club to understand how each hole had evolved over time. The firm also made several recommendations for the actions required to bring the course closer to its original style.
“One of my key conclusions was that the bunkering had lost its original Colt look and was now rather generic and American in style,” said Pont. “Also, the green surrounds had too many ornate mounds rather than short grass run offs. The course plan recommended rectifying both issues.”
Once the club had approved the plan, work began in summer 2018 on the tees of the second and tenth holes, with Pont supported by architect Mike DeVries.
In summer 2019, fairway and greenside bunkering and green surrounds on the tenth hole were addressed. The club’s greenkeeping team, led by course director Javier Martinez Ramos, removed sod throughout the working area in mind-July, then in early August shaping of the green surrounds, plus fairway and greenside bunkers, was completed by Conor Walsh and crew.
“This involved recreating the original asymmetry of defence to the hole’s bunkering both at the green and on the fairway,” said Pont. “The green used to have two large bunkers left of the green and one right. We reversed that, putting two bunkers right and one left. At the same time, we returned the bunkers’ style to one more in keeping with what Colt had designed originally. Furthermore, we made significant changes to the green surrounds by removing several mounds and ridges around the green and replacing them with short grass run offs – a feature much more in keeping with Colt’s design philosophy. Shaping took two weeks, after which the greenkeeping team finished the process by re-turfing the large working areas.”
“The membership has reacted very positively to the first phase of our restoration project. Specifically, people like the cleaner visuals and the asymmetry of the hole’s defence. Members also like the fact that by paying homage to Colt’s original architecture, their short games now require an increased level of creativity given the amendments that we have made to the green surrounds.”
Work will now continue over the coming years, with approximately two holes expected to be restored each summer.