Golf Course Architecture - Issue 64, April 2021

64 bankruptcy, with debts of €6.4 billion ($8.4 billion), and in August the bank, which reported losses of €3.6 billion, was rescued by the Portuguese state. Down at Comporta, nine holes and the practice facility were seeded, while six of the back nine holes were finished and ready for seed. But they never got it, as the collapse of the parent company put a sudden and, seemingly, final halt to construction operations. Five years on, though, in November 2019, fate threw Comporta a lifeline. A consortium composed of Vanguard Properties, a real estate developer controlled by French-Swiss investor Claude Berra and Portuguese executive José Cardoso Botelho, and luxury brand – and boutique hotel operator – Amorim, bought the development. Founded only in 2017, Vanguard has quickly become Portugal’s largest real estate developer, focused on luxury residential and tourist assets – it has 19 projects currently underway, spread over the country. Comporta is the company’s first golf project. Clearly, to get the Comporta development back on track, it was vital first to complete the Dunes golf course. To this end, Vanguard made contact with original designer David McLay Kidd, but the travel problems caused by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic made it difficult for the Oregon-based architect to commit his resources to the project in the short term. Kidd therefore suggested to Vanguard that they should contract with Conor Walsh, formerly a staff shaper for the architect, but now running his own golf construction company – CJW Golf – to execute the work. Walsh was lead shaper during the original build of Comporta Dunes, and naturally has intimate knowledge of the project. “We were relatively close by, and we have experience of the original build,” says Walsh. “We know where the irrigation pipes are and we are familiar with the design philosophy – we know what David wants off the tee and for approach shots.” Walsh and his team mobilised on site and started construction work on 20 January. After being left to its own devices for six and a half years, the golf course had naturally run rather wild. Therefore, the turf that had established itself on the course has had to be stripped off – revealing all the original shaping and micro-contours – before being reseeded. All bunkers are being rebuilt. Walsh says that the grassing plan has changed, and the design has had to be adjusted to deal with that. “Previously, the entire course was going to be fescue, but now it is fescue from tee to green, but the greens are a new creeping bent variant called Pure Select. Naturally this means they will run faster, so the contours are being massaged very slightly to allow for this.” The Pure Select is supplied by Pure Seed through its Portuguese distributor Jordao. Architect Kidd told GCA : “Switching to creeping bent was my decision. I’ve concluded in the last few years that a large proportion of golfers simply don’t ‘get’ fescue greens. Gamble Sands, for example, a course I built a few years ago in Washington state, has fescue greens. They’re fantastic, and to someone with a high golf IQ, they are wonderful. But ordinary golfers don’t get them. They aren’t as fast as they expect, and they’re not a uniform green.” Although no one in the golf industry would ideally choose to let a newly constructed course lay fallow for six years before finishing, Walsh says that, in many ways, it is a good thing, because the vegetation has had chance to grow back, helping the course naturalise and avoid the ‘raw’ look COMPORTA DUNES “ It is almost a dream, being able to shape a course and then leave it for years to naturalise” Photo: Conor Walsh