Jack Nicklaus on the design and agronomy of his Portuguese course

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 22, 2011 16:00

The Monte Rei Golf Club on the Algarve opened in 2007 and is already one of Iberia’s premier golf resorts.

Set in the picturesque foothills of Portugal’s Algarve with sweeping views of the Serra do Caldeirão Mountains to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the golf course is surrounded by over 400 hectares of unspoilt countryside. Faced with this unique, unspoiled landscape, course designer Jack Nicklaus grasped the opportunity to work with the developers of Monte Rei to design one of his trademark signature golf courses, the first such course on the Iberian Peninsula and one of very few in Europe.

“When I design a golf course, my top priority is finding the features such as native trees, grade variations or natural wetlands that can enhance shot values or scenically frame a hole. I let the environmental surroundings shape the holes, so they fit the terrain. I never try and force an idea onto a piece of land and Monte Rei is no exception,” explained Nicklaus.

This aim of complimenting the surroundings and retaining the natural beauty of this rugged landscape was undoubtedly one of the main challenges facing the design and agronomy team, however the results are stunning. At first glance, the contrast provided by a foreground of lush green fairways against the rising mountains in the distance is arresting, but blends together effortlessly on this natural canvas. “I avoid disrupting the natural setting as much as possible,” Nicklaus continued. “I believe it is important to preserve the natural features of the land and not go against what Mother Nature has created. Golf holes should fit the terrain; not the other way around.”

“Each hole at Monte Rei is unique,” said a club spokesman. “Jack’s ingenious contouring as well as the demanding cut and positioning of the sculptured bunkers deserve the best course presentation and that for me is all about attention to detail.”

The 7,200 yard course, built to USGA specifications, meanders over 70 hectares of gently rolling hills and valleys, with water coming into play on 11 of the 18 holes. The course features a testing series of eight par-4s, five par-3s and five par-5s in a distinctive layout, which is as challenging for the agronomy team as it is for the golfer.

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 22, 2011 16:00
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