Vale do Lobo is the largest luxury resort development in Portugal and features two
18-hole championship golf courses. The resort owners are conscious of their impact on their surroundings and are committed to maintaining the environmental equilibrium; and that’s one of the drivers behind their recent purchases of turf maintenance equipment with zero emissions at the point of use.
Year Opened: 1968 (first nine holes)
Location: Almancil, Portugal
Resort Technical Director: Eng. Luis Matos
Golf Courses Superintendent: Ignacio Coelho
Equipment: Jacobsen Eclipse 322 electric greens mowers (3);
Smithco Super Star 48 volt electric bunker rakes (3)
Sir Richard Costain, managing director of the international construction company Costain, was a regular visitor to the Algarve in the early 1960s and being a scratch golfer decided he would like to build a course in the area. While visiting several sites he came across the Vale do Lobo (Valley of the Wolf), a dramatic area of land some 15 miles west of Faro.
Having purchased the land he now required an architect, so he chose his old school friend, Sir Henry Cotton, and together they drew up the first plans for the course, which were unveiled in 1962. At that time, the Algarve was mainly inhabited by farmers and fishermen but with the first nine holes opening in 1965 followed by a second nine holes and the construction of the five star Dona Filipa Hotel in 1968, that soon changed, especially when Faro International Airport opened that same year.
In 1971 the first ‘aldeamento’ (housing complex) was completed and the following year the third nine hole course opened. Sander van Gelder, a Dutch entrepreneur, discovered Vale do Lobo while on holiday in the mid 1970s, and recognising its potential, bought the resort and moved to Portugal in 1977.
The Roger Taylor tennis centre opened in 1980 and in 1997, the construction of an additional nine holes saw the creation of the Royal and Ocean courses. Vale do Lobo celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2002, staging the Algarve Open de Portugal for the first time and the same year hosted its first ATP Seniors Tour event, won by John McEnroe. The Algarve Open de Portugal returned for a second consecutive year in 2003.
Towards the end of 2006, the resort was sold to a group of Portuguese and international investors, including Portugal’s largest national bank, Caixa Geral de Depósitos.
Both courses at Vale do Lobo feature umbrella pine and fig tree-lined fairways that sweep down to the Atlantic; the par 72, 6,059 metre Royal course, designed by American golf architect Rocky Roquemore, based on the original drawings of Sir Henry Cotton, sits dramatically along the cliff’s edge. The 9th green is virtually an island and the famous 16th, with clifftop carry is one of the most photographed holes in Europe.
The Ocean Course, composed of the two original 9-hole golf courses designed by Sir
Henry Cotton, is a combination of links and parkland golf that provides enjoyable and alternative options for golfers of all standards. At 6,137 metres with a par of 73 it features gently undulating fairways which run alongside the nature reserve before leading gently down to the shores of the Atlantic. The 11th and 14th are challenging and spectacular par 4s and the par 3 15th runs alongside the beach.
The Resort’s ethos
One of the first people I met on my visit was Eng. Luis Matos, the Resort and Technical Director who has been associated with Vale do Lobo for over 41 years. During the short walk to the location of the photoshoot he explained the ethos of the resort.
“We are situated in an amazing area of 400 hectares bordering the Atlantic Ocean,” he said, “of which 75 hectares are dedicated to the golf courses. The courses are based on original concepts by the legendary Sir Henry Cotton and were re-developed by the respected American golf architect Rocky Roquemore.
“We are an ideal destination for golfers, second home owners and holiday makers, thanks to an exceptional climate, dramatic coastline, golden beaches, acclaimed restaurants, the golf courses and an impressive property portfolio. We are delighted to have hosted to the Portuguese Open on two occasions.
“The importance of the natural environment in Vale do Lobo has been a priority at the resort from the outset, with continuous innovation, infrastructure and services remaining essential in preserving the unique natural environment of the area. The overall aim of the resort is to balance the needs and desires of the residents and visitors, while also maintaining a philosophy of sustainable development.
“To ensure the successful environmental management of the Vale do Lobo golf courses, we are always looking to find new and innovative solutions to course maintenance and in keeping with this philosophy, we have recently acquired new equipment from the renowned Jacobsen brand, to allow the latest technology to be used to create harmony between the courses and the environment.”
New course maintenance equipment
Ignacio Coelho is the Golf Courses Superintendent at Vale do Lobo and has worked at the resort for the past 24 years and leads a team of 32 greenkeeping staff. With over 110,000 rounds of golf every year, the courses demand an impressive and dedicated team to keep them in pristine condition.
Speaking during the delivery of the three Jacobsen Eclipse 322s he said,
“We had a demonstration of the mowers just over a year ago and I was very impressed with the thinking behind their design. The battery packs which store the electricity have an automatic watering system, which makes them easy to maintain and the quality of cut on the greens is impressive. Obviously they are virtually silent when in operation and create no
emissions when being used around the resort.
“The other obvious benefit is that there is absolutely no chance of an hydraulic oil spill on the greens, because they are totally powered by electricity and have no hydraulic system. I made a serious business case for purchasing the equipment, presented it to our Finance Director, Luisa Salazar and to Luis Matos, and my recommendations were approved.
“Jacobsen sent one of their service engineers from the UK to install the machines, which was excellent as he could fully explain to my assistant, Luis Rebelo and our mechanic, some of the more detailed functions of the mowers.
“We have also taken delivery of three all-electric bunker rakes from the Smithco brand. These Super Star 48 volt rakes, together with the new Jacobsen machines, combine efficiency with minimal noise pollution to allow for a greater quality of life for the residents, while equally respecting the environment. Everyone at Vale do Lobo is proud to be once again working towards a cleaner and more environmentally friendly future.”