I had the fortunate opportunity to fill the month of May with some work for Arnold Palmer Design Company on their new course down in Porto Feliz, Brasil--about an hour and a half west of Sao Paulo--at Fazenda Boa Vista. The main charge for the month was to go through all the bunkers, most of which at this point had already been established in grass. There were still some bunkers in the dirt though awaiting to be grassed. For these, it was decided that with a few simple moves and a couple of laborers, the work could be done by hand to avoid extra cleanup and also free up the excavator for other uses and keep the grassing program moving along, especially with the growing season for warm-season bermuda quickly coming to a close. With my new hard-working amigos that spoke none of my language and me only a tiny bit of theirs, we set to chipping away at the hard soil and resetting the lines, mainly either simplifying them or extending them on the low corners.
It should be said that ProGolf Brasil, the contractor at Boa Vista, shaper Jeff Stein, and lead architect from APDC Thad Layton did a nice job of building "good bones," or pretty nice starting shapes in the bunkers, and this made my job imminently easier.
With the bunkers that had already been grassed, they were all mostly in good shape with really nice movement in the edge lines. With some tamping with the back of a rake, some sharpening of corners with a flat shovel, and some textural "roughing up" of the edges with the same shovel, the bunkers began to take on a much more natural and aged look. Nowhere was this more evident than on bunkers where the protective plastic liner had just been pulled.
The protective lining of the bunker edges was something new to me that I had not seen before. While cumbersome to move and adjust to the bunkers that were still in the dirt, there were some real benefits to them. For one, they did seem to hold the edges fairly well. They also provided some irregular movement to the lines as material outside would bow out the liner in between stakes toward the center. Further yet, the lack of compaction from the sand cap at the edge left it soft and provided flexibility to tamp it and roll it down as much as desired. All of these factors aided in being able to easily come up with the rugged texture and style seen above. I would consider utilizing this method again in the future.
A good number of the other bunkers had had the liner removed for some time. The program was still largely the same, though from growth and/or settling of the sand cap, the before and after comparisons are not as drastic.
Hole 5 provided some of the biggest challenges, mainly with the front two bunkers, which were much more rounded and flat in the foreground. They did not really fit in with the rest of the course or the hole itself. After mental wrestling trying to come up with an easy solution, there was no other choice but to add some sod to the high sides and recontour some of the foreground.
I would not call it perfect now, but it is an improvement. What you aren't going to improve much though is the strategic location and sizing of all the bunkers, which is really the most important thing anyway. This hole, along with the other par fives at Boa Vista, features bunkers that both make you think and challenge you on all shots--a hard thing to pull off on a par 5. Thad Layton and Arnold Palmer Design Company are doing great work and moving the company in the right direction. It was really enjoyable for me to work with them and help contribute to what should be a very fun golf course.
I would like to thank ProGolf Brasil as well for being very easy to work with. When I needed tools or labor, I got them. Whenever I wanted to be left alone to think and work, they let me do my thing. I think that not only helps things get done, it helps them get done well. I'm a believer that a happy crew or individual leads to better and more creative work. That is something that Tom Doak's Renaissance team really emphasizes, and it obviously shows in the results there. ProGolf is just getting started on finishing the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, and look for them to only get better as they work along with Gil Hanse's talented crew.