Brazil

Rio in Review: Brief and Belated by Brett Hochstein

The mountains in all directions are incredibly more dramatic in person

The mountains in all directions are incredibly more dramatic in person

Earlier last month following my duties at Fazenda Boa Vista, I had the opportunity to visit Rio de Janeiro and the Olympic Golf Course for my last weekend in Brazil.  The guys from Progolf Brasil, who were just beginning work as the contractor for the Olympic course, had been especially insistent upon making a trip to Rio both for the course but also to see "the real Brasil."  Sorrocaba might actually be a closer representation of the "real Brasil," but I knew what they meant.  Upon flying into and landing in the city, I could see immediately I was no longer in Sao Paolo State.  Bright blue water, golden sand beaches, and vivid green mountains* thrusting themselves up from the earth all made for a setting not quite like any I had ever seen.  Lake Michigan has its Carribean like water and golden sand, but there are no mountains towering above.  Guilin in China and Thailand have their famous odd rock formations thrusting into the sky, but there is no sand or blue water (or blue skies for that matter) to be found in their more color-muted settings. No, this was different, and to the eyes of outsiders around the world, this was indeed the Real Brazil.

*There is something concrete to the inspiration for the unique colors selected for Brasil's instantly recognizable national flag--blue water, golden beaches, and green countryside.

I had the great fortune to stay with the 3 lads from Olympic course architect Gil Hanse's on-site team--Melbourne native Ben Hillard, Brora native Neil Cameron, and North Berwick native Ben Warren.  The collective hometown golf locales of these three gentlemen could rival that of probably just about any gathering of 3 people.  I wasn't jealous at all or anything.  

We grabbed a quick lunch that Saturday then headed out to the site for what was their afternoon of work and my chance at a tour.  Seeing this site was going to be particularly interesting for me after having gotten to know it through helping plan the proposal from Tom Doak and Renaissance Golf, who obviously came up just short in the selection. 

Warm, sunny, and sandy, I ditched the pants and boots that were required back in the Fazenda and immediately threw on my preferred type of site shoes--a pair of Rainbow flip flops, which to my delight were also being sported by Ben Warren.  I'm not alone in my fashion choices after all.  To my appreciation, Ben Hillard decided to take the afternoon to check on things himself and play tour guide, taking me along 1 through 18 and engaging in great talk both about the course and the industry in general.  Benny Warren joined in around the middle of the front 9, and we continued, pausing to talk about hole features, shot values, and the adventures or pains of constructing them.  We planned a quick go around in about 2 hours, but we ended up using every last bit of daylight before getting to 18 and finding it to be time for a few cold ones and some dinner.  They continued to be great hosts that evening and the following day, introducing me to my favorite food in Brazil (prawn pastels) and taking me to a mountain top restaurant overlooking the beaches and countryside.  Between the course tour, the Sunday drive, the endless golf discussion, and the general camaraderie, it was one of the more fun weekends I've had in quite awhile.  

I won't say too much about the course itself, for it is not really my position to do so.  The project is under tight wraps and understandably so given the stature and the amount of scrutiny it is subject to.  I will say though that barring any major interference or negative events, Gil and team are going to have come up with something special.  The routing is great, and there are a lot of cool concepts in play.  The site is also way better than I imagined.  All I had known of it was that it was sandy and flat with one corner of moving terrain.  Truth is, there is a lot of micro stuff going on, the surrounding mountains are unbelievable cool and dramatic, and the vegetative texture is quite amazing, especially for Brazil, or any tropical locale for that matter.  They are utilizing that texture and those contours to the fullest, and the result is going to be a very good and very natural look.  Despite the lame format, I am really looking forward to seeing the 2016 event to see how this course turned out and how it is received.  It should be another move for golf going in the right direction.

 

Bunkering in Brazil by Brett Hochstein

The first hole at Fazenda Boa Vista (Palmer) during grow in

The first hole at Fazenda Boa Vista (Palmer) during grow in

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.

Hole 15 fairway after edits.  The foreground bunker was extended left and made to look like it is sweeping more down the hillside.  The bunker in the far ground had the squiggly-ness of the low left side both toned down and outer points adjusted to create a "connect the dots" curve.

Hole 15 fairway after edits.  The foreground bunker was extended left and made to look like it is sweeping more down the hillside.  The bunker in the far ground had the squiggly-ness of the low left side both toned down and outer points adjusted to create a "connect the dots" curve.

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.  

Hole 8 green side just after the plastic storm erosion liner had been pulled.

Hole 8 green side just after the plastic storm erosion liner had been pulled.

Hole 8 green side after finishing the edge.  A corner of the back bunker was also cut up higher to make it visible from the approach; before it was totally blind.

Hole 8 green side after finishing the edge.  A corner of the back bunker was also cut up higher to make it visible from the approach; before it was totally blind.

Hole 8 fairway bunker just after liner pulled and before any work done to it.

Hole 8 fairway bunker just after liner pulled and before any work done to it.

Hole 8 fairway bunker after edits.  Besides the textural improvements, a high point in the left center was detected and enhanced.  This move, along with heavily tamping down the right side, now gives a slight overall tilt to the bunker, whereas before it had a bit of a flat line on top.  It now has a more pleasing look and fits in better with the rest of the bunkers on the course.

Hole 8 fairway bunker after edits.  Besides the textural improvements, a high point in the left center was detected and enhanced.  This move, along with heavily tamping down the right side, now gives a slight overall tilt to the bunker, whereas before it had a bit of a flat line on top.  It now has a more pleasing look and fits in better with the rest of the bunkers on the course.

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.

This nasty little green side bunker on 7 had a very symmetrical look from further back in the fairway.  The goal was to get away from that symmetry.

This nasty little green side bunker on 7 had a very symmetrical look from further back in the fairway.  The goal was to get away from that symmetry.

Making the nose stick out a little more and flaring up the right side helps alleviate some of the symmetry.

Making the nose stick out a little more and flaring up the right side helps alleviate some of the symmetry.

This bunker guarding the second shot on 5 might have been the most "  municipal" of all bunkers in that it felt both really simple and not fitting with the land.

This bunker guarding the second shot on 5 might have been the most "municipal" of all bunkers in that it felt both really simple and not fitting with the land.

After image of the same bunker, now fitting in better with the style of the rest of the course.

After image of the same bunker, now fitting in better with the style of the rest of the course.

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.  

In addition to the roundness of the first two bunkers, the two bunkers from this back tee are much too similar in size.

In addition to the roundness of the first two bunkers, the two bunkers from this back tee are much too similar in size.

Corner flares, a sod tongue, and foreground contouring were all added to the two front bunkers in attempt to get them more in character with the rest of the course.  The front left fairway bunker was edged to better reveal the flare up on the left and open up the front right; it now feels larger than the second bunker on the left.  Lastly, the first tongue on the left in the big bunker was cut back to differentiate it from the others.

Corner flares, a sod tongue, and foreground contouring were all added to the two front bunkers in attempt to get them more in character with the rest of the course.  The front left fairway bunker was edged to better reveal the flare up on the left and open up the front right; it now feels larger than the second bunker on the left.  Lastly, the first tongue on the left in the big bunker was cut back to differentiate it from the others.

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.

The 4th at Boa Vista, with one bunker containing test sand.

The 4th at Boa Vista, with one bunker containing test sand.