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Dunas Terras da Comporta

Terras da Comporta: Why the long wait is over for the Dunas course

The Dunas course at Terras da Comporta has opened. Ian Backhouse got the chance to check out the new McLay-Kidd design
 

Just over an hour from Lisbon, we’ve just had the opening of what eventually should be a new entrant into Europe’s top 100 golf courses.

The Dunas course at Terras da Comporta will have been on the radar of the travelling golfer for some time. This David McLay-Kidd design is his first in mainland Europe and will only continue to enhance his reputation built on previous course design projects at Bandon Dunes, The Castle course St Andrews, and Queenwood.

The journey to getting this course open has been a long one. Initial work started back in 2008 when McLay-Kidd put together a plan to bring a “Links course” to this part of Europe.

The project was developing well when it suffered a major setback as the finance went awry in 2014 with the collapse of Banco Espirito Santo.

Work stopped immediately and then, for five long years, the project stood still with only daily watering of the fairways and greens taking place. In 2019 the Vanguard property group took over the development and approached McLay-Kidd to return to Portugal and bring the project back to life.

Work recommenced quickly, initially taking out the growth that had developed and then revisiting the original plans. Work continued during the pandemic and finally the course is ready to play.

The Vanguard property group have got big plans beyond the course. Sustainability is at the heart of everything and the whole property will be net zero/carbon neutral. To achieve this, many of the properties will be constructed from wood and that includes a couple of premium brand hotels, 600 villas, and a large clubhouse.

The company are investing in local infrastructure to support the development and this includes schools, medical services, and facilities to house up to 28 other sports.

This course itself represents a fantastic blend of natural beauty and great strategic design and is built on over 84 hectares of sandy terrain in a secluded area bordering the edge of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve.

At 7,500 yards long from the back tees, this is no pushover as it plays to a par of 71. Featuring fescue grass on the fairways and bent grass on the greens, the layout weaves in and out of sand dunes and trees and features some major elevation changes all within a few hundred meters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The development takes advantage of the sandy terrain in many ways, not least of which are a reduced requirement for water across the whole course and the larger than average greens that need no artificial drainage.;

McLay-Kidd has designed the course to be a balance between challenging and fun and has said: “Its pretty tough, but is forgiving if you get into trouble”.

Golfers must carefully negotiate undulating fairways, well placed bunkers, and formidable waste areas (think Dustin Johnson back in 2010 at Whistling straits in the PGA Championship calamity).

The architect also describes it as a “links course where a chip and run is more likely to lead to success than a 60-degree wedge around the greens”. He believes the Dunas course offers the aggressive player opportunities and that on the par 4s and Par 5s there is a “Tiger line” off the tee on each hole.

The final touches are being put to the Academy/Café/Retail building and this is surrounded by top quality practice facilities, including a large, grass teed, driving range that mimics the course with undulations and elevated targets, as well as a massive putting green with different slopes and an immaculate surface, and a short game area encompassing pitching areas, bunkers and hollows/swales for the all-important chip and run.

Dunas Terras da Comporta

Just behind the Academy building is the 1st tee and this is where golfers get a sight of the waste areas bordering either side of the fairway stretching from tee to green.

The “Tiger line” is to cut off as much waste area as possible leaving as short a shot as you can into the elevated green. A safe tee shot lands in the wider part of the fairway, but makes that second shot much more difficult as its from further back and from a sloping lie up to the green.

This is followed by a relatively short par 5 but, once again, if you can drill one down the 15 yard gap between the edge of the left fairway and the well placed bunker you might pick up 50 or 60 yards off the tee by hitting the downslope and have an iron into the green. Go safely right and it’s three shots to the green.

The course continues like this the rest of the front nine: asking you questions off the tee, and giving you confidence when you hit the green (as they are immaculate), but it’s tricky to feel great if the putt is 100 feet!

Around the turn, you start to feel you are getting into the rhythm of the course, studying the lines from the tee more intently than you would elsewhere and wishing you were coming back the next day as you become familiar with the not so visible hazards such as uneven stances, a slightly difficult first cut of rough, and run off areas that are visibly more severe the closer you get to the green.

McLay-Kidd says he is particularly proud of the last four holes and it’s hard to argue with him as they provide a fitting finish. The 15th is a birdie chance par 5 that doglegs two ways with intimidating fairway bunkers and a narrow opening (thread it through the gap and the ball will bounce on – it’s a links after all!) to the green.

The 16th is a risk and reward short par 4 up a hill. There are no hazards in the fairway but the more direct you go at the green, the more waste area you must carry. The 17th looks like a very short par 3 on the card – however the reality is this is a large green left to right but straight on looks very narrow. Once those greens get really firm you will want to be approaching this green with the most lofted club you can to enable the ball to stop anywhere near the hole.

The final hole is fantastic and my favourite. A tough par 4, you must carry the first waste area and miss the second off the tee (if you can) then it’s a mid iron up to an elevated and very undulating green built into the bank of a hill.

A feature of all the holes on the Dunas course is the view from the green back to the tee. Some of these views are magnificent and you will want to make sure your phone is fully charged to take as many pictures as you can so you can share with your friends when you return home.

The Dunas has a “soft” opening in early June with a full launch in October. If this isn’t on your list of places to visit, make sure you pencil it in, you won’t be disappointed.

Dunas pictures taken by James Hogg and provided by Azalea. What do you think of Terras da Comporta? To book a round on The Dunas Course, email [email protected] and for more information, visit comporta.com

Check out more travel features from NCG here.

Ian Backhouse

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