Set amongst 2,000 acres of the picturesque Ria Formosa Natural Park, the Quinta do Lago resort features unique beaches, lakes, abundant wildlife and green umbrella pines providing a year-round haven for residents and guests in an extremely temperate climate. Public Relations Manager, Peter Driver, visited the resort recently
Since its inception, Quinta do Lago has been at the forefront of European golf with around 100,000 golfers playing the courses each year. In 2015 the resort won "European Best Golf Venue" in the World Golf Awards.
The three award-winning championship courses on the property - the North, South and Laranjal, are all managed under the experienced guidance of Irishman Paul O'Mahony. The outstanding practice facilities include the Paul McGinley Golf Academy and the only TaylorMade Performance Center in Southern Europe.
The South course, designed by architect W. Mitchell, opened in 1974 and has hosted the Portuguese Open on no fewer than eight occasions. The Laranjal opened in 2009 and was designed by the renowned Portuguese architect, Jorge Santana da Silva. The North re-opened in 2014 and was redeveloped by Beau Welling in collaboration with victorious Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley.
Paul O'Mahony is a former resident of Co Cork in Ireland and had a summer job while in school at the renowned Old Head Golf Links before moving to England to study for a BSc degree in Sports Turf Science (Golf Course Managrement) at Writtle College in Essex.
In 1999, he secured an internship at The Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina before returning to Old Head as Assistant Superintendent in 2001 and in 2003 he was promoted to Superintendent. In June 2011 he was offered the job at Quinta do Lago, a unique opportunity that he couldn't turn down, and is now Resort Superintendent, responsible for a team of 59.
"Three and a half of these are mechanics," he says, with a twinkle in his eye! Seeing my scepticism he explains that one of the guys has dual responsibilites on the course and in the greenkeeping facility, so that explains the half.
Paul runs an eclectic fleet of course maintenance equipment - red, green and yellow and, more recently, orange - having added Jacobsen equipment to the mix over the past six months. I asked him why.
"I was aware of the innovation of Jacobsen products for some time," he said, "but it was the GIS Show in San Diego in 2013 that really did it for me. The prescence they had at that show with their 'Orange Everywhere' theme, really made an impression on me. The following autumn I was invited to Jacobsen's headquarters in Charlotte, NC, where I had the opportunity to speak with the design teams and engineers. These guys were really passionate and enthused about the new projects they were working on and later I spoke with the President, David Withers, and that convinced me. Like his team, he was so passionate about the golf industry and what his company could bring to it and, quite frankly, it changed my opinion.
"However, whatever equipment I purchase, it has to be right for Quinta do Lago, it has to make sound commercial sense and I truly believe that the after-sales process is of equal importance when buying new equipment. We have 120,000 rounds of golf a year across the three courses and we have to be completely focussed on ensuring that they are prepared to the highest standards. We have 7am starts every day, sometimes off two tees, so that puts us under a lot of pressure and our equipment must be fit for purpose.
"That's what I said to David Withers and his Regional Sales Manager Goncalo Carneiro, when we first discussed the purchase - if you meet these requirements of world-class after-sales, then we could probably do business together. In my book 'downtime is no time' and I can't afford that here.
"I want this to be a two-way street; a partnership, not just a customer/client relationship. I want us to work together so both parties benefit from the association with one another.
"We have purchased three Jacobsen Eclipse 322 ride-on greens mowers. These hybrid machines have really performed well on our greens and we've had excellent feedback since we began using them. I took my time ordering these particular hybrids and consulted with a group of peers who have been using them. I'm a great believer in talking to peer groups as they will tell you how it is. Mike Murphy, the Superintendent at Waterville Golf Links in Kerry was one of the early adopters of this technology and I spoke to him at great length. He had nothing but praise for the mowers, especially the results on his fescue greens.
"I had intended using them just on the South course, where we have old push up poa annua greens that are over 30 years old, but the feedback was so good, that we are now using them on the Laranjal as well.
As stated earlier, the Laranjal opened in 2009 and is located 2 kilometres east of the main resort in what was an orange grove, hence the name Laranjal. It has USGA specification greens with Pen A4 bentgrass and Bermuda fairways.
The North course has recently been completely revamped in just 10 months at a cost of around Euro 9.6 million. The redesign was done by renowned American architect Beau Welling in close association with European Ryder Cup winning captain Paul McGinley.
The grass is too young there, so Paul is using walkers on the greens. This has been a mammoth project; they have basically rebuilt the entire course, just using the footprint as a guide. The top 200 mm of soil was removed from the course and all greens, tees, bunkers, irrigation and drainage systems and cart paths rebuilt. Four sets of tees have been introduced on each hole and there's a combination of undulating greens, well-positioned bunkers and water hazards awaiting the wayward shot.
To complete the project a new Euro 1 million upgrade to the maintenance facility is planned and will have a dedicated service area and service technician.
"In future I will be using more data capture to ensure that we operate to maximum efficiency," he added. "And that will mean more constant monitoring of the equipment. I'm already experimenting with telemetry and the results are very interesting. We have such a small window of time to carry out our job function, that we need to think, act and be 'smarter'.
"Pressure is good, but constant pressure leads to stress and that's not good for us as humans or the grass plant we are trying to manage."
Paul has recently purchased two of the latest Jacobsen Trucksters. These heavy duty utility vehicles claim to be the best in class and he has no inclination to dispute the claim.
"They do what they say on the tin," he says. "Great carrying capacity and a really comfortable ride for the guys. I saw the launch at GIS in Texas last year and was very impressed. Again it was the energy and enthusiasm of the Jacobsen team at that show that shone through and I really like that. We had an issue recently, due to operator error, and the response from Jacobsen and their dealer Tjardim was superb. Just what I talked about with them during our initial conversations. I like that; it definitely feels like a partnership and long may it continue."
For more information, visit ransomesjacobsen.com.