The Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course is set to host the Portugal Masters for the 15th consecutive year this week, and players will be facing a tougher test after an extensive upgrade of the course was carried out in 2019.
The upgrade was part of a wider €4.5m development strategy across Dom Pedro’s five championship courses in Vilamoura. Ryder Cup player Andy Sullivan, Robert MacIntyre, Lucas Bjerregaard, Eddie Pepperell, and Nicolai Højgaard are just some of the names that will take part. Also in the field is former Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, who is making his return to competitive action on the European Tour. He won the event back in 2016.
We caught up with Rui Grave, the head greenkeeper at Dom Pedro, to find out how one of the most popular stops on the European Tour is prepped for a return to the limelight after battling through the pandemic..
Many venues and tournaments lost out during Covid, so how please are you that the Portugal Masters is back on the schedule for 2021?
The Dom Pedro Victoria has been the home of the Portugal Masters since its first edition in 2007 and we have never stayed a year without hosting this prestigious tournament. It contributes greatly to the worldwide promotion of the Algarve in Portugal, golf and the overall Dom Pedro brand.
Since the first hosting of the Portugal Masters nearly 15 years ago, Dom Pedro and the European Tour have managed to combine their agendas and strategy to make the event one of the most well-known on tour calendar.
And in this atypical year, where nobody can be sure about the medium or long term future, we have managed to gather the conditions for Dom Pedro Victoria to be the stage of the Portugal Masters once again. It is with great pleasure that we are able to welcome some of the best players in the world and open our doors to everyone who wants to visit us or watch the event on television. We cannot wait for the event to get underway in early November and see the Victoria in all its glory.
How has business been at Dom Pedro during the pandemic and what changes did you have to make, if any, to make it through?
pandemic had a huge impact on the whole world and some sectors were
more affected than others. In tourism, the impact was huge with
unprecedented falls and the Algarve was no exception. Dom Pedro had to
adapt to the new circumstances as quickly as possible, as the rules
imposed by governments varied from one week to the next.
We kept serenity, knowing that day by day we were getting closer to knowing and understand how the pandemic was developing. Having had to adapt the conditions within the resort to make sure the safety of all our guests was secure, we now feel that a point has been reached where some sort of normality can be reached. Our entire team are ready to welcome all tourists with open arms and smiles on our faces.
You're known as one of the most popular venues on the schedule. Can you give us a flavour of what the players seem to like?
To begin with, they love the Algarve. They are always well received, the climate is usually great, as is our gastronomy at the resort. Many of the players are accompanied by their families, which is not always possible in other tournaments.
We are a safe destination, with a good climate and quality facilities. Then we have the golf course, which every year have been getting better and better. On each of the courses, our greenkeeping team tries to maintain a good level of uniformity and consistency in all areas.
This allows the players to play to the best of their abilities and makes for a great spectacle both at the venue and for all those watching on TV. The whole world wants to see great action on the course. You often hear players praising the course for being one of the few on the tour where you have to play on the attack to win. To win on the Dom Pedro Victoria players will need to be aggressive and risk going for birdies. Ultimately, it is a course where players can go out and make good scores
Have there been any changes or upgrades to the course? If so, what are they?
Due to the pandemic, we have not made any sufficient changes to the course layout in the last year. The previous changes made to the layout were part of the €4.5m development strategy that was implemented across Dom Pedro’s five championship courses.
Our focus has been on consolidating the Bermuda grass that was implemented in the rough as part of this process and making the greens as firm as possible for good play. The latest update to the course also saw the strategic addition of new trees across three holes on the front nine to prevent big hitters from cutting the corners of the doglegs on the second, fifth and 10th. This will be more of a factor in this year’s tournament as the trees have had time to mature since first being planted.
With tourism slowly coming back, do you feel like this year, more than any year, represents a great opportunity for Dom Pedro to showcase the best of the Algarve?
It is always important to have tourists coming to the Algarve, but this year especially is even more important for showcasing what Dom Pedro and the Algarve has to offer to both golfers and non-golfers. Events like the Portugal Masters are a great way of showing people how good the facilities are and why they should take the time to visit the resort.
The eyes of millions of people will tune in to watch the golf and see for themselves how good the courses are at Dom Pedro. It is a great way of being able to demonstrate how the world and the Algarve in particular is starting to feel a sense of normality returning.
The Portugal Masters gets underway on the Victoria Course at the Dom Pedro Resort in Vilamoura this Thursday.