High-flier in Vilamoura

How Alanis keeps the birds at bay on new Arnold Palmer course in Portugal.

John Wardle
Thu, 24 Jun 2004

The falcon – seagull-scarer

Alanis is the lowest-paid employee at the Algarve's newest golf club. But he is also high-flying proof that they are trying to think of everything at the £15 million Victoria Clube de Golfe

Alanis is a peregrine falcon, brought in to deter the seagulls that can pose problems for greenkeepers and players alike at this impressive coastal course in Vilamoura.

"We're delighted with Alanis. He's doing his job very well," said Eugenio Reviriego, director of golf, whose presence at Victoria indicates the ambition that lies behind the club. Reviriego previously held the same post at Sotogrande and it needed something special to tempt him away from one of Europe's most prestigious courses.

He said: "For me, Sotogrande is the best course in Spain along with El Saler from the design point of view. Victoria has a different style, but it's just as good. I love this course and its marvellous views."

Golfers will soon be able to judge for themselves. The course will stage the Portuguese President's Cup this summer and its designer, Arnold Palmer, will be the special guest when it opens to the public in September.

Not that many of the 50,000 golfers who play 200,000 rounds on Vilamoura's five other courses each year will have the chance to sample Victoria. Green fees will be £100 per round and a maximum of 60 people will be allowed on the par-72 course on any day.

So, what will they get for their money? Land that was once so flat that it featured an airstrip, now has wide, undulating fairways. These follow the movement of 710,000 cubic metres of earth and large, gently sloping greens. It stretches for 7,014 yards from the back tees - the Palmer tees, and as with other Palmer designs, there are large greens and water everywhere. Lakes and cascading waterfalls occupy about 10 per cent of the course.

A recent visit revealed a course undoubtedly equipped to stage the major international tournaments which its owners, the Lusotur Group, hope to attract within the next five years to raise Vilamoura's profile even higher.

Amateurs will find it challenging - even from the front tees, particularly on the breezy days, which can occur in this part of the world. But the 15,000 trees planted on the Bermuda grass course will need to grow to give it definition and make it a more attractive proposition. There can be no question mar however, against the spacious, superbly-equipped clubhouse. It's one of the best in Portugal, and includes a valet service.

The owners set Palmer the task of building a flagship course for Vilamoura - capable of challenging the likes of Penina for the right to host European Tour events.

Whether it can replace Vilamoura's Old Course in the affections of golfers is more debatable. But at least they will play Victoria in the knowledge they won't be troubled by seagulls. Alanis will see to that.

*For more information on Portugal, contact the Portuguese Tourist Office in London on 0845 3551212, e-mail at tourist.london@icep.pt or visit or www.portugalinsite.com or www.vilamouraalgarve.com

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