UTAD is located in the city of Vila Real 100 kilometers northwest of Porto. The above photograph is a panoramic view of the city from the university. Vila Real has a population of approximately 30,000 and would be considered a "college town". A famous gathering place in the morning and early evening is Pastacarta Gomez close to the center of town (left). Although not many Americans travel to Portugal, the second language here for many is English. I found no problems communicating with the Portuguese whether in the airport (missed flight, temporary loss of luggage; the typical trip), in town, or in the shops. My lectures were given in English, and I think everyone understood me just about as well as my own students (I don't know if that is good or not). Everyone who I came in contact with as either someone I knew or as a stranger were friendly and helpful.
The central part of the city has the traditional narrow streets, shops and residents. Most of the activity both during the day and during the night is centered in the central part of the city. In the larger cities, and here in Vila Real, the older architecture is found close to the center of the city. As you move further out the architecture and streets become more modern similar to that of the American suburbs. The city streets are quite safe. It is quite common to see people walking through the center of town at night. Crime is practically non-existent.
UTAD became a university in 1986. Prior it was a polytechnical school. The plant science building can be seen in the center of the photograph. The university has approximately 6000 students with most of them coming from the northern part of Portugal and parts of Spain.
Portugal is roughly the same size and population of Ohio. Ohio however has 10 times the number of golf courses. The climate in northern Portugal is Mediterranean. The summers are hot (highs can reach into the 40s(C)) and dry with most of the rain occurring during late fall through early spring. The winter months can be cold with temperature lows approaching 0C.
The climate provides for a diverse range of turfgrass species. Although the primary turfgrasses are cool season, warm season species are often found. For example in this photograph the turfgrass found surrounding the fountain is St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secondatum).
The primary turfgrasses that I have observed in a landscape situation are perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and to a lesser extent the fescues both tall and fine. This photograph was taken in Chavez north of Vila Real approximately 80 kilometers.
While in Chavez, we had the opportunity to drive across this Roman bridge that was built approximately 2000 years ago. After leaving Chavez we proceeded north about 10 or 15 kilometers to Spain, just to say that I was there. Now with the formation of the European Union, the border crossing between the two countries was abandoned.
On Friday (September 14) we visited Amarante Golf Club in Amarante just outside of Vila Real, There are approximately 70 golf courses in Portugal with the vast majority in the southern part of the country (Algarve). Except for maybe one or two municipal golf courses all the courses are either private or a resort. However, last week (September 10-17) the government announced the plans for a municipal course in northern Portugal. Is golf growing? It is predicted that the number of golf courses will double in the next 5 to 7 years.
In the case of Amarante, the greens are a mix of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and Poa annua. Fairways are primarily perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass, with the roughs approximately the same along with some bermudagrass encroachment (Cynodon dactylon) and the presence of some fine fescue. An architectural note, this was the first golf course that Santana Silva designed on his own.
The greenskeeper Jose Carlos Barbosa shown here on the right along with his staff maintain the course to similar expectations that would be found in the United States.
The Internet along with other information sources has greatly enhanced the speed at which new turfgrass management ideas flow globally. Although I don't want this to sound like an advertisement, it was gratifying to hear that many turf mangers in Portugal visit this web site.
With much of the turfgrass information originating from the United States, I did hear some frustration with our use of English units (pounds, square feet, ounces, etc.) instead of using metric (hectares, grams, kilograms, etc.), which most of the world outside of the U.S uses. I can hear the groans already, but maybe when we write publications we should be sensitive to the units we use, you never know who is reading it.
During our visit to Amarante Dr. Nuno Moreira shown here in the front row (kneeling) organized a small meeting at the club for a group of UTAD alumni who were employed in the turfgrass industry. The focus of the meeting was to learn about some of the management problems they face, what type of educational and research areas that might be addressed by the university, and how the industry might help strengthen the turfgrass program at UTAD. Not much different than an American model. Interestingly, some of the issues that are raised are not much different than turf managers face here. For example, golfer expectations (green speed) with limited budgets, athletic field construction, managing Poa annua greens, and pest control are some of the topics covered. Basically problems we face here in the U.S. are similar to those faced in Portugal. One of the women attending was a greenskeeper. There are 5 women greenskeepers in Portugal, which is considered a low number. However, I wonder percentage wise if it is not higher in Portugal than the United States?
This past Saturday (September 15) we visited the vineyards of northern Portugal. At the time of my visit the harvesting of grapes had just begun, which I could tell by the number of tourist buses that have arrived at my hotel this week. Vila Real resides on the outer edge of the vineyard region.
The heart of the winery is in the Douro region along the Douro River. This area is famous for Ports and some of the table wines. Roughly 38,500 hectares of vineyards are found in this area. As you can see the establishment of these vineyards occurs on terraces along steep slopes. I have asked what is the best Portuguese wine from here, and no one gives me just one. If you are looking for a wine to try, ask for one from the Douro region.
Generations of families have created these terraces along the side of the hills to plant vineyards. More recently they use bulldozers with laser levelers to create the terraces, but the cost and effort needed to maintain these vineyards is obviously higher than that found in Napa Valley. I believe there is Portugal law that a vineyard cannot be established with a slope greater than 50 percent.
While Nuno and I traveled through this region we stopped in some of the villages. One of those villages in the region is where Fernão Magalhães (Magellan, the first person to sail around the world in the 16th century) was born and raised. What was interesting to me was a normal family lived in the house. I can't imagine that if I visited, for example, President Lincoln's childhood home in Springfield, Illinois I would find a typical American family living there.
In another village in the Douro region we crossed one of the last toll bridges from the middle ages still functional in Europe. These bridges charged a toll to cross with half the money going to the king and the rest to the community. The bridges also served as a defense position against invading soldiers.
On Wednesday September 19 we had a chance to visit a couple of sportsturf areas around Porto. One of those stops was Oporto Golf Club in Espanho, the second oldest golf course on continental Europe. I believe the oldest club is in France. However, Oporto has the longest running club championship in Europe. The club has hosted the tournament continuously since 1890 even through the World War I & II years.
Oporto G.C. is a links course situated just off the Atlantic Ocean.
A view of one of the holes on the front nine. The greens are primarily Poa annua with the fairways a mixture of grasses.
The greenskeeper José Granja (on the right) is currently doing in-house renovations to the golf course. Mainly adding yardage (oops, meters) to the course through the extension of tees, and in some cases rebuilding a few greens complexes. On the left is Dr. Nuno Moriera, and in the middle is Anna Maia Athayde an alumnus of UTAD and currently a technical salesperson with A. Pereira Jordão. José Granja, as I learned, is not only an experienced greenskeeper but an accomplished golfer too - winning the Portuguese Amateur once, and finishing second eight times. Greenskeeper is the term used in Portugal for what we would call golf course superintendent. In some instances the term golf course superintendent in Portugal refers to the club manager.
We also visited one of the football (soccer) stadiums in Porto. Boavista F.C. in Bessa plays in a stadium with approximately 27 - 30,000 seats. The football field is sand-based with a mix of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and annual bluegrass (Poa annua). The stadium is owned by the football club, which helps reduce the number of games and other activities that might occur in privately owned stadiums (ex. concerts). On average 1 to 2 sporting events along with a practice occur on the field during the season.
The practice field is located just outside of the stadium. It is used twice a day by the team. The rootzone is native soil, with the predominant turfgrass species being Poa annua.
During the course of the season especially once the winter rains arrive, managing both the practice and stadium fields (pitches) are a challenge.
Our host for the visit was Miguel Cankio (left) who is the club's grounds consultant.
We also were able to visit a new golf course community development just outside of Porto (15 minutes from downtown) called Vale Pisão. Porto has a population of 300,000. However, if you include the surrounding area, the population increases to 1 million. The number of golf holes within approximately 30 kilometers of the city is approximately 100. Yes, that is the number of golf holes, not the number of golf courses. This is one of the first large scale developments in the northern part of Portugal.
The course is a 9-hole layout currently under construction and with a proposed 300 housing units. The opening of the course will probably be sometime in the fall of 2008. The housing lots are located above the golf course providing a view of both the course and surrounding area. The development manager told us that 80% of the housing units have been sold and for the majority of buyers this is their first home purchase. The principle investors are currently negotiating to purchase additional land to add nine more holes.
The golf course architect is Santana Silva who is speaking to me in the photograph.
Involved in the project are (left to right) Bernardo Guimarães, a recent graduate of UTAD who is involved with the construction company, Mr. Marnoto, who is the overall sight manager for the course and housing development, and João Pinto de Abreu, who is the consulting agronomist.
Well this brings to an end this ongoing posting during my two weeks in Portugal. I should be back in the office and classroom on Monday. Oh, one last thing, the food and hospitality was great.
Authors: Karl Danneberger
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