American architect Brian Costello laid out the 18 holes of the Fazenda da Grama course in 2006 within a residential estate that's situated an hour's drive from downtown São Paulo. The County Club also offers all the usual sporting activities – pool, tennis and fitness centre – expected at such a venue.
The downhill first hole is generously proportioned, offering a potential birdie start to the round. Such a benign opener should not lull golfers into a false sense of security, as there are many testing holes to come, especially at the 7th, 8th and 375-yard 12th as water comes into play on each of these holes.
A bunker restoration program was carried out in 2010 because the new course had struggled in the Brazilian rainforest climate with contamination and washouts, particularly in the rainy season. The new bunker-lining and drainage system is intended to reduce costs of labour and materials in maintaining the sand traps.
Course architect, Brian Costello, provided the following article: The golf club is located less than 1 hour from the perimeter of Sâo Paulo in the town of Itupeva. This new golf course opened for play in early 2006 and is the centerpiece for this prestigious gated residential community. The private 18-hole, 7,123-yard layout is situated within a natural amphitheater-like setting with the large estate homes surrounding the core course at the higher elevations.
The golf experience begins at the magnificent plantation-style clubhouse that sits atop a ridge that offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains as well as the panorama of golf holes and the large signature lake below. The golf course was designed with a strategic design philosophy in mind. With four sets of tees, golfers at all levels of ability will find a rewarding and enjoyable golf experience. Most golf holes offer a conservative route of play and conversely a more aggressive line of attack.
The golf course was also designed with “environmental stewardship” in mind to blend harmoniously into the setting and create a “green-space oasis” in the midst of the residential community. The golf environment was enhanced with colorful native trees and vegetation, meandering creeks and several large lakes that are carefully integrated into the strategy of the golf holes. The site featured existing rock promontories which were preserved and serve as backdrops for greens or accents at tee grounds on several holes.
Fazenda de Grama was the first of four courses I played when I was in São Paulo last year and it set the bar of golfing excellence at a very reasonable height for my golfing visit. Although the course is set within a private gated community, there’s hardly any sign of housing as all the residences are discreetly located around the perimeter of property. That leaves the main arena totally free from outside intrusion.
There wasn’t a blade of grass out of place here on a very well-maintained layout where conditioning obviously plays an important part in proceedings. Similarly, the clubhouse was spotless, with everything in order and staff attentive to everything you need before and after playing. I don’t know how many members there are here – it was empty the day I played – but for sure they don’t make any mess either on or off the course.
It’s a Brian Costello design which occupies a rolling landscape, with holes laid out as two returning nines and water coming into play at several of the holes. On the front nine, I particularly liked the par four 4th, which doglegs slightly left to a creek-protected green, and the par thee 8th, where the 2-tiered putting surface juts out into a lake, resulting in a watery grave to the right of the green for pushed tee shots or anything played with too much fade.
On the back nine, both the par threes at the 11th and 16th are terrific short holes, the first one played to an offset green and the second located to the right of a small pond, with three bunkers at the back of green to catch over-hit tee shots. The routing brings golfers back to the clubhouse with a beast of a closing par hole at the 18th, requiring uphill shots all the way from tee to green, with a large area of native vegetation to clear half way to the target – it’s as tough a finish to a round as I’ve played in many a long day!
Built in 2006 by Brian Costello this is one of the best golf communities in the country. As such, the golf course is the center of the action with a nice clubhouse set at the highest point of the property offering stunning views of almost all the golf course.
With a great practice facility, chipping area and a PGA golf professional one can notice that members take golf very seriously and offer a great experience for the few that are able to play this course.
Everything starts with an easy downhill par 5 that allows even average length hitters to go for the green in two. It’s important not to lose shots at this early stage because things get a little complicated around 7 and 8.
There are some good holes on the front nine but my favorite is number 7 a strong dogleg right par four with a huge lake to your right where golfers can literally choose how much water they want to carry. You have lines from 200 yards to the 300-yard direct shot at the green. What makes things even more interesting is that you have bunkers on the left side of the fairway so you will need to be precise with the line otherwise you may cross the fairway and face a long bunker shot to a green surrounded by water.
Number 8 is a medium length par 3 with the lake on your right and a two-tier putting green where the front portion sits 5 feet higher than the back making an uphill putt a gruelling task.
The back nine starts with three easy holes leading to the very long par 5 number 13. At 589 yards this hole requires a long and straight driver with a solid 3 wood over two large cross bunkers in order to have a clear approach shot to an undulating green. As you can imagine this is the hardest hole on the course.
There is something different about 15, the hole is a medium length par four built on an upslope that plays harder than it looks, especially for those that don’t like a blind approach shot to a well-guarded green. This is a great hole that will test your shot making capabilities and offer distinct possibilities to attack the green.
The round ends with a glorious par five where the architect left a native area that one needs to avoid from the tee but will need to carry with the second shot. The green is on the top of a hill with a creek running from right to left some 20 feet below the putting surface. You should be careful with the false front and precise with your approach shot because this is a very undulated green.
From the balcony of the clubhouse you can relax, enjoy the view and follow the remaining golfers tackle the last green in an effort not to end their round with a 3 putt!