I played Vila Sol Prime and Challenge the same week I played San Lorenzo several years ago. At the time I had not played many of the world’s top golf courses, and I was not as consistent a player as I am now. I was longer off the tee but did not control the ball as well with the driver down to 5 iron. The short game is about the same. I played both San Lorenzo and Vila Sol with rental clubs, but the rental set I had at Vila Sol was not good, resulting in a high score from the back tees of 6771 yards. Me and those rental clubs decided to bring the many trees on the course into play on several holes. What’s the joke they say when you have a bad day of golf? “at least I got to see more of the golf course.”
I thought San Lorenzo was better than Vila Sol because I liked most of the routing at San Lorenzo and the way it incorporated water as a means of defense on several holes. The views at San Lorenzo of the estuary, beach and ocean as well as a bird habitat were also good, but really do not factor into my rating. Although I criticized San Lorenzo for its lack of bunkers, I thought Vila Sol was missing about 30-40 bunkers that would improve the golf course. The primary defense at Vila Sol are the trees. The other negative I would say about Vila Sol is that it feels too straight. While there are perhaps five holes that dogleg, two of the holes dogleg too much such as five and ten, although perhaps I am blaming poor hole design for my inability to control my rental clubs.
The course is primarily flat with a few areas that are raised. There really is no inspiration provided by views of the surrounding landscape other than the various types of trees, which I thought were too many or the thicker groupings of trees were in the wrong spots. As an example, the third hole, a par 4 of 421/407 has two trees nearer the green that pinch in too much.
The greens are a bit boring partly due to the lack of bunkers or bunkers that do not provide adequate defense such as on the fourth hole, a long par 3 of 208/177 where they are two bunkers left but the first one is well short of the green and the second one is not close enough to the green. Too many of the holes only have a single bunker or none at all at the green site or fairway.
Among the holes I favored were eight, a 546/528 par 5 with trees lining both sides and a creek that goes all the way down the left side and then cuts back in front of the green. I liked nine, a short par 4 of 319/311 that big hitters can try to drive. I liked it because it was the rare green that had three bunkers so perhaps on another course it would not have been favored. The fourteenth, a par 5 of 500/473 had a nice three-tiered green on it. Seventeen and eighteen, back to back par 4’s of similar length 404/383 were above average only because the gentle doglegs on both holes were better conceived.
Obviously, when Donald Steel was awarded the design, I believe it was likely he was given a certain amount of land to build the golf course, reserving other land for housing which has been built that eats into the course in four-five areas. Nine additional holes were later built which makes one wonder whether Mr. Steel could have built a much better course if he had been given all of the land on which to build a single course. Maybe he was and this is still the result, but for me the course is too short, too straight, poorly designed on a few holes and without primary defenses of bunkering to challenge the very good players.
This is a decent resort course and worth playing if you are vacationing in the area or have a home there. It is definitely not one you would go out of your way to play, unless you have a bucket list of playing courses that have hosted an European tour event.
Date: October 31, 2019