Francisco Tavares Cadete
Golf Director - West Cliffs Golf Links
We know this project was a long time in the making, can you very briefly give us the background to how West Cliffs came in to being - how and when did you become involved in that process?
13 years ago, I was employed by Golfbeltico to help the golf director to the increase number of members at Prai D'El Rey and to help with the supervision of the new golf course. At the time, this new golf course was known as Falesia D’El Rey. The project was in a different form, most of the holes were close to the Cliffs, there were more houses. After a few years, the name was changed to “The Cliffs”, and the course moved to become a more inland course (very similar from what we have now), with fewer houses. The company that then owned the project came into serious financial difficulties and we thought that the project was going to die. We then took the project on and I started to be much more involved in the process of decision making and also in the construction.
What will people see and experience when they come to West Cliffs Golf Links?
The scenery is spectacular. The Clubhouse is very different from what we have in other parts of Portugal, with a lot of space and light. This is the first impression. When they go to the course, what they will realise is the way in which the course is involved closely with the nature. All the vegetation, bunkers and the course generally is very natural. Finally the views – sea views on every single hole.
From the start of the project, sustainability was clearly part of your thinking, but what led you to the OnCourse® Development programme and how did you find the experience of working towards and gaining certification?
Being on this piece of land, we had to keep it as natural as possible. Having a certification from GEO, represents for us the recognition that we care about nature, the preservation of species and the community. We learned a lot during the whole process.
Can you describe some of the priorities from your point of view to make sure the development of West Cliffs was done in a responsible and sustainable way?
We needed to use what we had on the property, and at the same time get ride of the exotic species, like the ice plant and acacias. The responsible use of the water was one of our main goals. The choice of the grasses, the area’s of construction, etc. we always had the use of water in our mind. We now have one of the golf courses with the smallest grass area in all of Portugal.
What were the main lessons you learned during the design and construction of West Cliffs and what measures are you putting in place to ensure the future management and operations the club continue to follow the good work that has been done?
When all the members of the team are pushing on the same side, is it much easier, and what looks impossible becomes reality. We built the golf course in one year. Cynthia, Pragosa, Golfscape and all the others with the supervision of the owner were aiming to finish the golf course in June, exactly 20 years since the opening of Praia D'El Rey. Without all this union, this would not have been possible. It is the same idea for the future. All team members needs to have the same goal, and fight for it all together. From the lowest greenkeeper to the top shareholder.
What would you say to other golf projects are the main benefits to integrating sustainable thinking into your business planning?
First, you need to have a different way of thinking, or at least, a different way when compared to the past. Sustainability is something that will help you in the future. Start the project with that in mind. You need to adapt some of the processes and sometimes it seems that you are going in the wrong way. But when or if you finish, you feel released and you can know you helped the community. And in most cases, you will have saved a lot of resources on the way.
About Priority goal: Priority goal is a company that was created build and manage the golf course at West Cliffs. After the construction, we opened the golf course in June 2017, and we have created 26 new jobs in the area. Apart from the golf course, more jobs were also created in the bar and restaurant.