ROBERTO GARCIA THE SENTINEL OF PUNTA ESPADA
Featured article in Cap Cana The Magazine
Roberto Garcia enjoys his exercise. He arrives at the Punta Espada Golf Course very early in the morning and has a run before getting into his golf cart and driving around the course to make sure everything is in order. Then he goes home, has some breakfast , showers and goes back. This is the usual start of the day for this Mexican agronomist, who arrived in Cap Cana in 2006. Since then he has not stopped working as a fervent sentinel of one of the most prestigious golf course in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean.
Roberto was born in the city of Chihuahua, the capital of the eponymous state in northern Mexico, near the border with the United States. His grandfather owned cattle ranches and apple orchards, so his love for agronomy started at a very young age. For family reasons his grandfather had to sell the business and took up golf instead. So this was how Roberto was introduced to this exciting new world, to which he has dedicated 24 years of his professional career.
In conversation with Cap Cana The Magazine, he acknowledges the excellent work carried out by his team (35 including himself) in maintaining Punta Espada. “Some arc mechanics, others work on irrigatíon. trimming grass. . . it’s a large group compared to the average one usually sees on other golf courses, but Punta Espada is well known for its attention to detail. It’s a pleasure to see what we have achieved.” he tells us in an exclusive interview.
What brought you to Cap Cana? Where did you use to work?
I worked at Troon Golf in Arizona in the United States. It’s the largest golf operating company in the world. They had the contract for operating Punta Espada and picked me to come over. I worked for the
company for just over three years. until it withdrew. At the time, the directors of Cap Cana asked me to stay on as an advisor, on an independent basis. So now I live here with my wife and children.
What do you like most about golf?
I like golf but I don’t play. I’m passionate about my work on the course: I go to all the tournaments… I like the sport itself: I consider it a challenge for the player; it requires enormous concentration.
What does your work on the golf course entail?
l look at the course through an agronomist eyes: the grass must be healthy, for example: I oversee all of the processes to ensure that players enjoy the best possible conditions. Ours is a world-class course.
What is it like to maintain a first class golf course like Punta Espada, in which the ocean is a key element?
0ur proximity to the ocean presents major challenges in terms of dealing with the salt. During the windiest season, from December until late March. we have higher levels of salinity. Our grass is very resistant to this element. The level of quality we offer here requires resources, machinery and chemicals. The Punta Espada management makes every effort to ensure these excellent conditions are maintained.
Did you already have experience of maintaining similar courses?
I worked at the Punta Mita Golf Club, at the Punta Mita Four Seasons Resort – also designed by Jack Nicklaus— at the Nayarit Riviera in Mexico. That course also makes the most of its oceanfront location; however, we didn’t have as many issues with salt and it was easier to manage. I’ve been privileged
to work in golf courses in such exceptional settings.
Is the whole course watered in the same way?
Every area is watered every two or three days. We recently introduced a treatment that processes Cap Cana’s wastewater. The treated water goes to those lakes that we have over there and we pump the water from there. The course needs plenty of water because of the salt, so we use between 1,500 and 2,000 cubic meters of water per day.
What sort of maintenance do the lakes need?
Two of the lakes -in the 2nd and 4th holes- are artificial but are connected to the ocean. The tide comes in at night and this helps to keep them clean. There is a natural lake at the 10th hole, where the water rises and falls with the tide. The secret is oxygenation; the deeper they are the less oxygenation is needed. If the lake is very shallow, algae will bloom and the water will start smelling bad.
If the Punta Espada course were not by the ocean. would you still feel the same passion?
Good question! This definitely owes much of its magic to the ocean. There are some beautiful golf courses in this region but they don’t have the same beauty that the ocean provides. Nicklaus is a superb golf course designer and the scenery here gave him a huge advantage. It’s a luxury to have this sort of setting for a golf course.