Our golf travel expert, Andy Waple, is back from a recent golfing trip to Portugal. In this article he shares his experience of the Aroeira courses that form part of the Lisbon golf scene, i.e. Aroeira Golf Resort, a few miles south of the capital city. Get his expert advice and know what to expect from each course by reading this. Over to Andy…
After an extended absence brought on by the pandemic it was just so nice to be able to board a plane once again and head off to sunny Portugal.
This time the destination was the Lisbon area and in particular the Aroeira estate, just 40 minutes drive south of the capital city, across the Tagus estuary via impressive Vaso da Gama suspension bridge and the down the A12 and A2 motorways.
It is always a treat to watch the fishermen at work near the salt flats below as you zoom across the bridge. It is the first and perfect realisation that you have left behind a different world, albeit just a few hours’ flight away.
My destination, the 36-hole Aroeira Golf Resort, was showcasing its new on-site hotel in a glorious location not far from the beach, set amid an ancient pine forest.
The Aroeira Lisbon Hotel features contemporary styling throughout, the rooms are very good and the bar and restaurant excel. There are also plenty of apartments on site should golfers prefer the extra flexibility.
It is just a few minutes drive to the Fonte da Telha beach and the Aroeira Beach Bar – a fab location in what could be called “proper Portugal”.
Lunch here is to die for – a great wind-down spot on a huge stretch of sand favoured by surfers.
Golf courses at Aroeira
Orizonte markets the two golf courses on the estate, and offers deals at three others – the two at nearby Ribagolfe and a third at Quinta do Peru, just a short drive away. It also provides golf at the nine-hole Oeiras Golf, as well as exceptional value for money on a wide range of accommodation options.
Clubhouse facilities at Aroeira and Ribagolfe are somewhat spartan by some standards, yet adequate, and you can get a true Portuguese-style lunch.
The Aroeira and Ribagolfe courses are varied and will suit players of all standards. They aren’t the highest-rated in Portugal, but they are extremely well-priced, worth the money, and certainly enjoyable.
I played three of the four in a whistle-stop inspection, missing out Ribagolfe Oaks (formerly Ribagolfe II) due to time restraints.
Aroeira Pines Classic
The first of the two Aroeira courses opened in the 1970s to a fanfare. Designed by Frank Pennick it is, as its name suggests, a course weaving through a pine forest flanked by numerous expensive private properties.
It’s a pretty straightforward challenge – just repeatedly hit it straight down the middle along the generous fairways avoiding the trees, which as well as posing problems in themselves, grow among very sandy soil requiring purely struck recovery shots.
The first few holes are very similar and a little underwhelming but things improve by the stroke index 1 with its risk-and-reward tee shot.
The 8th marks the start of a cluster of better holes with the 187 yard 9th possibly the pick of the bunch.
I favoured the back nine which was a little more open and varied. The 10th is a very good par 5 with a large sandy waste lurking to catch those driving right to take on the dog leg, while the innocuous looking 11th has a hidden pond to the left of the green. The ducks here really ought to be wearing helmets.
Another tricky but lovely looking hole is the par 3 14th which plays over water. Those who fear wet feet here have to think twice, however, as there is a long bunker stretching the length of the green behind the flag, perfectly placed to catch those clubbing up to avoid the pond.
Thought is also required at the penultimate hole, a short par 4 with a dog leg left. Some might be tempted to drive the green but it is not going to be the best option for the vast majority. Best plan is to use your head, leave the driver in the bag and aim to the right corner of the dog leg.
I joked that this course could have been rebranded Pines Classic II for the obvious reason that there are trees everywhere. However it is a more interesting and difficult course so its new name is indeed quite accurate.
Visually more appealing it is easy to see that it is newer than the original and had better fairways and faster, more testing greens during my visit in late Autumn.
Again fringed by some very high end properties, it features some very scenic holes, starting at the 2nd where the elevated tee gives a splendid view of the long fairway of this par 5.
The 5th is also of great interest. It will be a matter of opinion whether you consider the strand of pines crossing the fairway about 150m from the green add to its appeal or an unnecessary addition to a hole that is hard enough due to its length and extremely rolling green.
Hole 9 marks a very strong finish to the opening half. An ever-diminishing fairway lined by water to the right and a row of pines to the left is the target. Too far right is dead, and equally, overdoing it to the left will block the approach.
Other highlights are the par 3 14th from an elevated tee and the following hole where the fairway curves along a large expanse of water.
Opened in 2004, this course, formerly Ribagolfe I, is a complete contrast to the pines of both Aroeira courses. Much more open, it weaves through cork oaks along gently rolling ground.
In my opinion it is far more challenging than its sisters and is the favourite of better players living locally.
The opening stretch in particular is a real test of accuracy and length, as elevated greens are the norm rather than exception.
Fairways are generous, well laid and maintained, and during my visit the greens proved to be the quickest and by far the most difficult to navigate. Dog legs are everywhere, adding to the challenge.
You may wonder where the course gets its name, as water is as scarce as pars and birdies on the way out, but as you turn into the back nine all seemingly becomes apparent as large lakes come into view. As it happens, water is only a hazard on holes 12, 14 and the 15.
Despite the water adding an extra pressure, the back 9 is more playable, with hardly any elevated greens and seemingly not so long.
Most players will select the 12th and 14th as the most memorable I suspect, simply for the water.
The 12th is a long par 5 and unless you are capable of hitting a monster drive, your second shot ought to be aimed down the fairway, as taking on the water guarding the green is a really risky option. That said, two decent shots will leave a short iron to a huge undulating green – so don’t count your chickens here until the ball has safety dropped into the hole.
The 14th is pretty short by comparison but no less daunting. From the tee you can see the pond extending the full length of the fairway to the left so the further right you aim the better, in the knowledge however that you are adding length to the hole which dog legs left.
While this course cannot boast a modern up-to-the-moment clubhouse – and it’s a fair walk to the first tee – its remoteness adds to the tranquility of the round.
I didn’t have time to play Ribagolfe Oaks. Apparently it is less difficult and worth playing too.
There are plenty of top quality golf courses within easy reach of the Portuguese capital city but it would be a shame to play all the time and miss the charms of Lisbon itself.
Julie has written extensive guides on this site over the years which give insider tips to just about everything you need to know. See 33 Things To Do In Lisbon for starters and navigate to whatever whets your appetite.
The city is well worth a day visit, or better still enjoy the buzz of the bars and restaurants by taking an overnight stay in a city centre hotel. Check out Julie’s guide to where to stay in Lisbon for hotel recommendations.
Golf travel journalist Andy Waple struck his first ball in Portugal in the early 1980s at Quinta do Lago and was immediately hooked. He has since travelled the world playing and reviewing some of the finest and far-flung courses and resorts and as a long standing member of the International Golf Travel Writers Association, his work has appeared in many UK based publications. Andy visits Portugal regularly to enjoy the country’s golf, culture and cuisine.
Follow Andy’s golfing updates on Twitter: @andywaple
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