Our golf travel expert, Andy Waple, is back with another helpful golfing guide. This time, the spotlight is on the golf courses in the north of Portugal.
Golf in Porto and the North
Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe yet it is a mere babe when it comes to golf tourism. Overshadowed by the Algarve golf scene and its big brother Lisbon, Porto’s golf courses and those of the wider northern region rarely feature in anybody’s “must play” list.
It is easy to understand why this area has been overlooked as a golfing destination – there isn’t the great cluster of courses that makes the Algarve so popular and the weather isn’t as kind all the time.
Nevertheless, it’s golf courses are certainly equal in quality and Northern Portugal leaves its southern counterpart dead in the water when it comes to the cost of golf, not to mention its scenery, cuisine and culture.
This region is now realising its potential and is campaigning to attract the hordes of European travelling golfers to its shores setting up a golf touring route that offers so much more than golf.
Porto itself is a fantastic city and would make a perfect base for a golf tour, but better still, makes an ideal starting and finishing point for a golfing road trip of the region.
Straddling the mighty Douro river, Porto and its sister city Vila Nova de Gaia, the centre of the historic port wine industry, boasts World Heritage status three times over. Clinging to the steep hillsides, the old town is a sight to behold and once you get to know Porto’s heritage it is even better.
As for it’s golf courses, just to the south of the city near Espinho is Oporto Golf Club featuring a seashore, part links course, and a history that few could aspire to.
The third oldest club in continental Europe, and the first in Iberia, was set up by English port merchants more than 125 years ago and annually stages the oldest competition in the sport to have been played without interruption, the Skeffington Cup.
Some 45 minutes drive up the coast heading north from Porto is the spectacular Estela Golf Club. Set among the Atlantic dunes this is a relatively new classic links layout usual in that it has velvet-like Bermuda grass fairways and rolling greens.
It has a very challenging opening nine holes mainly set against the shoreline and while there is some respite on the returning holes it demands no less than your best game. This is an undiscovered jewel, and excellently well maintained.
In addition to these two superb golf courses near Porto, you have the 9-hole Club Golf Miramar, just south of Vila Nova de Gaia.
Other golf courses in the north of Portugal
Ponte de Lima golf
Your next golf stop could be at the historic town of Ponte de Lima slightly inland to the north east.
The Axis Ponte de Lima Golf Resort Hotel here is secluded yet well placed to serve a golf course that is memorable for many reasons.
The opening nine is tight, steep and is some places almost comical, or bizarre, depending on your opinion. The second loop is different in character and offers a complementary challenge – this time it’s length that’s the card wrecker.
Travelling further inland towards the Spanish border you reach the old spa town of Vidago, home to the fabulous Vidago Palace Hotel and Golf Course.
Set in stunning countryside, this hotel was built in 1910 to satisfy the growing demand for spa treatments and taking of the waters.
It is now part of the Leading Hotels of the World group and its superb parkland golf course weaves through a huge mature pine forest in the valley of a small river.
The hotel is excellent, as is the course that features huge undulating greens, impressive granite-walled tees and many memorable holes all in tip-top condition.
Players are often underwhelmed when they stand on the first tee at Amarante Golf Club.
It is a hilly course in the middle of the countryside, but once the first two are over its character changes and you are drawn into the natural beauty and surrounding Minho landscape.
It’s a short members’ course where accuracy and correct decision making are important as the fairways are tight and the green very small.
What makes this golf route different is the off-the-course combination of magical scenery, old-fashioned culture and traditional cuisine so you can really enjoy the golf and sample unspoiled Portugal at its best.
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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