Portugal golf expert Andy Waple is back to share his insights into the Lisbon golf scene and courses in the surrounding area… Over to you, Andy:
The Lisbon area plays second fiddle to the Algarve in terms of the number of golf courses yet it is very popular, commanding a loyal following of return visitors. There is also the added draw of Lisbon itself, Portugal’s capital city with its rich history, magnificent architecture and, of course, the real essence of Portuguese life.
Golfers drawn by the challenges presented by a rugged coastline of rolling waves and glorious views are spoiled for choice with the range of golf courses near Lisbon, as are those who prefer to play in quiet, beautiful countryside set in wooded hills.
While the Lisbon area is not a compact destination in terms of golf course clusters, there are several within easy reach of each other that offer great variety from undulating parkland courses to seaboard links.
Sintra and its popular golf resort, Penha Longa
While the cultural gem of Lisbon has so much to offer both day and night, the magical hills of the Sintra-Cascais National Park are peaceful and relaxing. A popular retreat for royals and nobility for centuries, fancy palaces and homes abound here. Lord Byron was so taken with the town of Sintra, situated at the heart of the park, that he declared it to be the most beautiful place he had ever seen.
Sintra is home to Penha Longa, a famous golf resort with a fabulous five-star Ritz Carlton hotel, a former 19th century palace, nestling in the hills. Its Atlantic course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., has featured in Portugal’s “must play” list for many years and is famed for its interesting lay-out and fantastic views, notably from the 17th and 18th tee where the hotel in the distance is framed by tall trees.
It wins my award for the prettiest rough I’ve ever been in – it seemed such a shame to hack the ball back towards the fairway from a blaze of intensely colourful wild flowers.
Cascais and Estoril golf courses
Estoril and nearby Cascais have been Portugal’s most fashionable resorts since they became the seaside retreats of the country’s royal families. As is often the case, such splendour spawned golf resorts, and in this area there are a number of 18-hole courses that offer variety and interest.
Estoril Golf Club, designed by one of the old icons of golf architecture, the Turnberry designer Mackenzie Ross, is one of the oldest clubs in Portugal. Having hosted the Portuguese Open 20 times and the International Amateur Championship on 62 occasions, it is no stranger to top golf.
Mackenzie Ross cunningly redesigned this rather short but strategically demanding course in 1945. Its narrow fairways run through the trees so extreme length is rarely a bonus, and instead of a big hit you have to think your way around.
Just to the west of Cascais is the testing and extraordinary Oitavos Dunes, a linksy-type course regarded as one of the best tracks in Portugal, with luxury accommodation that’s on a par at The Oitavos 5-star hotel. The nearby Quinta da Marinha. is also regarded as a top class course with associated luxury hotel.
The Belas Club de Campo has an excellent, underrated, course, featuring good design, holes of variety and difficulty, peppered with water hazards, and excellent conditioning. The early holes are played through some open rugged countryside before the course winds though the resort properties in typical continental fashion.
Lisbon golf courses south of the city
To the south of Lisbon across the Tagus river lies the Costa Azul, or Blue Coast, where there is another clutch of courses to enjoy.
Quinta do Peru Golf & Country Club has a quality course designed by American architect Rocky Roquemore, featured in Golf World magazine’s top 100 courses in Europe. The fairways meander through pines and offers views of the Arrábida mountains from both the course and the elegant clubhouse terrace.
Closer to Lisbon and the southern edges of the Costa de Caparica is Aroeira, which has two 18-hole championship courses.
Aroeira, which opened in 1972, hosted the Portuguese Open twice in the late Nineties and, following a six-figure renovation programme, now features in Golf World’s Top 100 Courses in Continental Europe.
Elsewhere in the Lisbon hinterland, the region of Northern Alentejo provides golf at Santo Estêvão and the two championship courses at Ribagolfe.
Orizonte, Portugal’s largest golf course management company, offers stay-and-play breaks in a three-round golf passport that allows you to choose from six courses in the Costa Azul region, including Quinta do Peru, Aroeira 1 and II and Ribagolfe 1 and II, Santo Estêvão, and the 9-hole Oeriras.
The Troia Resort features within Lisbon area golf, although its remote location 60 km from the capital means you have to be a dedicated player to go there.
You’ll find the Troia Peninsula between the Sado Estuary and the Arrábida Natural Park and you can cross the Sado by ferry from the very pretty city of Setúbal to avoid a long road journey.
It’s well worth the adventure. Not only will you find a top class, challenging course in Troia but also an area dedicated with outdoor activities for all the family.
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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
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