The Insiders guide to Portugal


In three areas on the mainland and in its islands in the Atlantic, Portugal has something for everyone

Portugal is not a huge country, yet has as many as five different areas to consider for a golf break. They vary in style, cost and accessibility but there are several themes that connects them all. These three theme help to make Portugal such a highly-appealing option. 

They all offer a terrific variety of golf courses, a scenario helped by the fact all five areas have access to a coastline of some description. The outstanding service you recive at the golf clubs and resorts is another common link while service standards are high across the contintent now, we find Portugal's to be consistently the highest. 

And the weather is another welcome and familiar theme; it's true that Portugal's islands in the Atlantic Ocean bene t from slightly better winter weather than the mainland, but as a whole, these five key golf areas boasts sensationally good climates. The areas do, clearly, differ in many respects though, and this is what you can expect to discover in eahc of them. 

Portugal's Best

Most scenic courses - San Lorenzo, Oitavos Dunes and Praia D'El Rey.
Toughest courses - Monte Rei, Oceanico Faldo and Troia.
Most fun courses - Quinta da Ria, Vilamoura Old, Ribagolfe 1.
Best family resorts - Penina, Praia D'El Rey and Pine Cliffs.
Best for groups - Aroeira and Penha Longha.

Libson's three areas

There is so much golf on offer in and around the capital that it has to be divided into three different areas- the blue Coast (south of the city)., Estoril (west of the city) and the Silver Coast (north of the city). 

For a long time the 'third' of Lisbon's areas, the western coastline is poised to become extremely powerful. 

Praia D'El Rey had long been the standard bearer in this area, near the medieval town of Obidos 45 minutes north of Lisbon. The arrival of Royal Obidos resort four years ago gave it added ballast, and in June this year it will gain a further signi cant attraction. That's when PDR unveils its second course, West Cliffs (pictured below), designed by Cynthia Dye and with all the hallmarks of a classic in the making. When added to the existing Cabell B Robinson track – a mix of seaside and pine- lined holes that is a fixture in the top 50 on the continent – it is going to make this Marriott resort one of Europe's very finest.

West Cliffs

Royal Obidos boasts a Seve Ballesteros- designed 18-hole course that sits seamlessly in its rolling terrain of low-lying woodland and water features while Bom Successo by Donald Steel – where the back nine is the pick – is just a few minutes away. With these four courses, Obidos suddenly has high- calibre strength in depth.

Steel also designed Dolce Campo Real, en route to Lisbon, which is a super family resort. The south of Lisbon has often been similarly overshadowed but is now emerging as a strong contender in its own right – especially for those seeking value for money.

It is doubtful if anywhere surpasses the Blue Coast in a quality-to-euro sense. Leading the way is European Top 100 track Troia, a Robert Trent Jones Snr track on a remote peninsula – but don't let that put you off, because this is a fabulous test among pines and on sandy seaside terrain.

Quinta do Peru has long been a Top 100 venue too, another design by the underrated Rocky Roquemore. It is vintage woodland- parkland resort golf and is part of the Orizonte group that also owns two 18-hole courses within a forest of cork oak trees at Ribagolfe, as well as another 36-hole complex Aroeira – a Top 100 resort whose No.1 course has echoes of Woburn and entered Golf World's Top 100 in 2015.

The Estoril region is easily the most well known, boasting stellar names such as Oitavos Dunes, a seaside course among dunes, and fabled Penha Longa, a top-10 resort in continental Europe that boasts the feared Atlantico course by Robert Trent Jones Jnr/Kyle Phillips and a fabulous hotel.

One of our resort favourites is Quinta da Marinha, with its Trent Jones Snr course from 1984 and even more importantly its peerless accommodation: the expansive original hotel and the exquisite new chic one. The Estoril club itself hails back to the 1930s by Mackenzie Ross, and Belas, Belavista, Paco do Lumiar, Quinta de Beloura and Lisbon Sports Club are other presentable options for the traveller.

The Algarve

As the most popular destination for British golfers over the 50 years it has been welcoming us to its miles of golden coastline, it's a fair bet that most of us have been there at least once. It's never been more popular in fact. So it might feel as if you know everything there is to know about it.

And in every facet of life, we love trying something new more than ever – from food to cars and music to drinks, making the safe, well-worn choice is no longer what it used to be. We want adventure, surprise and intrigue... and why not?

It might make the Algarve seem a little drab as the destination for your next golf holiday. We know what it is all about. There are no surprises there; going again would just be like that time in 2016 or 2006 when we went. And that is where, with the greatest respect, you'd be totally wrong.

Yes, the courses and towns of the Algarve are well known to British golfers, but even those of us who travel there regularly discover something new every time. Take a golf holiday to the Algarve in 2017, and it will be different from the last one. If it isn't it'll be your fault, because after you liked it so much the previous time you booked the same hotel and courses again!

The 'boring' constant themes on the Algarve are wholly positive ones: the fabulous climate that makes it a year-round golf destination; the warm welcome you'll receive no matter if you stay in a ve-star hotel or a three-star guesthouse; the awless conditioning of whatever course you play; the convenience of flying to Faro [from all corners of Britain] and then to your hotel.

There are Top 100 attractions from Palmares in the west to Monte Rei in the east and San Lorenzo plus the Oceanico Old and Faldo courses in between. There are heavenly play-and-stays wherever you look, led by family-friendly Pine Cliffs and lower- pro le but high-appeal Robinson Quinta da Ria.

The Dona Filipa-San Lorenzo axis, the former a majestic newly-refurbished hotel, the latter arguably the Algarve's nest course offers an alluring package. And then there is Penina, where it all began with Henry Cotton's design starting the Algarve golf revolution, an area that still sets the standard as far as golf breaks are concerned.

Porto's twin attractions

Two venues make Portugal's capital a clever option for those seeking something different, something classy from their golf trip in 2017. They are very different, but taken together offer a break of style and substance.

Vidago Palace offers century-old character... but with the advantage of a recent thorough makeover in 2010, 100 years after opening. Located an hour from Porto and 15 minutes from Chaves, it retains its peerless pedigree in its 70 rooms, six restaurants and bars. The course was originally built by Mackenzie Ross as a nine-holer in 1936 and was sympathetically extended by Cameron Powell.

Estela golf course

The closing trio offer breathtaking views from their lofty positions but otherwise Vidago is characterised by clever holes over undulating terrain. Estela (pictured above) is totally different, a sandy seaside experience over rm turf where the strength of the wind will determine your score. With an excursion to the legendary Douro wine region, this is a connoisseur's delight.

Madeira Islands

Just three courses on this Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean but they all have much merit – not least in the breathtaking coastal views common to all. Possibly the greatest advantage Madeira has is in its amazingly consistent weather that sees the sun shine strongly every month without ever being blisteringly hot, and where the temperature is routinely within a few degrees of 20 ̊C.

And that is available with little more than a mere four-hour ight. A popular destination for non-golfers – who visit for the gastronomy, famous wines, nature trails, world-class shing, bustling markets and water sports – Madeira is as well set-up to charm gol ng travellers as anywhere on the mainland, no matter whether you are travelling in a single-sex group, in a couple, or within a family. Santo da Serra, Palheiro and Porto Santo are the three courses in the archipelago, and all have featured in Golf World's Continental European Top 200.

Palheiro golf course

Palheiro (picture above) is a wonderful play-and-stay option, perched high above the capital of Funchal and offering a boutique hotel serving terrific food and a course boasting ocean views as well as inland holes of such colour that it has been likened to Augusta.

It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Santo da Serra is a regular European Tour stop and is full of brave carries over gorges, cliff-edge greens and elevated drives. Porto Santo is a Seve Ballesteros design on the eponymous nearby island to Madeira and is predictably exciting, always offering the golfer a route to nerve-wracking glory.

The Azores

Like Madeira, this archipelago is not extensively stocked with courses but all three are appealing, as are the off-course attractions of a mild-climate year round and the kind of backdrops and culture that demand you relax and unwind.

Two of the courses are on the island of São Miguel, whose airport of Ponta Delgada is the gateway to the Azores via SATA Air Azores, Ryanair or TAP Air Portugal. Furnas is the original course here, situated 500m above sea level and whose original nine holes from 1936 were designed by Turnberry's creator Mackenzie Ross. Perched above the attractive spa town, that loop was extended in the early 1990s.

Batalha (pictured below) is the more recent but equally appealing of Sao Miguel's courses. There are three loops of nine, many with views across the verdant landscape down to the sea. Designed by Powell in the 1980s and opened to the public in 1993, it has hosted the Azores Ladies Open.

On Ilha Terceira, another of the nine volcanic islands that make up the Portuguese archipelago, sits the final course Terceira. Established in 1954 by American golf enthusiasts at Lajes Air Force Base, it is characterised by pine trees and small lakes and was renovated in 2006.

Batalha golf course

Portugal: Travel Essentials

The climate: If Lisbon loses anything in comparison with the Algarve it is actually on weather as opposed to courses. The Algarve’s location further south extends its better weather by a good couple of months.

When to go: If you want to be in the pool as well as on the course in Porto and Lisbon, stick to June to August inclusive. The Algarve can be visited May to September for swimming and sunbathing. Equally though, if sunbathing isn’t essential, Portugal is open for golf all year round as it is never chilly.

Getting there: Faro is served so well by UK airports, and Lisbon is similarly well serviced. The roads are perfectly pleasant to drive a hire car on once there.

Time: GMT+1