What are the best golf courses in Portugal? The Golf World Top 100 panel ranks and rates the best courses in one of the most popular European countries for golfers to visit.
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For obvious reasons, we have largely shied away from producing rankings on foreign destinations in the last year.
But with some light at the end of the tunnel, we felt the time was right to bring some sunshine into our lives with this ranking of the best of Portugal.
It’s a country I am fortunate enough to have extensive experience of, and there are few better outside Great Britain and Ireland in my opinion.
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There are several reasons I say this. First, and most importantly, there are the courses. Where Portugal really excels is in its variety; unlike other continental countries, it offers more than parkland courses, with seaside experiences in all three key golf areas of the country.
What’s more, the standard is exceptionally high, with as many as 21 of its courses having been in our Continental European Top 100 at some stage. It is inconceivable a handful of them won’t be in the top 25 of the 2021 continental list we release in the autumn.
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Another reason it is so appealing for a golf holiday is that its three main areas – Algarve, Porto and Lisbon – all offer something a little different on and off the course. Lisbon has the allure of a city break, multiple seaside options and exceptional value on the lower-profile courses. Porto boasts experiences steeped in history and elegance as well as its own linksy courses. The Algarve offers quantity (as nowhere else in Continental Europe can), quality and so many attractions for the non-golfer.
The weather, the easy access to all three areas, the food, the beer, the people and the natural beauty of the country give further reason to study this ranking with a view to planning a break there later this year.
Our panel of readers and industry experts have, as ever, marked all the courses in the usual categories.
I hope you enjoy and take inspiration from our first ever ranking of the best of Portugal.
As always, we welcome your feedback on all of our rankings and know that everyone will have an opinion on their favourite’s position. We’d love to hear from you via email, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Golf World Top 100 editor
How we ranked the best golf courses in Portugal
Each shortlisted course was marked with a total of 100 marks awarded, in these criteria…
Design (40 marks) A key category, split into three sub-sections: Does the course take advantage of its landscape (20); the green complexes (10); the routing (10)?
Setting (15 marks) The aesthetic value of the surrounding views and the course itself. The overall ‘atmosphere’ of the course.
Memorability (15 marks) How easy is it to recall the holes? Are they distinctive, varied and interesting? Are they strategic and heroic?
Playability (10 marks) Is it just too tough, possibly even unfair, for the majority? Or is it easily enjoyed by all?
Consistency (10 marks) Does every hole deliver all of the above, or is it let down by a few poor ones?
Presentation (10 marks) Two aspects: is maintenance at ease with its surroundings? And the conditioning of tees, fairways, bunkers and greens.
In the event of a tie, the Top 100 Editor adjudicates based on the breadth of opinions across the panel. Off-course facilities, customer service and tournament pedigree play no part.
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Quick guide to golf in Portugal
Comfortably has the most courses, with more than 40 strung across the width of the region. The West’s stars are Palmares and Penina, while the quieter East has Monte Rei plus Quinta da Cima and Ria. The Centre – with Vilamoura – is heavily populated, headlined by the Quinta do Lago trio, Dom Pedro Old and San Lorenzo. Only Palmares’ Praia provides variety from the immaculate parklands.
There are three areas, all within easy reach of Lisbon airport. An hour to the north are Praia D’El Rey, West Cliffs and Royal Obidos. To the south are Aroeira, Quinta do Peru, Ribagolfe and Troia. To the west towards Cascais are Penha Longha, Estoril, Oitavos Dunes and Quinta da Marinha. Troia, Oitavos, PDR and West Cliffs offer seaside excellence.
The fewest courses, but great variety. Oporto is a mini Royal North Devon and Estela is as close to a raw seaside course as you can find on the continent, while Vidago Palace offers some of the most characterful inland holes in Portugal (and a sensational hotel).
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50. Campo Real
Torres Vedras, Lisbon
Designed by Martin Ebert when he was working for Donald Steel, it is laid out on hills and valleys used by the Portuguese royal family as a hunting reserve.
49. Castro Marim
Monte Gordo, Algarve
Terry Murray designed 18 holes in 2001 – The Guadiana and The Atlantic loops – with The Grouse added in 2008. Lakes feature prominently on some holes.
48. Quinta do Vale
Monte Gordo, Algarve
Designed by Seve Ballesteros and opened in 2008, QdV comprises a neat scorecard of six par 5s, six par 4s and six par 3s.
Holes dart in all directions here, many with a view over the Guadiana River.
Laid out on flat land as you climb away from the beach and into the mountains, Silves is notable for having negligible housing around its perimeter, with vines and olive trees providing the immediate and more pleasing backdrop.
46. Vale do Lobo (Royal)
The Royal weaves between more of the Vale do Lobo resort’s residential development but the back nine delivers highlights at the 14th and especially the 15th, which offers the kind of sensational view enjoyed on sister course the Ocean.
45. Dom Pedro (Pinhal)
A Frank Pennink original upgraded by Robert Trent Jones. In superb condition, it starts with a par-5 bang and then in the middle of the round there are several terrific holes. Excellent mix of the testing and the inviting.
Gramacho sits on undulating land in a St George’s Hill-esque landscape and leads to some of the most entertaining holes in the Algarve.
This is one of the most recent additions to the Algarve’s portfolio, a Peter Sauerman creation from 2012 that’s draped over rolling terrain that incorporates lakes, streams and indigenous plants.
42. Lisbon Sports Club
The traditional club dates back to the 1880s but now welcomes visitors to play a Hawtree-designed course that is plotted amid hills and valleys.
Defended by a meandering ditch and narrow fairways lined by mature trees and vegetation.
Rocky Roquemore laid out this championship course in the mountains between Belas and Queluz, plotting it through deep valleys to great effect.
40. Pine Cliffs
One of the best nine-hole courses in Europe. Playable and sensationally scenic due to its location on the orange cliffs 200 feet above the white-sand beach and Atlantic Ocean.
Laid out by European Golf Design in a valley between Portimao and Monchique, Morgado boasts generous fairways lined by mature trees.
Armacao de Pera, Algarve
Salgados sits on the coast on rippling land punctuated by palms and with water winding between holes. Invigorating as it gets right out towards the coast.
37. Pinheiros Altos
Designed by Ron Fream in 1992, it boasts three loops of evenly balanced nines. A proper ‘championship’ course.
Sao Miguel, Azores
This is the newer of Azores island Sao Miguel’s two courses. Designed by Cameron Powell in the 1980s, there are three loops of nine and it has hosted the Azores Ladies Open.
35. Ribagolfe II
Former Ryder Cup player Michael King, in collaboration with European Tour Design, created this younger sibling to Ribagolfe I. It was routed on the same undulating land, populated by an indigenous cork oak forest but with an extra layer of forgiveness.
34. Aroeira (No.2)
Opened in 2000, Aroeira II was built to European Tour standards and designed by Donald Steel. It sits on similar rolling, pine-lined topography as No.1, but the English architect arguably gave it more drama.
33. Quinta da Marinha
Robert Trent Jones design at a fabulous resort where par 3s are the highlight, led by the 14th which plays parallel to the Atlantic.
Sits over 500m above Funchal Bay in the capital of Madeira, designed by Cabell B. Robinson among beautiful flora and fauna, there is a mix of gorgeous inland holes and those with an ocean view.
31. Vale do Lobo (Ocean)
The Ocean’s front nine is perfectly enjoyable, marching back and forth among mature trees. But it does look rather modest when compared to the back nine, which has some of the most photographed holes in Europe.
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30. Quinta da Ria
Design 28.2 Setting 12.8 Memorability 12.8 Playability 8.2 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.6 Total 76.6
The Ria boasts breathtaking sea views à la Turnberry or Doonbeg, by virtue of several holes’ location on the edge of the beach. Much of the front nine is a military march up and down on fairly flat land, but then a run of holes in the middle of the back nine deliver moments of rare excitement.
29. Vila Sol
Design 29.7 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.4 Total 76.6
The placement of this well-known Algarve course in the list was the subject of much debate. Some believe the course has lacked sparkle in recent years, while others would have it closer to the top 25 because the routing and overall design are still sound. Notes of caution on its conditioning.
28. Vidago Palace
Design 29.9 Setting 11.9 Memorability 12.0 Playability 8.0 Consistency 6.8 Presentation 8.1 Total 76.7
Part of an opulent resort that bears comparison with Gleneagles or Stoke Park, the course is one of two halves. The original nine is set in mature woodland and combines with a new phase in more open land. The old section is a treat; imaginative holes set on rolling land between trees.
27. Porto Santo
Porto Santo, Madeira
Design 28.4 Setting 12.9 Memorability 12.9 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.5 Total 76.7
Another entry for a course in the Madeira Islands, this time on the eponymous island which is reached on the daily ferry crossing from the main island. Designed by Seve in 2004, it combines exquisite beauty with a stringent challenge, as a result of sweeping fairways often hugging the coastline.
Sao Miguel, Azores
Design 29.7 Setting 11.7 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 7.8 Total 76.7
Our top-ranked course in the Azores is situated 500m above sea level, with the original nine designed by Mackenzie Ross in 1936. That loop was extended by the Cameron-Powell partnership in the early 1990s and Furnas is characterised by elevated, often small, sloping greens.
25. Dom Pedro (Victoria)
Design 29.3 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.2 Total 76.7
Designed by Arnold Palmer among wetlands, with the native carob, olives and almond trees preserved in construction. Expect generally wide, undulating fairways but also several lakes that occupy 13 hectares. It has its own ‘Victoria Corner’, a take on Augusta’s Amen, from 11 to 13.
24. Quinta do Peru
Design 29.5 Setting 11.7 Memorability 11.7 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.0 Total 76.7
Set among the hills near Setubal, to the south of Lisbon, it was designed by Rocky Roquemore and celebrates the positives of American-style design in its large, dramatic bunkering and dangerous water hazards. Carved through a woodland pine forest and largely free from the curse of holiday villas.
23. Santo da Serra
Design 28.8 Setting 12.9 Memorability 12.9 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.5 Total 77.2
Our top-ranked course in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, golf here stretches back as far as 1937. That was when the nine-hole Serra course was built, but it was redesigned in 1991 by Robert Trent Jones Snr. It hosts the Madeira Island Open and has frequently breathtaking Atlantic views.
22. Quinta do Lago (Laranjal)
Design 29.9 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 8.1 Total 77.2
Originally an orange grove, Laranjal twists and turns on a generally more open site than its sisters, the North and South.
Set on the eastern edge of Quinta do Lago, you can make a score here, not least on the five par 5s. But while there is a more airy feel to Laranjal, there is lots of definition from umbrella pines, cork oaks and orange trees in addition to water features. A
lack of residential development around the edges adds to Laranjal’s likability, which is anything but an afterthought even if it is the newest of Quinta do Lago’s trio. Risk-reward holes around water offer numerous moments of nervy excitement. In routinely exceptional condition.
Design 30.3 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.8 Total 77.3
One of continental Europe’s oldest courses, having been designed by Philip Mackenzie Ross of Turnberry fame in 1936.
It was the venue for 20 Portuguese Opens and is set among eucalyptus, mimosas and pine; some will love the seclusion, others might feel some pruning would enhance Estoril.
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Design 29.8 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.0 Total 77.3
The original Algarve course and still one of the finest in Portugal. Englishman Sir Henry Cotton set the ball rolling with Penina and this grand old design weaves between sun-loving mature trees and colourful flora. Water features are a frequent hazard. Bursting with pedigree.
19. Amendoeira (Faldo)
Design 30.8 Setting 11.9 Memorability 11.9 Playability 6.7 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 8.2 Total 78.1
Its elevation changes afford it widescreen views (with virtually no real estate) – so while it is tough, it is not claustrophobic. Holes snake over burnt-orange, undulating terrain punctuated by rocky outcrops, water hazards, olive trees and cacti. As long as you don’t mind a test, you’ll love it.
18. Ribagolfe (No.1)
Design 30.6 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.7 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 7.8 Total 78.1
Fully deserves its place ahead of several big names, and illustrates the depth of quality in the Lisbon area. A host of the European Tour Qualifying School since 2009, it is set within an ancient cork oak forest and although these majestic old trees dominate the scene, it is still open enough.
17. Quinta da Cima
Design 31.6 Setting 11.5 Memorability 11.5 Playability 7.4 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 7.8 Total 78.2
One of the Algarve’s best technical courses. Dog-legs in both directions play a strong part with mature carob and olive trees ensuring the wayward or overly brave are punished. There are several large bunkers, but it is the lakes and natural creeks that play more of a part in defending her.
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16. Amendoeira (O’Connor)
Design 30.2 Setting 12.0 Memorability 12.2 Playability 7.9 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 8.0 Total 78.2
A notable position for the O’Connor, given it is higher than the sister course (the Faldo) at this superb resort. We think more will prefer its more gentle challenge. Built on more low-lying land and with very clean sight lines, it has just the right amount of test.
Design 30.8 Setting 12.2 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.7 Total 78.3
Founded in 1890 by Britons working on port wine, so only Pau in France is older on the continent. Gentle ripples and pronounced undulations add character to generally flat land. Wide off the tee and intriguing green complexes, this is akin to Royal North Devon in the sun. Very simple, very fun.
14. Quinta do Lago (North)
Design 29.2 Setting 12.0 Memorability 12.2 Playability 8.7 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 8.2 Total 78.3
The North was previously a distant second to the South while Laranjal was hot on its heels, but the revamp by Paul McGinley and Beau Welling has enhanced it markedly.
It is now one of the best-conditioned Algarve courses and is marked by width off the tee and some superb green complexes – with lots of emphasis on angle of approach.
13. Royal Obidos
Design 30.0 Setting 12.2 Memorability 12.3 Playability 7.7 Consistency 8.3 Presentation 7.9 Total 78.4
Opened in summer 2013, it is maturing nicely and is patently a new course where everything was done to the highest specifications. It oozes quality and, frankly, a large budget. Laid out in two sections either side of the clubhouse, Seve naturally included plenty of risk-reward moments.
12. San Lorenzo
Design 29.2 Setting 13.3 Memorability 13.2 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.9 Total 78.4
Its legendary beauty is first glimpsed on the 5th tee, which offers a majestic view of the beach and Atlantic. Your journey to the seaside continues from the elevated tee of the 6th, from which you take in the sights, sounds and smells of the seaside, and the 7th. One of Portugal’s best stretches.
11. Aroeira (No.1)
Design 30.2 Setting 12.3 Memorability 12.2 Playability 7.6 Consistency 8.2 Presentation 7.9 Total 78.4
Situated in the centre of a pine forest, No.1 offers hole after hole of classy golf. It gives the impression of being tight owing to the impossibly tall yet slender pines lining both sides of the holes, but it isn’t really that kind of unforgiving experience. Frank Pennink laid it out in two loops of nine in 1972.
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10. Penha Longa (Atlantico)
Design 30.8 Setting 12.0 Memorability 12.5 Playability 7.2 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 7.5 Total 78.4
Kyle Phillips, working for Robert Trent Jones, made such a good job of working the topography here, given it is so consistently undulating – unsurprisingly, as it sits in the Sintra hills. It is never a battle, though, and instead offers thrilling views and drives from the many elevated tees.
9. Quinta do Lago (South)
Design 29.8 Setting 12.3 Memorability 12.2 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 8.7 Total 78.4
Designed by William Mitchell in 1974 and host of the Portuguese Open eight times between 1976 and 2001, the South sits among umbrella pines, natural vegetation and lakes, with the Ria Formosa a frequent sight. Laid out in a rough figure of eight formation, it is a very fine examination.
Povoa de Varzim, Porto
Design 30.7 Setting 12.7 Memorability 12.9 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 7.1 Total 78.5
This position may surprise some, because Estela isn’t well known – but we hope to change that, because this seaside course is the real deal. All five of the opening holes play along the shore and into the prevailing northerly wind – as good an opening as you’ll salvo as you will find on the continent.
Design 29.8 Setting 12.6 Memorability 12.8 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 7.7 Total 78.5
Revamped in 2010 by celebrated American Robert Trent Jones Jnr, there are three loops of nine, each with different characteristics. The first, Alvor, starts high up in forested hills as the old course did, but now there is also a stretch of holes – The Praia – at the bottom which are linksy in nature.
6. Oitavos Dunes
Design 29.3 Setting 13.1 Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.5 Total 78.7
Laid out by American Arthur Hills on the Quinta da Marinha estate on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The setting is spectacular – one of the finest in Continental Europe. The course has been tinkered with down the years and while it has the odd weakness, this remains an exhilarating experience.
5. Praia D’el Rey
Design 29.3 Setting 13.8 Memorability 13.5 Playability 7.6 Consistency 7.3 Presentation 7.5 Total 79.0
The beachside holes are the basis for PDR’s enduring appeal. This is as raw as a seaside scene gets outside GB&I: Atlantic waves crashing onto the bright-white beach; fairways lined by sand that can sustain only indigenous vegetation; even a classic pencil-thin links fence. Inland holes are solid, too.
4. Dom Pedro (Old)
Design 30.5 Setting 12.5 Memorability 11.5 Playability 7.7 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 8.5 Total 79.1
The Grand Old Lady of the Algarve has plenty of life in her yet, as this position proves. To go to the Algarve and not play here is a mistake; it charms as few can. A stellar front half is backed up by a cool par 3 over a valley to a plateau green, then one of its highs, the classy par-4 14th. Frank Pennink’s 1969 work is effortlessly good.
3. West Cliffs
Design 31.8 Setting 13.6 Memorability 13.4 Playability 7.0 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 8.0 Total 81.8
The most impressive course to open in Continental Europe this millennium has something for everyone. Those who take pleasure from being challenged from first drive to last putt will find plenty enough to test them off the 7,003-yard back tees. Those who enjoy quirky, strategic holes will find a good number of those on this modern championship course.
And golfers who demand breathtaking views will lap up the Atlantic Ocean scenes that adorn all 18 holes. The setting – especially the back nine – is the aspect West Cliffs will be best known for, but American architect Cynthia Dye really did make the most of this ocean-side site.
Dye, niece of Pete, was mindful of the site’s precious environment and left as much of the indigenous scrub vegetation intact as she could; this has made West Cliffs on the unforgiving side, especially in a breeze. This low-lying native scrub happily gobbles up errant drives which have nothing to slow their journey given that fairways are lined by attractive sandy waste areas.
There are some hefty carries from several tees, too. But there is so much to commend it, with holes such as the all-world par-5 7th, sporty two-shot holes at 8 and 14 and classic par 3s at the 16th – a dramatic point-to-point, semi-blind thrill – and the 5th, Dye’s take on Redan.
So good that it is already Portugal’s No.3.
Design 32.8 Setting 13.2 Memorability 13.2 Playability 7.0 Consistency 8.2 Presentation 8.0 Total 82.4
So close to being our Portugal No.1 – just look how close the marks are. Troia is a Robert Trent Jones seaside masterpiece, combining gorgeous seaside terrain (see above!) with memorable holes. Exacting for sure, and in better condition than we can ever remember it. A truly world-class course.
1. Monte Rei
Design 31.9 Setting 12.6 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.6 Consistency 9.0 Presentation 9.0 Total 82.5
Designed by Jack Nicklaus – who was on site before, during and after its 2007 construction – Monte Rei’s opening was much anticipated. It hasn’t disappointed, offering a rare balance of pleasing aesthetics and stringent challenge.
Helping with the former is its remote location in foothills between the Serra do Caldeirão mountains and the Atlantic. Its runways of green cut between arid burnt-orange native soil and rarely is there a hole without a good view. Immaculately presented.
My Top 10 golf courses in Portugal: By European Tour player Ricardo Gouveia
May not be a well-known name, but it’s links style with some wind and many beautiful ocean views.
9. San Lorenzo
One of the best layouts in the Algarve with some amazing views overlooking the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
8. Dom Pedro (Pinhal)
A great layout with lots of trees. Some tough holes, but it’s always a lot of fun to play.
7. Dom Pedro (Old)
It’s always been one of my favourites since I was young because of the tree-lined holes and the condition. Very tough when the wind blows!
6. Oitavos Dunes
Offers incredible scenery with sand dunes and the ocean surrounding the course. Be warned, though, it’s tough.
5. Quinta do Lago (North)
In amazing condition since the redesign. Short for pros but with very tricky greens, amateurs need to be precise with approaches to score well.
4. Quinta da Ria
Fantastic ocean and beach views. Always in great shape.
3. Quinta do Lago (South)
A host of eight Portuguese Opens, it is tree-lined and requires all sorts of shots. In spectacular condition.
Offers beautiful views, the layout is well designed and it’s surrounded by sand dunes. Very challenging, but fair.
1. Quinta do Lago (Laranjal)
Beautifully designed and always in immaculate condition. It has been my ‘home’ growing up, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Lisbon-born Ricardo has played on the European Tour since 2016.