Your guide to Lisbon
The area to the south of the capital is rapidly becoming one of our favourites in Continental Europe by virtue of its ability to offer genuinely top-drawer courses yet at prices everyone can afford. One of the main reasons for this is the fact most of the courses fall under one umbrella, the Orizonte Group, and you can enjoy rounds at their courses for amazing prices. The multi-course deals they offer might seem almost too good to be true – but, trust us, they are simply just terrific value. The area itself is lovely too, a taste of ‘proper’ Portugal and authentic Lisbon; the towns dotted along the coast such as Setubal and Sesimbra are picture-postcard stuff.
They have nowhere near the same extensive accommodation as the Algarve or central Lisbon, but there are enough options to stay locally in complete comfort, and you can also stay in the centre of Lisbon and drive over the bridge to play your golf. This latter possibility is really worth considering; stay in a vibrant capital city and enjoy all that it offers at night, and play high-class, low-cost golf in tranquil surroundings by day.
The golf on what is known as the ‘Blue Coast’, is headlined by Troia, a Robert Trent Jones Snr track set on a peninsula which takes a bit of getting to (the ferry from Setubal is the most romantic route) but this dunes and beach-dominated experience is well worth it. The others are within the Orizonte collection and are led by continental top 100 fixture Quinta do Peru, which is the work of the underrated American designer Roquemore and has a stellar closing stretch. There are two 18-hole courses at Ribagolfe, both set within a forest of cork oak trees. The top track is a regular host of the qualifying stages for the European Tour.
Then there is a Donald Steel design at Santo Estevao, but perhaps our favourite is another 36-hole complex, Aroeira, which unbelievably has never featured in a top 100 list. Set among towering pines and with more than a hint of Wentworth about it, this is genuinely high-calibre fare.
Around Lisbon, or actually just west of the city, you’ll find another stunning collection and the first port of call has to be Oitavos Dunes, often rated as the highest-ranked Portuguese course. It is one of the few venues on the continent to offer a genuine links experience. It has a chic hotel too. Right next door is Quinta da Marinha, and this duo provide a nice contrast: for the really intense golfer, Oitavos is for you; for those looking for a holiday with some golf, Quinta da Marinha is one of the best spots in Europe to seek that. The Robert Trent Jones Snr course is well-conditioned, hosted the Estoril Open in 2002 and has some ‘wow’ views – most memorably on the short, par-4 13th which plays down towards the sea – but it is the whole package that impresses here... the food, the swimming pools, the leisure facilities and the ambience.
A couple of minutes’ drive away is the Estoril club, one of the most famous names in Portuguese golf. Host on numerous occasions to the Portuguese Open, it oozes tradition having been founded in the 1930s and been set out by Mackenzie Ross of Turnberry fame. Nearby you’ll discover Penha Longa, home of the superb Atlantico layout that was skilfully designed by Kyle Phillips. Also worth trying are lower-profile courses such as the historic Lisbon Sports Club and Belas, which suffers a little from being in the shadow of the big names but really is a superb parkland.
Further west – in an area known as the Silver Coast – there’s more quality on offer with the opening of Royal Obidos adding a serious championship course to what was already there, namely the similarly good Praia D’El Rey as well as Bom Successo. The top-end golf is centred around the medieval town of Obidos – which is a day out you will always remember – and, located around 90 minutes’ drive north of Lisbon, is a peaceful location for a golf break away from the bright lights. Praia D’El Rey, another with a real seaside feel and a fixture in all European top 100s, stretches to over 7,000 yards. Ahead of the best holes along the Atlantic Ocean, it wanders inland among fragrant pine trees. Designed by Cabell B Robinson, the holes in the towering dunes are awesome and for a course which is less than 20 years old, it has matured magnificently. The course is part of a large Marriott complex, so it’s a terrific base for a sun-soaked family holiday.
A matter of 10 minutes away along a little coastal road is the new Royal Óbidos Spa & Golf Resort, which opened in the spring of 2012. This 18-hole championship course designed by the late Seve Ballesteros exudes class; it doesn’t take you more than one hole to know this stellar venue cost a lot of money to design and build. Royal Obidos is already a top 100 course and it will only rise. Laid out over rolling terrain with mostly low-lying shrubs and trees, it mixes cute short par 4s with strong, exacting par 5s and is now overlooked by a swish brand-new boutique hotel. Bom Successo is a Donald Steel design with the front nine laid out on relatively flat land before the second half moves onto terrain that permits elevated drives and spectacular views. Other highlights include Steel’s wildly undulating Campo Real.
A myriad options away from the course...
Lisbon is a vibrant capital city with a wide variety of ways to spend one’s time away from the fairways. A few things to do that are unique to Lisbon, though, include visiting Jeronimo’s Monastery (resting place of Vasco da Gama) the Oceanarium, or the Berardo Museum of Art. Meanwhile the 15th Century Belem Tower, the historic town of Sintra, St George’s Castle will appeal to history buffs. If you are a foodie, head for the Bairro Alto area, where great-value restaurants offer all kinds of food while the Parque ads Nacoes and Docas districts serve up a curry, a chinese or a classic steak.
A hole you would relish…
5th: Par 4, 477 yards
You must try to draw your drive round the dog-leg and avoid the bunkers. You will now feel the prevailing North wind in your chest, so a low, running approach shot is advisable to try to find this green of the stroke index one hole. Indisputably linksy fare!
The climate: Typically nice Mediterranean fare, with long, sun-drenched summers.
Getting there: EasyJet fly in from Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool and all the London airports including Luton. TAP also go from Gatwick and Manchester while BA fly there from Heathrow.
Time difference: GMT +1
More information: lisboncoastgolf.com