Lisbon – seeking out the capital's genuine golfing gems
Portugal is still one of Europe’s top golfing destinations, attracting hundreds of thousands of overseas players to the country every year. In the past, we’ve published features relating to golf facilities in both the north (Discover the golfing charms of northern Portugal) and the south (Sir Henry Cotton and the Algarve legacy) of the nation and this article now looks at what’s in between those regions, around the coastal capital of Lisbon.
The Azalea Group, market leaders in golf public relations and marketing, organised a trip last month to several courses that are currently listed in our Lisbon & Centre regional listings and we were happy to join a number of other journalists to have a close look at what Lisbon has to offer visiting golfers. The three courses that we visited were all operated by Orizonte Lisbon Golf, which manages a portfolio of seven courses at five locations.
Quinta do Peru is Orizonte’s flagship venue and it lies only 32 kilometres south of Lisbon city centre, accessed via the Ponte 25 de Abril, the huge suspension bridge that links the capital with the municipality of Almada on the south bank of the Tagus river. The course is a mid-1990s Rocky Roquemore design where the returning nines are routed in two big loops around a beautiful pine forest, with fairways carved from the heavily wooded landscape.
Ten kilometres west of Quinta do Peru, situated alongside the Atlantic coastline, sits the massive Aroeira resort, boasting two terrific 18-hole courses named Aroeira I and Aroeira II. Frank Penninck laid out Aroeira I in the early 1970s, with Aroeira II following thirty years later, at the start of the new millennium. Host venue for the Portuguese Open in 1996 and 1997, Aroeira I is the more demanding of the two tracks but it’s well worth setting aside a day to play both.
To the northeast of Lisbon, less than an hour’s drive from the city centre, you’ll find the two Ribagolfe layouts set inside the Herdade da Vargem Fresca estate. They’re both European Golf Design layouts, constructed to exacting standards in 2004, called Ribagolfe I and Ribagolfe II. Peter Thomson, the former Ryder Cup player and PGA Captain in 1994 was the headline architect for Ribagolfe I and it’s one of the few courses to ever bear his name as the designer.
Orizonte also manage two other properties. The first of these is the 18-hole Santo Estêvão course, which plays to a par of 73, and this is a 2004 Donald Steel design located around sixteen kilometres north of the Ribagolfe facility, with fairways occupying a fertile, rolling landscape. The other Orizonte course is the 9-hole layout at Oeiras Golf, a 2013 Santana da Silva circuit situated within a residential development some thirty minutes west of Lisbon city centre.
For those who might like to venture a little bit away from Lisbon in search of even more great golf then the good news is that there are three golf course clusters which are reachable less than an hour’s drive either north or west of the city and these are all worth the effort to check them out.
Taking the A8 highway north towards the small medieval town of Óbidos, the new Cynthia Dye course at West Cliffs has been turning heads since it first opened for play last summer. The Seve Ballesteros-designed course at Royal Obidos sits immediately next door to this newcomer, with Cabell Robinson’s highly-regarded Praia D’El Rey layout positioned ten minutes along the coast. A short distance inland from here, the 18-hole layout at Bom Sucesso is one of only twenty-seven worldwide golf destinations that come under the umbrella of European Tour Properties.
Driving west from Lisbon along the A5 highway leads you to the fashionable seaside town of Cascais and just beyond here you’ll find the wonderful links-like fairways of Oitavos Dunes, an Arthur Hills new millennium track. Another course with American design influences is located adjacent to this one and it’s the Robert Trent Jones Snr 18-hole layout at Quinta da Marinha. Ten kilometres east of here, back towards Lisbon, the Estoril Palacio Golf Course, host to twenty editions of the Portuguese Open between 1953 and 1987, still retains much of its old 1930s allure.
A bit further north, golfers can play the hilly Atlântico track at the Penha Longa Golf Resort on production of a handicap certificate. Half an hour’s drive east brings you to the Rocky Roquemore-designed 18-hole layout at Belas Clube de Campo, which is laid out near the oldest golf club in the city, Lisbon Sports Club, founded in 1922. The club was once the preserve of just its members and their guests but it now allows unaccompanied golfers to pay a modest green fee for the privilege of experiencing the unquestionable delights of a marvellous old Portuguese golfing institution.
Golfers flying into Faro to tee it up in the Algarve are no doubt happy to play resort golf on any of the courses strung out along the south coast of Portugal – there’s a lot to be said for playing relaxed, holiday golf in pleasant surroundings, even if it takes a bit of time to get round a course that might often be busy with visiting players. Hopefully, this article shows there are credible, alternative options available a little further to the north, with a great selection of courses built to a surprisingly high standard in and around the city of Lisbon.
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