Golf in Portugal
Shot to shot
Shot to shot
Golf is a sport known in Portugal since the late nineteenth century, when a group of Englishmen, which was dedicated to the production and trade in port wine, established the Oporto Niblicks Club, in Espinho. The year was 1890. Now known as Oporto Golf Club is the oldest golf club in the Iberian peninsula and one of the first in continental Europe. Its century old course currently has 18 holes and a par 71 after different interventions that reshaped the original and improvised 'links' of nine holes.
Mackenzie Ross was one of the architects to sign the reconfiguration of this course, which aroused his interest in the late '30s. At that time, the famous Scotsman was in Portugal to build the classic course of nine holes of Vidago Golf Club. This is another national, historic golf club, which is currently undergoing expansion, though it is expected that it might retain all its old charm. The Vidago Gold Club is located in the natural thermal park of Vidago, adding to its beauty.
Also in the '30s, a remarkable period for the implementation of this sport in Portugal, the Club de Golf de Miramar was built in Vila Nova de Gaia. Its traditional 'links' of nine holes came to stand out in the Iberian Peninsula for both the particularities of its course and for its location by the sea.
Still in those years, the golf came to the Portuguese islands with the inauguration of Santo da Serra Favellas Golf Club, in Madeira, and the golf course Terra Nostra, in the Azorean island of Sao Miguel. The latter, also conceived according to Mackenzie Ross' project, was later fitted with a new nine-hole course with a par 71 and is now known as Furnas Golf Course. Both these courses are surrounded by the unique natural beauty of the island. Of international repute is the hole number 4 of Santo da Serra, in Madeira, a par 3 of 200 meters, which is played on a slope at the level of the sea, having the green 'over' the Atlantic.
Among the best in Europe
The long tradition of practicing golf in our country was not confined to the North and the Islands. In the course of the twentieth century, other regions became destinations for lovers of this sport coming from all over the world.
In the capital, and since the '20s, the Lisbon Sports Club has increased the community of sportsmen, and between the first course in Algés and the current one, in the hills of Carregueira, in Sintra, other clubs and courses were made. The neighboring Belas Clube de Campo stands out, with its 18 holes and par 72, designed by William Roquemore, who has signed hundreds of high quality projects, including the renowned San Lorenzo in Quinta do Lago, in Algarve.
Also in the great Lisbon area, the Estoril Coast which, owing to its exceptional conditions, in 2007 was considered the best tourist destination for European golf by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. The eight courses in the region, which include those in hills of Carregueira, offer a diversity of characteristics that vary between elements of the sea-shore and 'inland' forests and woodlands. Courses also vary in number of holes and pars, and therefore each player may find the one better suiting its preferences. Two of them are ranked among the 50 best in Europe (Atlântico Penha Longa and Quinta da Marinha Oitavos Golf).
And many others could be mentioned considering that just in the Great Lisbon area there are 24 great places to play golf. However, mention must be made to the Praia D'el Rey Golf and Country Club. Opened in 1997, facing the Atlantic and the Natural Reserve of Berlengas Island, it offers an environment of intense and rare beauty as well as all the qualities that have made it worth of the prize for best resort in Europe.
However, the player looking for refinement cannot help to also visit, where the majority of the 74 Portuguese golf courses are to be found.
Land of beaches, sun and lots of golf
Windward to leeward of the Algarve, the number of golf courses amounts to more than three dozens, a number that keeps on increasing, along with the number of national and international golf players who visit the region. They are attracted by a most favorable weather and the beauty of this coast. Year after year, Algarve continues to offer the best golf destination in the world and the best courses in Europe, which are recognized by prizes awarded by the major golf organizations.
Again, it is to a British gentleman that Algarve owes the fair fame garnered over the past decades. The first to recognize the potential of southern Portugal was the famous Sir Henry Thomas Cotton, a golf player who, after retiring from professional circuits, settled in Portimão. There, he conceived the field that is today a living tribute to its creator: the Penina Golf Course, with courses of nine and 18 holes and a par 73, reputed for its more than 360 thousand trees, made to be planted by Cotton in the '60s.
The success of this first field drove the construction of the following, having Sir Henry Thomas Cotton signing the design of Vale do Lobo Ocean, considered one of the best in the Algarve, and also the Alto Golf's, where we find one of the longest holes in Europe (a par 5 of over 600 meters).
Other outstanding names in this sport have joined the British gentleman, justifying the huge role that the region has achieved in the international golf scene. Some of the best players of all times have designed courses in the Algarve: real golf legends as the American Jack Nicklaus (Monterrey) and Arnold Palmer (Oceanico Victoria), Spaniard Severiano Ballesteros (Castro Marim), Englishman Nick Faldo (Golf Almond Resort) and Zimbabwean Nick Price (Golf Gramacho in partnership with architect Ronald Fream).
A note also for the excellent courses designed by Frank Pennink in the Palmares Golf de Lagos, and in The Old Course and Pinhal Golf Course, both in Vilamoura. Outside the Algarve, the English architect was also responsible for the course in Herdade da Aroeira, located in Charneca da Caparica.
Tradition and quality can, thus, be found from the north to south, and even regions not mentioned here, as the center region or Minho, offer beautiful courses to those willing to improve their handicap.
As for those who have rather to marvel at the talent of today's champions, there are many competitions to choose from, as the Ladies Open de Portugal (entered in the Ladies European Tour), all three Portuguese tournaments of the PGA European Professional Tour for men, namely, the Madeira Islands Open, Open de Portugal and the Portugal Masters.
In our country, there is indeed golf for everyone, just have to pick your partner and join the more than 14,000 registered players of this sport, which is increasingly winning adherents in Portugal.