Portugal is often regarded as one of the best golf destinations in the world. For such a small country, it has a huge variety of high-quality golf courses, mainly on the Lisbon Coast and in sunny southern Algarve. Choosing the top 10 is always difficult, however the courses listed here all provide a variety of challenges and are set in magnificent surrounds.
Central Algarve’s premier golfing destination, the Quinta do Lago Estate has two of its four excellent 18-hole courses listed among Europe’s top 25 golf courses. These are bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Ria Formosa nature reserve, there are 72 holes of challenging golf with immaculate greens. Quinta do Lago South, the original championship course, is still regarded as the best.
Just 20 minutes’ drive from Faro International Airport, the par 73, 18-hole Vilamoura Old Course has a great variety of holes that include some some steep grades. The course, lined with pines and cork trees, deserves its reputation as one of the best in Europe. Facilities include a driving range and putting green.
Vale do Lobo, Portugal’s biggest luxury golf and beach resort, has three courses. The Royal and the Ocean, both par 72, have stunning views of the coast, and its 5 km-long sandy beach. The ultimate Algarve course is San Lorenzo rated in the top ten in Europe, it is difficult to get a tee time unless you stay in the 5 star Dona Filipa hotel which owns the course.
One of the best courses in the Algarve, the par 72, 18-hole Vale da Pinta, was designed to retain natural valleys and undulations. Free of green fees for those lucky enough to be staying at the Pestana Carlton, the course, with large, deep greens and bunkers, follows hills and valleys through old olive, almond and fig orchards.
The pick of the Lisbon Coast
Oitavos Golf Club at Quinta da Marinha, is the home of the Portuguese Open. Kept in pristine natural condition, coastal scenery combines with holes lined with umbrella pines, shrubs and dunes. It is Europe’s first Audubon Gold Signature Sanctuary. The two consecutive par 5s on the front side, and two par 3s on the back are part of one of Europe’s toughest 18-hole courses.
The Ritz-Carlton’s Penha Longa course features 27 holes in a stunning natural setting that runs to 6,890 yards from the championship tees. A nine-hole option, The Monastery, includes a section of old ruins.
Estoril opened in 1936, is short (less than 6,000 yards) but tight and difficult, and the longer holes require accurate wedge and iron play. Guests of the Palacio Estoril Hotel are given preference to play here, although the course is included in some golf packages.
Aroeira I, opened in 1973, is renown for its stunning natural beauty. The 18-hole, par 72, championship course is one of the best in Europe, and has hosted the Portuguese Open.
One of the most challenging courses in the Lisbon area, Quinta do Peru, is in the Costa Azul region, between the castle towns of Sesimbra and Setubal. The par 4, 12th has a lake running the length of the fairway and the par 3,16th, all of 200 metres, has a lake guarding the green.
In the North of Portugal, an hour from Lisbon, lies the challenging, par 72 Praia Dél Rey course with its mixture of links-type fairways and forests and dunes. Many of the holes have ocean views, but the walk between some greens is long and hilly, so a cart is recommended.
The Madeira Islands’ best course
The Madeira Islands have three major golf courses, and the par 72, 18-hole Palheiro, on the main island, is recommended for its challenging greens. Built on volcanic hills, the course traverses peaks and valleys, and is set among a pine forest and other natural vegetation.