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|Praia D'el Rey an hour north of Lisbon is one of the Golf Coast's jewels. (GolfPublisher.com)|
CASCAIS, Portugal - The growth of Lisbon's "Golf Coast" over the last decade hasn't gone unnoticed: This year it was voted Europe's best golf destination by the more than 1,000 members of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.
With about two dozen courses, the Lisbon region doesn't have the golfing quantity of the Algarve, but it can match its Portuguese rival in quality on the course and exceed it off.
"In the Algarve, you've got 35 great courses, all in great shape, and at the end of the day you go to the pub and have a beer, and that's it," said Frederico Champalimaud, director of golf at Oitavos Golf Club in Cascais.
"In Lisbon, it's one of the most historical cities in all of Europe, [plus] Sintra, the Estoril casino, the racetrack. Most major events in Portugal happen within 30 miles of our golf course. You can mix culture, history and golf."
Historic Lisbon is filled with things to do. The Baixa Pombalina district has historic churches and monasteries. St. George's Castle perches on a hill above town, and the Avienda de Roma is filled with shopping and nighttime action. Cascais, just a few miles away, is a stylish beach suburb with more upscale stores. The world-class casino in nearby Estoril inspired the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.
You'll be impressed with the area's gastronomy as well. Fresh seafood from the Atlantic and wines from Porto and local vineyards make meals an event. Many venues combine dinner with fado, the traditional Portuguese musical style, for an entertaining evening combo.
Oitavos Golf Club at Quinta da Marinha: Site of the 2005 Portuguese Open and a likely future fixture for the event, Oitavos in Cascais features a great mix of coastline and inland holes lined with umbrella pines, shrubs and dunes.
Back-to-back par 5s on the front side and consecutive par 3s on the back make for interesting routing, and you'll love to hate the 18th hole, arguably one of Europe's toughest closers. The continent's first Audubon Gold Signature Sanctuary, the course is kept in pristine natural condition (read: no houses to block your ocean view).
Praia D'El Rey: Located about an hour north of Lisbon, the Marriott's Praia D'el Rey opened in 1998 to rave reviews for its mix of forest and ocean-view holes. The land has given away to heavy construction in the last few years, and cranes are now as much a part of the landscape as the sea and rocky shoreline. Still, this is a great play, with Nos. 12-15 hugging the Atlantic.
This inland club is more heavily forested than Praia D'el Rey and Oitavos. The 18-hole Atlantic course, another former Portuguese Open site, plays to 6,890 yards from the championship tees. The Monastery, which runs among old ruins, is a nine-hole option should you want to preserve a little more time for dinner or other activities in the resort's stunning natural setting.
Estoril Golf Club: Estoril is a vintage counterpart to the region's more modern tracks. Opened in 1936 from a Mackenzie Ross design, it exudes classic European flair.
Facilities are modest but charming and inclusive. The course is short (less than 6,000 yards) but tight and tricky, with a couple of temptingly drivable par 4s and longer holes that require precision wedge and iron play. This private club is open only to guests of the Palacio Estoril Hotel or through particular golf packages.
February 9, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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