Portugal Play, Part 2:
Another formidable hole is 6, with trees on both sides of the fairway. When the architect ran out of trees, he put in a dogleg to the right and 11 bunkers on the way to and embracing the green a daunting Par 4.
Additional to hills, the course is characterized by small, undulating greens; honed-up putting will help as it is rare to find yourself in a position to make a straightforward putt.
Weekends during the high season might require booking; normally it isnt necessary. Many amateur championships are played here and Amarante is host to the Portuguese National Championship with prize money increasing by one million Escudos a year.
Not far from Amarante Golf Club is Casa de Juste. The house is lovely, the rooms comfortable, the surrounding countryside verdant and soothing and the owners easy-going. Casa de Juste is at the centre of vineyards producing the grapes for a thriving wine company. The family estate at Quinta da Aveleda has extensive vineyards. Visits and wine tastings can be arranged; if time permits, do not miss the opportunity.
Casa de Juste has its own formal gardens overseen by two proud swans. The guest-house, whose spacious communal lounge overlooks the gardens, contains five comfortable double bedrooms. A swimming pool is set above the vineyards. In July, a restaurant was on the verge of completion: a finishing touch that will be appreciated by guests who prefer to stay put after the days activities. Friends travelling together will be interested in the cottage, Casa Eira. With its own pool and garden, four double bedrooms, each with en suite bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen, it makes a private and ideal golf base.
Bicycles are available for exploration of the local villages; nearby stables provide horse-riding facilities. Two hundred metres from the main house, owners run a gift shop stocked with their own wines and cheeses, olive oil and local crafts. Should the big city beckon, take the local train to Porto (30 minutes away) and discover contrasts between the old and new metropolis.
One hours drive from Amarante and the next golf course, Ponte de Lima came into view.
The layout is varied and interesting and involves playing across a mountain. The first nine holes offers exceptional views from the top on Holes 2 and 8. Number 3 may be Portugals longest hole; if not, it seems so. It is 622 metres long, flanked by forest and with a dogleg right. Players have an easier, flatter time of it on the second nine, especially if theyve taken advantage of the club restaurant and stopped for lunch and recuperation. The restaurant is lively and very popular with local business people as well as golfers.
Ponte de Lima provides Strokesavers free which keeps players in a good mood. Many greens are invisible from the tees owing to doglegs and other incidentals. Further (also free) advice from the Course Director is to keep your driver out of play during the first nine; use a 3 wood instead. The course requires you to think, he added.
The single most striking aspect of Ponte de Lima is its natural features. Trees, mountains, vineyards and flowers typify the Minho region and are more integral to this particular course than to any other in the area. Scots engineer Ian MacPherson was insistent that no one meddle with nature. Arguments (there were many) were met with adamant refusal to compromise. We are indebted to him for his intractability, for the golf course is far better as a result of it.
Golf Ponte de Lima 18 holes
Quinta de Pias Fornelos
4990 Ponte de Lima
Tel: 258 743 414/5, Fax: 258 743 424
I stayed at Casa da Lage. Rightly called one of the noble houses of Portugal, it is set in luxuriant countryside. Dating from the 14th century, it possesses both antiquity and beauty. The house exemplifies gracious living. The grounds are lush and extensive, the vineyards flourishing. This is a good walking area with inviting paths to follow.
Golfers travelling in small groups find Casa da Lage ideal. In the manor house itself, there are three double bedrooms and a twin bedroom. Casa Tulha, a well-equipped guest cottage contains six twin bedrooms, some of which have extra sofa beds. There are kitchen facilities, a large living room and a fireplace. In total, more than 20 can enjoy calling Casa da Lage home while playing golf at Ponte de Lima.
Facilities for guests of both manor house and cottage include an indoor swimming pool and large lounge. The only delicious thing that self-catering guests miss out on are the delectable breakfasts served in the main house.
Several restaurants are nearby. Outstanding among them is Carvalheira, which does excellent steaks in a variety of ways. A bountiful array of appetisers are delicious. Informal in style, a smart/casual ambience prevails.
From here to Viana do Costelo was a brief and sunny half hour drive. Two golf courses awaited.
Information about manor houses and booking can be found at http://www.manorhouses.com
Agree with this review? Disagree?
Post your thoughts at GolfBoards.com.