Golfmagic tees it up on Estoril Golf Coast

Golfmagic helps UK defeat Europe at inaugural Estoril Media Matchplay

Andy Roberts's picture
Thu, 15 May 2014

I'VE recently noticed that mother and father are at a stage in life where the highlight of their weekend is the Saturday crossword.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, it's probably time for me to leave home, yet financial constraints are currently getting in the way of those plans.

"Andrew darling, seven letters, a popular golf destination in Portugal." That was mother talking, in case you wondered.

Peering over the page to see _ _ _ _ R _ _ at 3 across, I knew very well the answer the Daily Mail wanted but my reply to mother was entirely different. No wonder she ended up struggling on 12 down all afternoon.

Estoril might play second fiddle to the Algarve

The Estoril Golf Coast, with its big sandy beaches, has seven superb golf courses to choose from.
This unique part of Europe, just half an hour from Lisbon's International Airport, offers good weather all year round among its many attractions.

I'VE recently noticed that mother and father are at a stage in life where the highlight of their weekend is the Saturday crossword.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, it's probably time for me to leave home, but financial constraints are currently getting in the way of those plans.

"Andrew dearest, seven letters, a popular golf destination in Portugal." That was mother talking, in case you wondered.

Peering over the page to see _ _ _ _ R _ _         at 3 across, I knew very well the answer the Daily Mail wanted, yet my reply to mother was entirely different. No wonder she ended up struggling on 12 down all afternoon.

The Algarve may take most of the plaudits when it comes to destination golf not only in Portugal but Europe alone with little more than 35 sun-kissed courses to choose from, but if you're looking to break away from the norm, want first-class golf, pristine fairways, perfectly manicured greens, numerous off-course activities and an all-year round sunny climate, you could do little worse than head to Estoril Golf Coast.

Estoril Golf Coast, just half an hour from Lisbon Airport, has seven superb courses for you to embrace, three of which I got the chance to tee up on after receiving an invite to compete in the inaugural Estoril Golf Coast Media Matchplay event between UK and Europe golf media.

Day One... Golf do Estoril

Golf do Estoril, or Estoril Golf Club as I like to call it, is located in one of Europe's oldest established tourist resorts and is steeped in nearly 70 years of history, 20 of which have hosted the Portuguese Open and 62 of which have held the International Amateur Championship. 

Overlooking Estoril and the sea, this 5,810-yard course, which the likes of great Seve Ballesteros, Gene Sarazen, Neil Coles and Bernard Gallacher have all set foot on in the past, is set amongst eucalyptus, pine and mimosa trees - all of which I found a little too frequently.

A masterpiece of famous course designer Mackenzie Ross, Estoril Golf Club demands excellent tactics from start to finish with extremely tight driving holes mixed in with several blind tee shots. There are several holes where you can pull out the big stick and a couple of risk-reward drivable par-4s, while the par-3s are also visually stunning and vary in length from flicks with a short iron to a full-blown 4-iron.

The greens, however, are about as pure as it gets. Some of the best I've seen anywhere in Europe.

The club also features a superb clubhouse facility with pro shop, bar, changing rooms, restaurant and swimming pool with a long veranda.

As for the inaugural Estoril Media Matchplay event itself, I was paired with Bleacher Report's Alex Livie for Team UK and despite being 2 down with 4 to play, we fought back to earn a halve. Unfortunately the Europeans scraped a 2.5-1.5 lead heading into day two, but the event was finely poised heading into the final-day singles.

Day Two... Penha Longa Atlantic

Situated in the Penha Longa and Golf Resort, this course is 30 minutes drive from Lisbon airport and 10 minutes from Estoril and Cascais.

The resort, itself a 150 hectare nature reserve, has 27 holes in natural surroundings and a 5-star hotel with 194 rooms and suites. At the foot of the Sintra hills, it is part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

The Atlantic course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, isn't quite so steeped in history but it opened in 1992. It is, however, an even better and even tougher test of golf.

This 6,900-yard, par-72 championship course is ranked among the best in Europe. It hosted the Portuguese Open in 1994 and 1995, the Estoril Challenge in 1997 and the Estoril Open in 1999. The major amateur circuits have also held their finals on this course.

The Atlantic is a challenging course for golfers of all standards. It blends in perfectly with its surroundings and there are breathtaking views both of the ocean with Estoril and Cascais in the foreground, and over the mountains.

It features an extensive driving range with 20 grass bays, a large putting green, good short game facilities as you enter the resort, pro shop and a very swanky clubhouse and restaurant.

Of the final-day singles, I was sent out in the first match of the day against one of Europe's scratch players. Despite going down early after the second hole, I raced into a 2up lead around the turn and held on for a 3&1 victory after stiffing a 6-iron to 5-feet for birdie at 17.

Sitting at the back of the 18th sipping a cold one, but without a walky talky, I waited patiently for the remaining seven matches behind to come in. Thankfully the Miracle at Penha Longa was complete when Golf International's veteran travel writer Clive Agran came home with the winning point in the final match to seal a memorable 6.5-5.5 win and celebrations long into the night.

Day Three... Belas Clube de Campo

Just before jumping on a plane back to England, we thought it was only right to try out one more course - and I have to admit, it was probably my favourite of the three. Okay I did go birdie-eagle-birdie on the back nine!

Belas is near the World Heritage town of Sintra and only about ten minutes drive away from Portugal's cosmopolitan capital, Lisbon. It's also within easy reach of the main roads to Lisbon International Airport, to the north of the country and to the south via the bridges over the River Tagus.

A championship standard, par-72 golf course measuring 6,500 yards, Belas is one of the masterpieces of renowned golf course designer William "Rocky" Roquemore. The impeccably maintained greens, tees and fairways have been seeded with Penneagle and Pennlinks grass and are set well into the valleys for protection against the wind.

The course meanders amongst the hillsides, affording splendid views of the Sintra hills, and it's divided into two well-defined parts, a low-density residential area and an untouched natural environment.

Signature holes, noted for both their beauty and their difficulty, are without doubt the second, dubbed Augusta after the 13th at the famous course in Georgia, and the 18th, aptly named The Grand Hole, which allows you to take driver and set up a flick into the green, or an iron off the tee staying short of the giant pond to the right.

For more information about Estoril Golf Coast, visit www.estorilgolfcoast.com

Click here to find out where to stay and the best activities in the region...

 

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