Lisbon's coastal treats

Oitavos Dunes is its jewel in the crown

Bob Warters's picture
Thu, 11 Nov 2010

With the travel industry hopefully emerging from recession, the country boasting ideal, year-round golf conditions and investment in golf courses reaching new levels, Portugal is perfectly placed to take advantage of its location.

Indeed its two major centres - the Lisbon Coast and the Algarve - are vying for customers and determined to prove they have what it takes to deliver the best facilities for golfers from the UK and around the world.

And while the Algarve recently opened its state-of-the art motor-racing and motor-cycling circuit at Portimao - it has already staged a round of the World Superbikes, the World Touring Car championships and is hoping to stage the first F1 Portuguese Grand Prix since 1997 - the jewel in Lisbon's crown is the newly re-named Oitavos Dunes - rated the third-best golf course in mainland Europe and in the world top 100.

It was here that Irishman Michael Hoey claimed his maiden European Tour win at the Estoril Open de Portugal in April 2009 with a stunning final round 5-under par 66, then defeated Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño at the third extra hole of a play-off.

I had the privilege of first playing the course in 2004 and while it can still be a wild and windy challenge with its elevated tees and greens exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, Oitavos Dunes has matured almost beyond recognition durng its ten years and rightly deserves the accolades that are being laid at its door within the Sintra and Cascais Natural Park.

Crafted by talented Arthur Hills, former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, it is set among pine woods and re-forested dunes, in an ecologically sensitive landscape of great natural beauty.

Lose your ball into the heather and gorse here and don't bother searching or the environmental police will soon feel your collar. As a seaside golf course, the ocean view is always present, although some of the more fantastic scenery comes from the Sintra mountains and Cabo da Roca, Europe's most western point, seen around the turn and from the exposed and spectacular par-3 14th green.

Fresh and fickle wind off the sea makes the course never the same challenge two days running. As one observer wrote: "Oitavos Dunes is like a passionate woman, always liable to spring a change but never boring!"

The course offers three distinct landscapes - forest where sculptured umbrella pines flank the fairways, dunes land, and the open coastal transition areas - all carefully routed to take advantage of their distinct characteristics.

The 'state of the art' glass-walled clubhouse functions ideally to offer spectacular panoramas of the course...

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