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Portugal - From Lisbon to the Algarve

June 1, 2013

By Chris Murphy

Portugal still has to be my #1 European golfing destination, and on this recent trip to Lisbon and the Algarve I was reminded again why.

We arrived at the Onyria Marinha hotel after a short 20 minute transfer from Lisbon airport. Located in Quinta da Marinha, close to Cascasi, the hotel is set in one of the most emblematic and beautiful places on the Portuguese coast.

The Onyria Marinha
The Onyria Marinha

The Onyria Marinha is truly stunning, surrounded by beautiful gardens and pine trees and a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean. Whether you choose a suite in the main hotel or a world class edition villa, it's the ideal place to stay for a golf trip.

Onyria Marinha South Facade
Onyria Marinha South Facade

Our first round was at the Hotel's golf course Quinta da Marinha, which lies between Cascais and Cabo da Roca. It was designed by legendary US architect Robert Trent Jones and at 5870 metres off the back is quite a challenge.

Although I enjoyed the round I have to say it is not one of the best courses I have played in Portugal, but it does have some fantastic holes. As the round develops the holes become more and more interesting and on the back nine the course really comes into its own.

Back nine at Quinta da Marinha
Back nine at Quinta da Marinha

The two most dramatic and beautiful holes have to be the 13th and 14th. They overlook the Atlantic Ocean on one side and you can cast your view toward the Sintra mountains on the other. The 13th is a classic short par 4 that is driveable if you can hit it further then me ( not far), but it is a very testing second to a green below you and therefor extremely difficult to hold.

Your view of the Atlantic on the approach to the 13th Green at Quinta da Marinha
Your view of the Atlantic on the approach to the 13th Green at Quinta da Marinha

The 14th is a par 3 you just want to play again and again, a mid iron over a giant ravine to a steeply sloping green from right to left. Just make sure you don't leave a putt from the right side or you may 4 putt, I can say from experience!

Quinta da Marinha is definitely a course you should play while you are in Lisbon, especially if you stay in the fantastic Onyria Marinha.

The next course we played in the Lisbon area is a course I would fly to Portugal just for a day to play. Penha Longa is Ranked in the top 30 Courses in Continental Europe, it has 27 holes and funnily enough is designed by the famed Robert Trent Jones jr. He may have outdone his father in terms of these two courses.

Penha Longa
Penha Longa

With its bold drives, tricky approaches and devilish greens, it is both an adrenalin rush and a relaxing journey through one of Portugal's most inspiring landscapes, if golf can ever be relaxing. The opening holes and the final few share a wooded vale in the shadow of the rocky mountains, while others arc around beautiful hillsides.

One of my favourite holes on the course, indeed one of my favourite holes anywhere, has to be the par 5 6th , listed as one of the best 500 holes in the world. You have an elevated tee shot and have to avoid a rocky out of bounds on the right, too far left however and trees are waiting to block out your second. Once you have found the fairway you have a big decision to make, lay up or fire towards a small green and tight entrance, with water on the left and a Roman aqueduct running down the right hand side. Is it beautiful and deadly and I just love to play holes like this.

The par 5 6th at Penha Longa with the Roman Aqueduct down the right hand side as you apporach the green
The par 5 6th at Penha Longa with the Roman Aqueduct down the right hand side as you apporach the green

View from the tee of the par 3 7th at Penha Longa with the Roman aqueduct on your left
View from the tee of the par 3 7th at Penha Longa with the Roman aqueduct on your left

Exciting the entire way round, this championship golf course which plays host to the Portuguese Open, is really a great experience and I can't urge you enough to go and play it.

If the golf course was not enough to attract you then have a look at the rest of the resort. Located within a 545-acre national Park on the southern Sintra Mountains, Penha Longa Resort is a breathtakingly beautiful location. It has a luxurious hotel, a nineteenth century palace originally founded as a monastery in the fourteenth century, and a stunning Six Senses Spa. It was once the retreat for the Portuguese Royal Family. Penha Longa is just a 30 minute drive from downtown Lisbon.

The Penha Longa Resort
The Penha Longa Resort

For my final round in Portugal we flew down to the Algarve. When you come to Portugal how can you miss out on the Algarve? The point of flying down was to play one golf course in particular, the Onyria Palmares, the course I was most excited about playing out of the three.

Running along the Atlantic coast close to the Meia Praia beach, Palmares is a mix of stunning inland typically Portuguese holes and then nine beautiful and exciting links holes. Not only is this a fantastic mix but the Palmares has some of the best views available from any Portuguese golf course.

One of the many fantastic views from the course towards the Atlantic at the Onyria Palmares
One of the many fantastic views from the course towards the Atlantic at the Onyria Palmares

The course was designed by Frank Pennink and was opened in 1975, but it was not until 2010 that it was upgraded and divided into three nines by Robert Trent Jones Jr - Is there any golf course in Portugal he has not had a hand in?

The three nines 'Lagos', 'Praia', and 'Alvor' are all fantastic, so if you only have time for 18 it really is a difficult decision which you choose. The one nine that you would probably have to include is the links style 'Praia', not often do you get to play links in Portugal after all.

The 'Praia' nine at Palmares
The 'Praia' nine at Palmares

The 'Praia' nine are set in a seaside landscape with dunes exposed to the elements. The first hole descends from the inland part of the course, the second hole then whisks golfers into the true links section, and four fantastic holes lie between the beach and the railway line, which is still in use. Each hole is stunning and a true test of golf, although you may have to battle through the wind! It is truely a beautiful place to play golf.

Watch out for the trains passing through!
Watch out for the trains passing through!

I enjoyed this round the most of out the three I played. The first couple of holes are fairly tame, nice but tame, then it just keeps getting better and better, as if they were meant to accentuate the brilliance of the rest of the course. The greens were also some of the best I have ever played in Portugal which really makes you enjoy the round more - It is a nice feeling when those twenty foot birdie putts run straight and true into the hole! If you come to the Algarve you must play the Onyria Palmares.

Portugal always inspires me and I have never had a bad trip, you must get out there soon and try these three fantastic courses out for yourself!

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