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Golf with Orizonte in Lisbon - a great region to play

By Chris Murphy

29/5/14

The 14th hole at Ribagolfe I

I was recently invited to travel to Lisbon by Orizonte, a new Lisbon golf brand that are offering golfers amazing value and a fantastic choice of courses. With Lisbon already a very popular destination for golfers from northern Europe, Orizonte have launched 'Lisbon Golf Passports'. These passports will bring together six well-established but unsung layouts to the south of Lisbon, and one further 9-hole course in Oeiras, just 15 minutes from the city centre. On this trip I was given the opportunity to play some of the courses for myself, and visit the beautiful city of Lisbon.

The region in which the courses are situated, the Costa Azul (Blue Coast), is a peaceful golfing haven just outside the bustling metropolis of Lisbon, much like the Hamptons are to New York. Two stunning road bridges over the River Tagus link the two, the Vasco da Gama bridge to the east of the city Europe's longest bridge at 10.7 miles, and from the west the 25 th of April bridge which is often compared to the Golden Gate in San Francisco. Overlooking the latter is one of Portugal's most famous landmarks the Cristo Rei, a 260ft statue of Christ much like the one found in Rio. You could always say a few prayers for your golf on the way over if you feel it is needed.


Looking towards the 25th of April bridge with Cristo Rei in the background

Once you reach the Costa Azul region the Orizonte 'Golf Passport' gives you the choice of playing the Quinta do Peru Golf & Country Club, Aroeira I and Aroeira II, Ribagolfe I and Ribagolfe II, and Santo Estevao. It is your choice which you play and in what order but we started with the beautiful Ribagolfe I.

Ribagolfe I has often been described at the 'Valderrama of Portugal', it is a superb test of golf in a unique and natural setting. In 2009 it hosted the first stage of the European Tour Qualifying School and I could see why, I hasten to add I probably would not have made it to the second stage but I enjoyed it none the less.


A view from the back of the 7th at Ribagolfe

Surrounded by cork trees you play your way through the beautiful Portuguese countryside, there was not a hole on this layout I did not enjoy, each extremely testing and well thought out in design. The Greens were hard and fast and a joy to putt on, all in all it was just a superb test of golf. Where the course did really come into its own however and my favourite part of the course was on the back nine.

Holes 14 and 15 at Ribagolfe I were probably two of my favourite holes I played all week. Apart from the fact they are great golf holes they were stunningly beautiful. The 14 th is a short par four, as so many of golfs great holes are, and you have an important decision off the tee. Do you risk taking on the green with a driver and therefore the water which runs down the left side of the hole, or do you hit a mid-iron to a tight fairway leaving a pitch to a tough green. Well I learnt the hard way, if you want to hit a driver at the green you need to be extremely accurate, and if you leak it even a little left off the tee ( I say 'leak' but 'snap hook' might have been more appropriate ) then the water is waiting!


The 15th at Ribagolfe I

On the 15 th water again comes into play, it is a testing mid-length par 3 around 170 meters, you have to hit straight over the water this time to a slightly raised green, not an easy hole. The water makes it a very tough but a very beautiful, an exchange I'm always happy to accept, and it always feels much more satisfying when you hit the green. The green fee at Ribagolfe I is worth it for these two holes alone.


View of the 15th green at Ribagolfe

There is no need to stay in Lisbon each night if you are looking for something different, there are some fantastic costal towns on the Costa Azul where you could base your holiday. The towns of Caparica and Sesimbra have several good hotels, both towns overlook the Atlantic Ocean, and you can find some fantastic seafood restaurants in each, nothing better after a good day of golf. There are lots more good hotels located in the centre of the region together with a fine selection of luxury villas for rent for larger parties and groups.


Sesimbra town overlooking the beach

Staying in the Costa Azul also means you are closer to the golf and it would not be a long journey to the next course I played, the Quinta do Peru Golf and Country Club. Located 30 minutes from Lisbon and framed by the Arrabida Natural Park, the fantastic Quinta do Peru was designed by Rocky Roquemore and is rated in the Top 100 courses in Continental Europe, and you can see why.

With the Arrabida mountains as its backdrop the Quinta do Peru course offers a very good test for amateurs and professionals alike, it has a wide variety of holes and challenges and it always keeps you working, it's good to be able to shape the ball round this course.


The 14th hole at Quinta do Peru

The standout hole has to be the very tough par three 16 th , at 200 metres and most of that carry over a rather stunning lake you have a hit your best to have any chance of carrying the water, or so we thought! At this point of the round myself and my playing partners were locked in a titanic better-ball match play battle , and having just won the 15 th to go two down with three to play my opponents had the honour on the 16 th tee. I was confident we could close the match out at this point due to myself and my partner having the lower two handicaps and it being such a difficult shot.


The 16th at Quinta do Peru

What I had not counted on was a rather fat three-wood from one of my opponents which never had the legs to make the carry but took a huge jump off the rocks on the edge of the lake and bounced to within 10ft of the hole, needless to say after this he rolled in the put for a unlikely birdie two and the match continued! In the end we had a half, but it seemed fitting after such an enjoyable round on a fantastic golf course.


The 1st at Quinta do Peru

I recounted this story to the rest of the trip while on the bus on the way back into Lisbon for the evening. As all the courses Orizonte offer on their 'Golf Passport' are in such close proximity to Lisbon there is no reason you cannot stay in the Capital if you are looking for a more lively trip. Neither do you have to worry about transport to the courses as Orizonte will supply you with a mini-van and driver for only thirty euros a day, no matter how many of you there are.

Lisbon is a historic capital, a mixing pot of unusual character and charm, where 800 years of cultural influences mingle with modern trends. It is often referred to as the 'city of seven hills', large enough to have a cosmopolitan feel, while also having intimate quarters and back streets full of cafes, boutiques and restaurants serving the best Portuguese and Brazilian food you can buy. If you go I suggest you try the Portuguese restaurant called 'Solar dos Presuntos', a very trendy place full of Lisbon's rich and famous, and you can see their photos all over the walls.


Solar dos Presuntos


Choosing fish at the Solar dos Presuntos

But there are many wonderful restaurants in Lisbon to choose from and if you want some great nightlife they have that also. Lisbon is the perfect place for a stag or a boys golfing trip, there is everything you need and could want.

After our night in Lisbon and maybe one too many cold Portuguese beers we headed for our last round of the trip at Aroeira I back on the Costa Azul. Aroeira is a unique estate comprising of two golf courses and a host of impressive mansions. Designed by Frank Pennink and opened in 1973 Aroeira I was affectionately christened the 'Wentworth of Lisbon' by the UK press and it is easy to see why. I also found a great number of similarities in it with my home course Woking, it was very similar to play as you make you make your way through tall avenues of pine forest. Also as it is not the longest at 6,650 yards the course demands accuracy off the tee in order to give you a good chance of hitting the greens.


The 9th at Aroeira

It was in beautiful condition, and I got a lot of joy hitting irons especially short irons off the perfectly manicured fairways, it is a real shot makers course. It was the venue for the Portuguese Open in 1996 and 1997 and has played host to several Ladies' European Tour events and, in 2013, the prestigious European Men's Club Trophy. Significant investment is underway in 2014 to upgrade the course conditioning and guest experience.


The 18th at Aroeira

It is a fantastic start with a long par five through the pines, and then the hardest hole on the course the second hole, a 396 metre dogleg par four from left to right with a carry over water for the longer hitters, leaving you a tough mid iron to a raised green. The drive is both beautiful and dangerous from an elevated tee but one you just can't wait to hit. The 18 th is also a great finishing hole, another long par five through the trees to a small green. I don't think it was just because I finished with birdie that I loved it! I had my best round of the week on Aroeira I, probably because it was so like playing back at home, I just wish I could have gone round again, it is one of those courses.


The 2nd hole at Aroeira

If this was not all enough to convince you to come and play here in Lisbon there are plenty of other activities you could get up to. Good wine is grown in the region and there is the opportunity while you are here to visit two emblematic wineries in between rounds. The Jose Maria da Fonseca and Bacalhoa wineries, both located in the picturesque two of Azeitao, are I can say from experience well worth a visit. The Costa Azul is famous for its beaches and there is also the Arrabida National Park near Quinta do Peru golf. What more do you need in a golfing trip?

What I have not yet mentioned is the price for the golf, and I'm sure it will be the reason you come to try out the fantastic city of Lisbon and the Azul region. This includes being able to play at weekends -

3-Round Passport - choose from:

A -

•  Aroeira I, Aroeira II and Quinta do Peru

•  150 euros per person (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug & Dec)

•  180 euros per person (Mar-May & Sep-Nov)

B -

•  Ribagolfe I, Ribagolfe II and Santo Estevao

•  150 euros per person (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug & Dec)

•  180 euros per person (Mar-May & Sep-Nov)

 

5-Round Passport

Allows 5 rounds on a choice of all six of our courses and you may choose to play only one course twice:

•  240 euros per person (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug & Dec)

•  290 euros per person (Mar-May & Sep-Nov)

 

Visit www.orizontegolf.com for more information

TAP Air Portugal has up to 10 daily flights from Manchester, London Heathrow and Gatwick to Lisbon, prices start at £116 return including all taxes. For further information, visit www.flytap.com or call 0845 601 0932.











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