Tuesday 21 October 2014

Fairways to heaven on a magical day

GETTING THERE

The courses we played can be booked through the following email addresses: quintadamarinha-oitavosgolfe.pt; golfestoril.com; penhalonha.com; golfdomontado.com.pt; troiagolf.com and goldeneagle.pt.

All courses are open to negotiation on their advertised green fees, especially for groups and when playing midweek.

For transport, we used passeiosecompanhia.com, who provide an excellent door-to-door service.

Aer Lingus fly direct from Dublin and Cork to Lisbon

SEVEN days after returning from a glorious week on Lisbon's Blue Coast, I turned on my Golfshot GPS to be told that I was 1,084 miles from the 18th green at Oitavos Dunes.

It's moments like these that can define a holiday. Moments like these that cement the building blocks of happy memories.

It has long been the philosophy of our six-strong crew of high handicappers that if you're going to play bad golf, you might as well do it on good courses. And while most Portugal pilgrims point their clubs towards The Algarve, we have chosen to mine the rich seam of golfing gold that runs around Lisbon.

Our chosen destination doesn't just offer a wide range of courses, from the fiendishly difficult to the gently accommodating, it also boasts some of the friendliest people you are likely to meet and restaurants that serve some of the finest fish you will ever eat.

Our base – the tiny village of Praia Das Macas at the end of the tram line from Sintra – is a bustling surfing centre during the summer months and wonderfully quiet for our annual April trip. The eateries, Buzio, Neptuno, Nautilus, Oceanico and the rest, offer a wide range of local seafood always served with a smile and a chat.

But we're there mainly for the golf, which on our latest trip began in the old world surroundings of Estoril – once a stop on the European Tour where the late, great Seve Ballesteros landed his tee shot on the 18th green as a teenager. It goes without saying that we failed to repeat the feat, but the track, winding through pine and eucalyptus trees and with a premium on accuracy rather than distance, offers visitors a wonderful introduction to the area. Its tricky greens and welcoming clubhouse will leave you itching for another visit.

From there, we paid our first visit of the week to Penha Longa, which houses the magnificent Atlantic Course, venue for the Portugal Open in 2010, and its nine-hole baby brother, the Monastery Course.

Although not the most difficult course in the world, The Monastery does have to be tackled with care, as its narrow fairways can leave you on your knees praying for redemption, or at least for a par.

But the Atlantic is the real deal and is not to be missed by anyone interested in playing a course that will test you off every tee and on every green while delighting you with its spectacular views, including the nearby Estoril racetrack.

Unfortunately this will never be enough to take on Troia. This is not a long course by any stretch of the imagination, but its wild and natural beauty will take your breath away and each hole offers a challenge that even the best golfers will struggle to master. At least when you're not driving you can enjoy a well-earned beer at the end of your torture.

The gently rolling fairways of Montado and Golden Eagle provide a welcome relief.

Set in flat terrain, Montado is surrounded by the famous Muscatel vineyards and while it offers opportunities for golfers of all standards to post a score, you do have to be wary of ending up in a watery grave.

Sunday Indo Living

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