In­sider’s guide to... Lisbon

Golf in Por­tu­gal isn’t all about the Al­garve – check out its lively cap­i­tal and you’ll find out why


Por­tu­gal’s cap­i­tal of­fers some of the best golf in Europe.

The Al­garve may well be one of the world’s favourite golf­ing des­ti­na­tions, but did you know that Lisbon is ac­tu­ally the birth­place of golf in the coun­try? It’s one of those strange-but­true facts – his­toric Lisbon Sports Club, founded in 1922, is one of the old­est golf clubs in Europe.

It’s true too that orig­i­nally Lisbon SC was built by Fred Hawtree as a nine-hole course for Bri­tish railway work­ers and didn’t ac­tu­ally be­come a full 18-hole lay­out un­til 70 years later, when the fi­nal four holes were com­pleted. Sit­u­ated amid scenic, rolling hills and val­leys, the par-69 course is rel­a­tively short, at just 5,520 yards, but the nat­u­ral lay­out of the land means it’s more dif­fi­cult than the score­card sug­gests, even though four of the par-4s

are un­der 330 yards. With tree-lined fair­ways nestling in the val­ley and with raised tees and el­e­vated greens, nowa­days Lisbon SC is just one of a grow­ing col­lec­tion of cap­i­tal cour­ses lur­ing golfers from all cor­ners of Europe and be­yond. In­deed, the area around Lisbon has seen a big growth in vis­i­tors in re­cent times with over 100,000 Brits alone flock­ing each year to play its 20-plus cour­ses, all lo­cated within an hour’s drive of Europe’s west­ern­most cap­i­tal.

It’s hard to fathom, we know, but Lisbon’s finest are ev­ery bit as good as the Al­garve su­per­star cour­ses as a visit south of the River Ta­gus and one of Europe’s most his­toric and ex­cit­ing cap­i­tals will read­ily tes­tify.

The Or­i­zonte-lisbon Golf Group man­ages seven of the re­gion’s lay­outs, in­clud­ing the three out­stand­ing lay­outs we played - Quinta do Peru Golf & Coun­try Club, Aroeira 1 and Ribagolfe 1, the lat­ter two be­ing part of 36-hole com­plexes.

Quinta do Peru is a 30-minute drive from Lisbon and framed by the Ar­rábida Nat­u­ral Park. Beau­ti­fully-crafted by Rocky Ro­que­more, it’s a wor­thy reg­u­lar in the Top 100 Con­ti­nen­tal Europe Cour­ses list­ings. Opened in 1994, the park­land lay­out gently me­an­ders through ma­ture pines and pro­vides a de­mand­ing 6,640-yard test thanks to as­tute bunker­ing and quick greens. There are sev­eral stand-out holes and a stel­lar clos­ing stretch. The spec­tac­u­lar par-3 16th needs a 190-yard carry over water to an un­du­lat­ing green… and nerves of steel. The prac­tice fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a dou­ble-ended 300m range and are top drawer.

The Aroeira com­plex is lo­cated only 25k from Lisbon, close to the coastal town of Ca­parica, and its Aroeira 1 course is a de­served new en­try into Top 100 list. De­signed by Frank Pen­nink (who cre­ated Vil­am­oura’s majestic Old Course) and opened in 1973, Aroeira 1 was dubbed “Went­worth of Lisbon” in the 1980s, though for us it has more of a Woburn feel about it.

Played through tall av­enues of pine trees and sur­rounded by na­ture, the par-72 lay­out plays to 6,650 yards and

de­mands ac­cu­racy and place­ment off the tee. Prob­a­bly the best holes are on the back nine the short­ish par-4 17th is a clever down­hill test to a green on the left of the dog-leg. The course staged the Por­tuguese Open in 1996 and 1997 and has also hosted sev­eral ladies’ tour events.

Sis­ter course, Aroeira II, opened in 2000 and de­signed by Don­ald Steel, is longer at over 7,000 yards, boasts large, un­du­lat­ing greens and with water in play on nine holes, reg­u­larly bears its teeth. It has hosted the Ladies Euro­pean Tour Qual­i­fy­ing School and sev­eral Ladies’ Por­tuguese Opens.

Ribagolfe - an­other two-course com­plex – is about a 40-minute drive from Lisbon and is plot­ted within a large cork oak for­est; you’re in to­tal tran­quil­ity with not a house to be seen and each hole shel­tered from the oth­ers. Ribagolfe 1 has been hailed as the “Valder­rama of Por­tu­gal” and pro­vides a great test of golf: it plays a whop­ping 7,370 yards from the back tees and has hosted the first stage of the Euro­pean Tour Qual­i­fy­ing School since 2009.

Three of the four par-5s have a risk-and-re­ward as­pect for big hit­ters seek­ing to find the green in two, in­clud­ing the 12th where the course re­ally comes alive. Water comes into play here, as it does on the 14th and 15th holes.

Ribagolfe II is shorter than its sib­ling, but still mea­sures more than 6,800 yards. It was de­signed by for­mer Ry­der Cup player Michael King in con­junc­tion with Euro­pean Tour De­sign and is slightly more for­giv­ing. Blessed with the same in­dige­nous cork oak can­vass, King has crafted an equally ap­peal­ing golf course, but with wider fair­ways and land­ing ar­eas. The huge, mod­er­ately-con­toured greens, pro­vide a stiff test – es­pe­cially if the wind blows.

If you’re in this neck of the woods then you should ex­pe­ri­ence Robert Trent Jones Snr clas­sic Troia, which sits on a long flat, sandy penin­sula back­dropped by the Arra­bida moun­tain range and reached by tak­ing a ferry from Se­tubal. It’s well worth the ef­fort: the stun­ning lay­out guar­an­tees a mem­o­rable round, fea­tur­ing the de­signer’s trade­mark bold bunker­ing, raised greens and some tricky dog-legs as it sweeps be­tween pine trees while of­fer­ing tan­ta­lis­ing glimpses of the sea, most no­tably at the par-4 3rd hole.

Two years ago, Lisbon re­ceived the IAGTO Euro­pean Golf Des­ti­na­tion of the Year ti­tle for the third time and it con­tin­ues to get big­ger and bet­ter. Not only does it pro­vide a wide va­ri­ety of qual­ity cour­ses, but af­ford­able green fees, a year-round mild cli­mate, and easy ac­cess to one of Europe’s great cities which hap­pens to be right on the doorstep.

With a flight time of just two hours 40 min­utes, and routes from many UK air­ports, it’s sim­ple to get to, driv­ing is easy and if you want to bolt on a cou­ple of ex­tra days, head north to the com­plex at Praia D’EL Rey an hour up the coast, where you’ll find spec­tac­u­lar links golf, right by the At­lantic. It’s one more great ad­di­tion to Lisbon’s im­pres­sive golf­ing ré­sumé.

Troia is a con­stant fea­ture of Europe’s Top 100 cour­ses.

Aroeira has a feel of Woburn, with more water.

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