NOT ALL GOLFING tourists want to be by a beach. As well as seeing quite enough sand out on the course many enjoy the atmosphere that being in or near a city can bring as well as the wide variety of bars, restaurants and competitively priced hotels.
Whilst most British golfers head for the Algarve when visiting Portugal, Lisbon and its surrounding area offers a number of terrific out of season deals where four and five star hotels, many teaming up with some outstanding golf courses, can be had for highly competitive rates.
Some 45 minutes west of Lisbon on the northern banks of the Tagus river and sitting on the most north westerly point of mainland Europe, sits Oitavos Dunes golf club and hotel. Whilst the ultra modern glass hotel may not be to all tastes the course, one of only five in Europe designed by American architect, Arthur Hills, is fast developing into a classic.
Opening in 2001 there is a wonderfully natural flow to Oitavos as we ease ourselves into the first four holes where we start to get the flavour of the course. Ranked in the world’s top 100, if the wind blows hard we should be prepared for a ferociously stern test especially over the closing stretch, but what is most pleasing on a fine, calm day is the quiet stillness in glorious surroundings with only the sound of the birds and the snap of club on ball to disturb us.
With five tee boxes the course can play as long as 6,372m from the tips to 4,488m from the forward ladies’ tee. With some tough raised greens and treacherous run-offs this is certainly not a course for novices but is another perfect out of season venue as rounds can become very slow at peak periods.
Described by the club as a links the course more closely resembles a British heathland with close cut fairways, sandy wastes and wild shrubs, plus fairways lined with sweet scented pine. Only here there is the added bonus of wonderful sea views on one side and the soaring Sintra mountains to the other.
Some of the most spectacular holes on the course are the three par threes on the back nine with none more testing than the 153-metre 14th where the tee shot needs to clear a wide drift of sand and scrub before landing on a hump backed green that is often into the prevailing wind. Even the course guide admits that only the perfect shot will secure par.
By the time we have negotiated the lone pine standing in the middle of the long par four 18th and climbed up to the green sitting on top of a dune we shall be more than ready to putt out and head for the large modern club house sitting to our left on the hill where, safely ensconced, we can enjoy some excellent food and some top flight local wines.
Gazing out to the Atlantic on a fine early Spring day with a glass in our hand, whatever our score, is a hugely enjoyable experience.