When West Cliffs opened last year it was heralded as one of Europe’s best newcomers for decades. David Taylor says it lives up to the hype...
Destined For Greatness – West Cliffs
The eagerly anticipated opening of West Cliffs close to Lisbon last year brought with it predictions that it would take European golf by storm. As soon as you enter the front gates, it’s easy to understand why.
The par-72 course, which was 14 years in the making, has been laid out over 200 hectares of dramatic clifftop terrain with ocean views on every hole.
It is located on Portugal’s Silver Coast, about 60 miles north of the capital – an area which had a reputation for great golf even before last year’s new addition.
Fine courses at Praia D’El Rey, Royal Obidos and Bom Sucesso have all opened in the last 20 years, meaning visitor numbers have been steadily growing, but West Cliffs seems to have taken the area to the next level.
Designed by Cynthia Dye – Pete Dye’s niece – this links layout is managed by the Praia D’El Rey resort and lies just ten minutes north of its sister course.
I was lucky enough to visit before its grand opening and it was clear then that it was set to make headlines.
Those have been coming thick and fast in recent months, culminating in West Cliffs being named the World’s Best New Golf Course at the 2017 World Golf Awards.
A Testing Layout
There’s no doubt the course is a tough test, as competitors at the 2018 Portuguese Women’s Amateur Golf Championship found out in January.
It will inevitably play host to many more prestigious tournaments in the years to come but it has been built primarily as a resort course with the travelling golfer in mind.
It offers five teeing options, so it is playable for all – but be sure to choose wisely or you could be in for a long day.
Highlights on the front nine include the 189-yard par-3 5th located on top of a massive dune and played directly towards the ocean.
The Redan-style green and prevailing wind make club choice tricky here, and the large bunkers on the left are to be avoided.
Back-to-back par 5s then follow, the second of which features a large sandy waste area that bisects the fairway and is obscured from view off the tee.
Big hitters beware!
The back nine starts with a run of lovely holes taking you closest to the eponymous cliffs, before a superb finishing stretch from 16 to 18.
The par-3 16th occupies the highest point on the course and offers spectacular panoramic views, while the 17th doglegs around yet another huge dune on the right.
The 18th plays downhill from an elevated tee, presenting you with one final dramatic view.
You can either take on another dune on the left to leave a straightforward second, or go right and face a trickier approach over water.
A fitting finale to an exhilarating ride.
Strength In Depth
As already mentioned, the beauty of a trip to the Silver Coast is the sheer number of quality courses within easy reach, none more so than Praia D’El Rey.
This par-73 7,100-yard Cabell B Robinson layout is blessed with great variety.
You’ll find some fantastic inland treats on the front nine, but the back nine is where the course really comes alive.
The stretch from the 12th to the 15th is the most exposed to the ocean and all that it throws at you, making it truly memorable.
The resort comprises 177 rooms and offers four restaurants serving a variety of traditional and international dishes.
There are also apartments and villas, all with direct access to the beach.
If you feel like a break from the golf, Lisbon has much to offer and can be explored en route to the airport.
The town of Obidos, just ten kilometres away, justifies at least a day trip too.
It is one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its medieval walls, charming cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses and lively shops and restaurants.
Europe is blessed with some fabulous and well-established golf destinations that cover all bases, whether that be superb courses, great food, reliable weather or cultural delights.
With the opening of West Cliffs, Portugal’s Silver Coast has confirmed its place at the top table of golf on the continent.
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