Jeremy Ellwood savours the delights of several cracking courses in and around Portugal's beautiful and historic capital
Golf In Lisbon – Belas, Troia & Quinta do Peru
As I set out at 5am for Heathrow hoping to beat the M25 rush, it dawned on me that although I’d flown to Lisbon several times, this trip, taking in some of the highlights of Lisbon’s Golf Coast, would be the first time I’d actually stayed in the city.
I was travelling without clubs, too, so first thing on arrival I had to pick up my hire set courtesy of MyCaddyMaster.com, the brainchild company of enterprising Frenchman Ghislain de la Chaise.
Quinta do Peru
By early afternoon, my Callaway XR clubs were being put to the test on the 1st at Quinta do Peru – a fittingly generous par-5 after the morning’s travels, though I still made a hash of it.
The 2nd is then a tighter hole with a well-framed drive, before an attractive mid-length downhill par 3 where the travel stiffness finally eased.
Both these holes boasted what would prove a common feature – rear bunkers that sit towards you like front bunkers, making for great visuals, but pretty testing lies!
The back-nine finish from 15 onwards is superb, featuring a risk-reward par 4, a long par 3 that’s nearly all carry over water, a sharp dogleg left with OOB both sides and a green where straying above the hole spells an almost certain three-putt.
I came away thinking Quinta do Peru was the kind of course I could quite happily play every day.
Later that afternoon, we enjoyed a wine-tasting and tour around the fascinatingly diverse museum at the Bacalhoa vineyard, culminating in some very fine Moscatels as we became perhaps just a touch over-acquainted with the local produce!
From here, it was a short drive to the Hotel do Sado in Setubal, where our top-floor restaurant looked out over the river estuary we would be traversing by ferry the following morning en route to Troia Golf Resort.
This superb course, the handiwork of Robert Trent Jones Snr, is laid out over a slender, sandy peninsula and is one of the jewels in the Lisbon’s Golf Coast crown.
Pines, bunkers and sandy waste areas abound, and I absolutely loved it, perhaps partly because I made a ridiculous birdie on the par-5 opener after hitting it about 70 yards right off the tee. Some things never change.
The magnificent, well-bunkered par-3 2nd plays straight towards the water the other side of the peninsula, from where you climb to the 3rd tee to savour the views and the first of many doglegs.
There are countless fine holes, among them the 9th, which starts narrow and gets narrower, and the extraordinary double-dogleg 14th, where position is everything.
The back nine ‘feels’ a little more open visually, but I’m not sure it is really.
After Troia, we headed into the city for the first of two nights at the Pestana CR7 Hotel quite close to the river.
We ate at the Museu de Cerveja close by, and it’s hard to imagine having a bad experience at any restaurant bearing such a name.
Afterwards I learned that two scoops of ice cream in Portugal is twice the size of two scoops in the UK, but still battled all the way through my tangerine/Ferrero Rocher combo.
The next day, we headed to Belas, a Rocky Roquemore creation from the late 1990s that is very much a buggy course, particularly over a front nine that circles a vast area of vegetation early on.
Director of Golf, Paul Saunders, told us that the opening quintet was particularly strong, with the 3rd perhaps the best par 4 in Portugal, and one we simply had to play from the tips.
I tended to agree when I split the fairway, but went off the idea after sending a wayward 5-iron into the scrub well wide of the green.
It was still a great hole, though, thanks to its exciting downhill approach and the water hazard snaking in from the left close to the green.
Lisbon Sports Club
On the par-5 6th you need to be aware of the cross-hazard off the tee in firm conditions, but could just bring the green into range downwind if you were feeling particularly brave or confident.
The slightest misjudgement or mishit, though, and you’ll be in the water short of the green.
Only perfection will suffice.
That afternoon, we enjoyed a quite different golfing experience at the long-established Lisbon Sports Club, which hails itself ‘Lisbon’s Home of Golf’.
Everything is on a more condensed scale here, with the odd criss-cross hole, most notably the 5th, an excellent par 5 along the valley playing back over the 1st green from an elevated tee.
I really liked the 7th, an uphill par 4 to a green perched on top, and the delightful short par-3 11th over a pond, where you simply can’t afford to miss right.
The 18th was another of those narrow holes that just keeps getting narrower, and this lower part of the course reminded me very much of the front nine at Bovey Castle in Devon.
It provided a fitting contrast to the more expansive creations we had enjoyed elsewhere, and the terrace of its old colonial clubhouse proved the perfect spot to enjoy yet more Moscatel and one or two of the local pastries.
We ate at Pap ’Acorda that night, where the legendary chocolate mousse took ‘rich’ to a whole new level, then spent the next morning wandering the city’s elegant streets and square.
A spot of riverside sightseeing – including the stunning Belem Tower – followed ahead of a superb fish meal at the 5 Oceanos Restaurant, which lies almost beneath the 25th April Bridge.
This impressive structure is a dead-ringer for the Golden Gate Bridge, and gets its name from the date of the Portuguese revolution, which brought freedom from four decades of dictatorship in 1974.
On the flight home I vowed to come back, not only to take in more of the courses on Lisbon’s Golf Coast, but also to explore more of this beautiful and historic city.
TAP Portugal is one of few airlines to still provide complimentary food and drink on its short-haul flights, and as the trolley came round, I couldn’t help but notice that the white wine was from the Bacalhoa winery.
Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?
The perfect way to toast a very fine trip to Portugal’s very fine capital.