Golf Monthly editor Mike Harris travels to the increasingly popular Lisbon area to discover the Quinta da Marinha Resort
Quinta Da Marinha Golf Course And Resort Review
Mention to a fellow golfer that you’re off to Portugal with your sticks and chances are they’ll ask where on the Algarve you’re teeing it up. So synonymous with holiday golf is Portugal’s glorious southern coastline that it’s easy to forget the country boasts a wealth of golf outside of this tried and trusted region.
From the courses around Porto in the North to the island destinations of Madeira and the Azores, there’s choice aplenty, but for my most recent golfing foray it was a trip to the Lisbon area that is growing in reputation all the time.
My destination was the resort of Quinta da Marinha some 30 minutes west of Lisbon in Cascais. Originally a fishing port, Cascais has grown from an outlying town close to the city into one of the capital’s most desirable suburbs – and it’s not hard to see why, with its beautiful architecture, chic shops and wonderful selection of restaurants.
Designed by the world-renowned Robert Trent Jones Senior, the golf course at Quinta da Marinha opened in the mid-1980s and became an instant classic. There are many trademark RTJ features, including imposing bunkering, sloping greens and signature long runway tees that make the course truly playable for all.
A Fine Run Of Holes
Make no mistake – from the very back tees Quinta da Marinha is a very tough golf course. Some of the tee-shots need to be threaded through tight rows of pine trees, but move up to the forward tees and it becomes a course that will delight rather than punish the higher-handicap golfer.
The course has changed routing over the years and now has a lovely flow and rhythm to it, with particularly strong groups of holes midway through both the front and back nines and a thrilling strategic climax at the 18th.
On the front nine, holes 3 through 6 prove that length is not needed to make holes challenging. The 3rd is a breath-taking 350-yard par 4 that plays gently downhill to a green with the Atlantic Ocean directly behind it.
The par-3 4th provides an exciting tee shot played over a deep ravine filled with trees and plants. The 5th plays less than 300 yards and can be driven with a bold play but the fairway is pencil-thin, has trees to the right and slopes heavily away to certain doom on the left. The run culminates in an uphill par 3 with a green that sits in front of a solitary pine and a pretty villa where you can easily imagine sitting and watching groups play through for hours on end.
On the back nine, the run from 13 to 16 is another superb quartet, starting with a stunning par 3 played over water to a green surrounded by intimidating bunkers. Three here is a great score. The double-dogleg par 5 that follows will test your ability to shape the ball both ways if you’re to have a chance of getting up in two.
An inviting par 3 follows before arguably the best hole on the course, the SI1 16th that demands a long and accurate drive and a well-struck second to reach the green.
The 18th is a fine strategic finishing hole with options galore depending on wind direction and how brave you are feeling. Lakes flank first the right, and then the left of the fairway, before cutting in front of the green. Every shot demands the utmost concentration and a confident strike to avoid the water.
Much More Than Just Golf
In my view, the layout is best enjoyed on foot and that’s entirely possible as the topography allows for easy walking (joyfully, most tees are adjacent to the previous green) and even in the height of summer, temperatures remain at a blissful level thanks to the ever-present coastal breezes.
If you’re looking to add to your golfing CV there is a host of courses within easy reach. Pick of the bunch is near-neighbour Oitavos Dunes, which hosted this year’s European Tour GolfSixes and ranked a lofty 55th in Golf Magazine’s 2017 World Top 100.
There are two accommodation options at Quinta da Marinha – the main hotel or one of the spacious villas a short walk, or even shorter shuttle transfer, from the main building.
Over the winter the hotel will undergo a major refurbishment so will have a fresh, contemporary look when it re-opens in 2020. The whole resort is very family-friendly and there’s a fantastic atmosphere around the pool, in the Trent Jones Bar and the Five Pines restaurant, which serves excellent themed buffets most evenings.
Food plays a big part in Portuguese culture and Cascais is a mecca for foodies. Unsurprisingly, fresh seafood features heavily and there are a number of restaurants perched on the cliffs, including the Monte Mar owned by the hotel. Our family favourite was the more modest Bar Guincho, a friendly bar set on the cliffs overlooking the glorious beach that welcomes watersports enthusiasts riding the big waves on all manner of things.
It would be easy to spend your entire stay at Quinta da Marinha but there’s much to do within an hour of the resort. If you want hustle, bustle and culture, a trip into Lisbon is a must. The city is one of the world’s oldest, offering a fantastic fusion of heritage and modern buzz.
Head north up the coast and into the Sintra Mountains and jaw-dropping natural beauty abounds in the National Park, complemented by fascinating architectural and historical sights, including spooky inverted towers, a Moorish Castle, and the stunning Pena Palace perched atop the mountain that offers amazing views. With so much to do, one trip is unlikely to be enough!
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