Golfing in Portugal

Portugal has been attracting golfers from all over Europe since it was discovered that it had the perfect climate for winter golf, particularly on the Algarve's stunning coastline of sandy beaches. It was Sir Henry Cotton, winner of three Open Championships and the father of golf on the Algarve, who turned a marshy field near the old fishing village of Portimão into the famous Penina golf course in the mid-1960s, thereby putting Portugal on the world golfing map.

Although Portugal has always rated highly on the international golf map, it has really come into its own this past decade. The hosting of major tournaments, such as the World Cup in 2005 or the Portugal Masters held in the Algarve, has allowed an increasing number of players to discover this once well-kept secret. From the picturesque courses found on the Azores and Madeira islands in the Atlantic to the challenging courses in northern Portugal, no avid golfer will leave Portugal disappointed.

Some of the finest layouts in continental Europe are found in the Algarve, which holds the majority of Portugal's courses and continues to boom as a tourism market. There’s also golf on the west coast around Lisbon. The five-star Penha Longa Resort has a 27-hole course designed by the famed Robert Trent Jones Jr. and is ranked among the best 30 courses in the world. There are two courses in the rather remote region of Beiras in the northern center of the country. Four fine 18-hole courses are on the island of Madeira, with a stunning new course designed by Nick Faldo on the way. Golfers will be able to enjoy views while watching wayward tee shots fly off the landscaped clifftops into the Atlantic Ocean.

Generally, winter weather is perfect for golf, particularly on the southern coast of the Algarve. January can be temperamental with rains, however. The northern courses suffer more in this regard in winter. In summer, high temperatures across the country are made more bearable by cool sea breezes. Motorized golf carts are available at most courses in Portugal, and major courses have caddies available on request. All courses are walkable.

Golf at the most popular courses is expensive, with fees varying with the seasons and running €85–€190. Greens fees are generally cheaper in the north, but if you shop around online, you can find some discounts for the Algarve. Also, calling and speaking to a golf receptionist (most speak English) might allow for additional last-minute bargains, as courses regularly announce promotions whenever bookings appear to have dwindled.

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