Aroeira Golf Resort is a 900-acre paradise for golfers and non-golfers alike. It's situated on the Setubal Peninsula within a glorious preservation area. Lisbon is a mere 20 kilometres to the north, so naturally Aroeira benefits from a temperate microclimate that allows all-year-round golf, which is fortunate as the resort boasts two top quality golf courses.
Frank Pennink, the master architect, designed Aroeira 1 and it opened for play in 1972. The course measures 6,122 metres and is a traditional par 72 layout that wends its way through a dense pine forest. Aroeira 1 was an immediate hit and was described as the “Wentworth of Lisbon” by the British press. The course hosted the 1996 and 1997 Portuguese Opens.
“Aroeira is another example of the legacy of Frank Pennink, English-born creator of the Old course at Vilamoura and Palmares in the Algarve, whose talent and concept of letting nature dictate course strategy wherever possible has stood the test of time.” Wrote Michael Gedye in his Golfer’s Guide Portugal. “The holes wind through tall avenues of pine, with lush Bermuda fairways enlivened by birdsong and a colourful carpet of wild flowers. Each hole presents a different challenge; each is separate from the rest and all are notable for the complete absence of fairway bunkers. It is easy to remove trees to form a golf course; Pennink’s skill lay in knowing which to leave, and it is these which ordain play, rendering additional hazards unnecessary.”
The Aroeira estate is an Orizonte Lisbon Golf facility located just over ten kilometres as the crow flies from another Orizonte course at Quinta do Peru, where I played the day before I teed it up here. The two courses might be relatively near neighbours but they felt worlds apart from one another in how they looked and played – that said, from what I saw of Aroeira II next door, even it looked quite different to Aroeira I.
The course was designed by Frank Pennink and opened in 1973 and it’s hard to believe a couple of national Opens were held here during the mid-1990s on a track of such modest length measuring just over 6,000 metres from the back tees. There’s an intimate feel to a game of golf here due to the narrow, tree-lined fairways but the playing corridors are never oppressively constricting.
The front nine is rock solid – my notes read “not a single weak hole on the card so far” – and I especially liked the right doglegged 2nd (rated stroke index 1) and downhill par three 8th, with out of bounds to the right of the hole. The back nine was even better, probably the best of the six nines that I played over three days.
Holes 10, 11, 14 and 15 all gained top marks, with the par three 14th easily identified as the star of the show. A very short par three played slightly downhill to a green that sits behind a long coffin bunker on the corner of a small lake, it’s as pretty a short hole as I’ve come across in a long time – and not one of our 4-ball group made par on what looked such a benign little hole from the tee.
I know these reviews should concentrate solely on the course but it would be remiss of me not to mention the lovely timber-framed single level clubhouse which serves the Aroeira I course. Somewhat Alpine-like in appearance and fronted by a simple wooden decked patio, this homely, welcoming building complements the course perfectly, providing exactly the right ambience for after golf relaxation.
Played Aroeira 1 on Monday 4th April. Swapped our tee time to the afternoon to avoid the torrential rain that had been falling for almost 24 hours. Pro shop staff very helpful and flexible. Given the wet conditions it was remarkable how well the course had drained - lovely sandy turf on the fairways and very decent greens. Absolutely no qualms on course conditioning beyond the slightly scruffy teeing areas. The course plays through tall pines with large villas set well back. Plenty room off the tee and, generally, all trouble set out clearly for the golfer to see. As a result, the course could be argued to be enjoyable but slightly dull. Exceptions on the front 9 are the sweeping dog-leg 2nd, the challenging long par 3 8th and the undulating par 5 9th. The back 9 is a little more interesting with a plunging approach to the par 4 11th needing to avoid water cutting in to the left of the green. The dinky par 3 14th over the same pond is also good fun. Very pleasant holiday golf and, if you time things right, the course can be very quiet enabling a speedy ramble through the trees.