Located between the town of Belas and Vale de Lobo – a short drive (by car) from Lisbon city centre – is the pretty golf course of Belas Clube de Campo.
Belas opened for play in 1997 and it stretches out to a healthy 6,112 metres from the tips, representing an enjoyable challenge for all standards of golfer. “Carved through valleys and over the rolling slopes of Carregueira, an area of fairly inhospitable hills, Belas was something of a tour de force for American designer Rocky Roquemore.” Wrote Michael Gedye in his Golfer’s Guide Portugal. “The rugged hillsides, with sparse vegetation, only accentuate the lush green succession of gently mounded fairways, large scalloped bunkers and areas of penal water. To build a golf course here was an achievement in itself; to produce one in such superb condition, nestling comfortably within the succession of rolling hills, is a triumph.”
Standout holes at Belas include the short par five 6th, called ‘Serpentine’ which features a stream that dissects the fairway which may catch the big hitters tee shot if using one of the forward tees. The back-to-front sloping green will represent a putting challenge if your approach shot ends above the hole.
The home hole, called 'Amphitheatre' provides a tough finish as the fairway doglegs right and narrows considerably towards a home green that's protected to the right hand side by a triangular-shaped pond.
I had a quick look round this course in a buggy when I was last in Cascais three years ago but I was determined to play it when I returned to the region this time. I especially wanted to take on the three “wilderness holes” laid out to the east of the main property.
The first thing that got my attention was the reversal of the nines, which is probably a good move, keeping the more difficult holes until the second half of a round. I remember thinking last time the old holes 2 to 4 would be really tough to play after only one warm up hole.
The front nine is pretty much a conventional resort layout with wide fairways, receptive greens and holes that pitch and roll across quite undulating terrain – there’s nothing flat and boring here on an outward half highlighted by the par three 8th (“Postage Stamp”) which plays sharply downhill to a peninsula green perched on the front left corner of a lake.
Things get really interesting after the uphill 10th, played to a semi-blind green on top of a ridge. Click “view larger map” on the google maps image above on this page then zoom in a little to see what I mean about playing the next three holes (to the right of the map).
These fairways have been carved through a heavily-contoured section of scrubland, where dense vegetation lines both sides of every hole and a wide shot almost certainly means a lost ball. I don’t think I’ve ever played a course where a trio of holes contrasts so much with all the others.
This short sequence starts with a right doglegging par five and ends with a left doglegging par four, which are both great holes, but the 409-metre par four 12th (“Ash Tree”) that links them is a fabulous two-shotter and well worth its stroke index 1 designation.
The tee shot is played over a gorge that then runs along the left side of the hole and there are two bunkers on either side of the fairway at the landing area. The hole then plays down and left to a green protected by a large ash tree on one side , with a couple of bunkers on the other to catch out those who bail out from the challenge of going for the green – what a hole!
Returning to “normality” at the par three 14th, the rest of the round plays out in much the same style as holes 1-10, with really strong holes at the par five 15th (the green sits behind water) and the par four 18th, where another pond flanks the right side of the final green.
Belas is a little out of the way compared to the other Cascais golf courses but it’s well worth the effort to seek out – even if just to savour that surprisingly spectacular run of holes from the 11th to the 13th.
Belas is well worth searching out if you are playing in the Lisbon area. Having said that, the condition of the course was not great at the time of our visit. The fairways were looking a little tired and many of the bunkers were in a poor state. On the plus side the greens were excellent and we were told that a bunker renovation programme is on the horizon. Thecourse has plenty of memorable holes and measures a challenging 6700 yards when played from the white tees. Some of the rough is very penal so a degree of caution is required from the tee or you could quite easily rack up a few lost balls. There is great variety in the design with a good selection of par 3's including a couple of attractive drop holes, the 5th is long and well bunkered and the 17th has water on two sides of the green. There is also water short of the green on the 6th, a strong par-5 and the 9th, a dogleg par-4.
The finishing stretch from the 15th, an excellent downhill rollercoaster par-5, is very strong. A well bunkered dogleg left follows at 16 before the aforementioned 17th and a lovely short par-4 to finish. Hitting down from a raised tee you must avoid the pond on the right with both your tee shot and approach to the green. Brian W