The course lies a couple of kilometres inland from the still rather grand Palacio Estoril Golf & Spa Hotel, where the fairways occupy a hilly site which is divided by six lanes of a main road. In order to get from the front nine to the back nine, you have to cross this busy highway via a wide, curving pedestrian bridge that takes you over the traffic thundering past below.
It’s all very old school here, with a lovely old clubhouse at the centre of things, and as you walk up to the first tee, there’s a plaque displaying the dates that the Portuguese Open was played here (1953-1972, 1974 and 1987), a reminder of when this was once one of the top tracks in the country before Henry Cotton and Penina in the Algarve changed the natural order of things in the late 1960s.
Unlike the last reviewer who preferred the holes on the big wide loop that forms the bulk of the back nine (holes 9 to 16) on the other side of the A5, I preferred the more intimate holes grouped together on the front nine, particularly the little sequence from the 3rd to the 5th, swooping left and down into a valley then back up again to the 6th tee with a tough, almost straight uphill, par five.
On the inward half, I really loved the par three 13th, played across a deep gorge to the green, but the other par three on the back nine at the 16th was a bit of a disappointment, with the cart path from the tee running right through the middle of the fairway – even the huge greenside swales by the putting surface couldn’t quite redeem the architectural merit of this hole.
I also quite liked the final two short par four holes, back on the clubhouse side of the road. The first one plays slightly downhill and left off the tee, the second rises steadily up and right towards the large home green next to the clubhouse. Rated stroke index 18 and 16 respectively, these holes present a decent birdie opportunity and the chance to finish with a real flourish.
Date: September 02, 2018