Founded in 1922, Lisbon Sports Club can actually trace its origins back to the Lisbon Cricket Club, which was established by British people working on the railways some fifty years earlier.
The club’s first course was a 9-hole layout at Alto da Ajuda, with putting surfaces made of sand and oil, but a new 9-hole course was established at Casal da Carregueira in Belas following a move there in 1964.
Another five holes were added soon after – members completed a full 18-hole round by playing holes 2 to 5 twice – before the final four holes were brought into play in 1992.
The club is historically important within the country, as it was one of four founding members (along with Oporto, Estoril and Miramar) of the Portuguese Golf Federation in 1949.
Today, the course extends to a very modest 5,309 metres from the back markers, playing to a par of 69. There are six par threes and three par fives on the card, with four of the par fours measuring less than 300 metres.
Tree-lined fairways nestle in a valley, where raised tees and elevated greens characterise many of the holes in a wonderfully natural setting, free from any real estate development.
The 1st hole is an eye-catching par three, played downhill to a sand-protected green, followed by the toughest hole on the course, the 403-metre par four 2nd. Another par three arrives at the 3rd and this unorthodox order of holes continues for the rest of the round.
Having been to Oporto, Miramar and Estoril in the past to soak up the atmosphere at these old golf clubs, Lisbon Sports Club was the last of the four pillars of Portuguese golf that I managed to visit on a recent trip to the Lisbon region.
The 9-hole course laid out by Fred Hawtree when the club moved to its present location just over fifty years ago has had another nine holes added to it in two phases since then, but the club seems rather stuck in a 1960s time capsule.
Not that that’s a criticism, far from it; the clubhouse simply oozes old-fashioned charm, with wood panelled walls and glass cabinets containing trophies of all shapes and sizes that have been in annual competition for almost a hundred years now.
Outside, the Union Flag flies alongside the Portuguese flag and the club flag, harking back to the club’s British origins. Indeed, the first local Captain and President were only appointed in 1960 so there’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the place when you first arrive.
Three of the Directors of Golf in nearby clubs that I spoke to in the few days before I came here were all rather proud to tell me they were members of this club and that tells me there’s real golfing (and social) cachet attached to membership of Lisbon Sports Club.
The course itself is a wee beauty, though there are a few arboreal specimens alongside fairways that could do with some attention and a couple of aquatic hazards that you really have to avert your eyes away from. Nevertheless, for a fun round of golf in a lovely natural setting, Lisbon Sports Club is very hard to beat.