Travelling west along the northern banks of the Tagus River from Lisbon and passing through the pleasant and lively seaside towns of Estoril and Cascais will soon bring us to the resort of Quinta da Marinha. Located in the Sintra-Cascais National Park, sensitive development of the area has been underway now for a number of years and has already included a fine hotel and golf course.
Oitavos Dunes is a most recent addition in golfing terms to the area and was inaugurated in September 2001. The location of Oitavos Dunes is on land at the most westerly tip of Europe and the course mixes wondrous views of the Atlantic Ocean with the stunning backdrop of the Sintra Mountains. Designed by the renowned Arthur Hills, Oitavos Dunes is one of only two European courses that bear his name. Most of Hills’s courses are in the USA and as a consequence there was always the danger that he may have built a stereotypical US ‘target golf’ course. Thankfully, Oitavos Dunes has none of that feel and is a wonderful test that perfectly utilises the rich tapestries of this area of Portugal to create eighteen challenging but playable holes.
Oitavos Dunes is a par 71 course that measures just over 6,300 metres from the competition tees. The course is a lovely mix of woodland and links-type holes that have been expertly laid to make the most of the existing landscape. All the holes flow well and have testing hazards and excellent greens that are always firm and fast and full of slopes and borrows.
The first four holes will demonstrate to the golfer the quality to come without actually being too testing. Having said that they are all tree-lined, have careful bunkering and small, tricky greens that will require controlled tee shots and accurate approaches. The next twelve holes play with more of a links feel to them with lovely sandy ground, dunes and fewer trees with which to contend. For the final two holes it’s back into the trees and a tough finish to a great course.
The pick of the holes on the front nine are the 5th, 7th and 8th. The 5th is a par four measuring 434 metres and plays slightly uphill to a partly hidden green. The 7th and 8th are back to back long par fives, the second being the hardest hole on the course. Both require three long, controlled shots avoiding the trees, dunes and bunkers to achieve par.
On the back nine the pick of the holes are the 14th, 17th and 18th but none of the others can be said to let the course down. The 14th is probably the signature hole, and is a wonderful par three that can play much longer than its 153 metres suggests. The tee shot is played across a storm ravine that then runs all along the right hand side of the hole. The final two holes are wonderful tough tests to finish the round, as they are both par fours in excess of 430 metres. The 17th is slightly easier and has a downhill approach but the green is tricky and the bunker front left must be avoided. The 18th is a classic finishing hole, it is long, dogleg left with a narrow fairway and trees and dunes bordering the rough on both sides.
Host to four Portuguese Opens, the old fashioned “out-and-back” routed Oitavos was the first golf course in Europe to receive Audubon Gold Certification.
Head to Quinta da Marinha for your next golf break, enjoy the cooler temperatures, wonderful scenery and Oitavos Dunes.
I maybe being harsh here but I’m not unsure as to why this course is rated in the top 4 in Portugal and Top 25 in Continental Europe. It maybe have been a great track in the past but think it’s too shabby to be considered a great (which as No.4 in Portugal you’d expect it to be). The service is great and staff are super friendly and helpful but I just think the course lacks the finesse and originality of a truly good course.
The first few holes are nice through the pines and are generally pretty sheltered from the prevailing winds compared to the other parts of the course. Once you get to hole 5 it seems to open up and you can see most of the rest of the course from the 5th fairway. There are no trees, dunes or rough which just makes it feel a bit like a big open field.
There are a few good holes beyond this middle section that you revisit on the way home
The greens are in very good condition and most of the tee boxes were decent enough - a couple a bit shabby. Fairways in decent condition also. There are various parts of the course which seem to have been left to themselves and it’s this that contributes to the slightly “has been” feeling.
Was a decent experience but sadly I don’t think I’d be back or recommend it for the money.
This course has been listed in Golf Magazine’s top 100 courses in the world. Of the many people I know who have played it, particularly those who have played the top 100 in the world, this course is the one where there is unanimous agreement that it never should have been on the list. Most people wonder how it ever appeared as it tarnishes the rest of the list.
I have not played it, nor do I think I ever would after reading the reviews.
A work conference in Cascais afforded me the opportunity to fly out a day earlier and play a course I had been recommended by friends, Oitavos Dunes.
It’s always a great feeling to wake up on an icy January morning and a few hours later be standing in the sun in my t-shirt.
My first impressions of Oitavos were not great! For a course boasting it’s ranking stature, the check in was lacklustre, the bar wasn’t open for us to have lunch beforehand (it was 1pm) and we weren’t able to buy water pre-round. We were told a food and drinks cart would be out on the course, it wasn’t. So service was poor to say the least.
The course sits on one of the most westerly parts of Europe, right on the Atlantic Ocean. When the wind gets up here it’s strong. That made for tough and challenging conditions on some of the more exposed holes, of which there are many. To score well here you need to be a good wind player. The fairways are generous, but greens are often small and contoured, so accuracy is key.
The course starts off like most typical Portuguese courses, playing the first 4 holes through Umbrella pines. They are lovely holes and very well laid out. Then the course opens up. For me, holes 5-7 were back and forth and very open, if not slightly boring. But the course from 8 onwards becomes very interesting. 8 is an excellent Par 5, very undulating and played into a Dunes valley at the end. 9 is arguably the best view on the course from an elevated tee position and 14 and 15 are great Par 3s, which 14 being the signature hole playing over a storm ravine.
The back 9 is definitely better than the front and it is a very fun course to play, with 17 and 18 being great finishing holes back through the pines. The other aspect of the course I like a lot is that it isn’t too manicured with rocks shaping a lot of the holes. It made the course feel earthy.
I would like to see the service and amenities match that of the course for this to be ranked any higher. This isn’t the best course I’ve played in Portugal, but it is one you should definitely visit if in the area.
For all photos of reviews, please follow Chris’ Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/top.100.golf/
Oitavos Dunes has a bit of an identity crisis.. although the marketing arm does an outstanding job of profiling all of the right words (ranking from 2017, Dunes, Links, renowned architect, etc. etc. etc.). It suffers from trying to be all things to all people. The course is in no fashion a "links course - as it's build in the dunes, not the links, with an American style consistent with it's architect work on the other side of the Atlantic. Nor is the club a "top 100" in the world.. (and seriously not top 100 in Europe) as it is a gentle, resort course, well maintained, limited - yet attractive features, and a pleasant day for all levels and skills. But seriously, somehow, some way, it was mis-ranked once (5 years ago) as a top 100 course.. and yes, it did get my attention, but also set highly unrealistic expectations which were never satisfied.
The course lays out on a relatively flat set of dunes with HUGE fairways, limited American style bunkers (nearly all out of play) and flat lies 90% of the time. The greens and course were in excellent condition - even in late December with greens running consistently between 9.0 or 9.5 (also nice for December), with some contour although the pins on both days we played were position in very generous locations - completely eliminating the few green side challenges from play.
The middle of the course (8, 9, 10) which do take advantage of the one hill in on the property, only to be followed with an extremely poor 11th which conceptually could have been ok, but either it was poorly laid out or time has moved the dunes into the intended landing area, resulting little risk-reward benefit of attacking the landing are with the only real play simply blasting anything from a 4 iron to a 5 wood left into the 7th fairway and approaching with a 100 yard wedge from a flat lie. And while I will admit this is a bit of a pet peeve seen to many times, the 18th while a good hole standing on its own, is totally out of character from the rest of the golf course. A downhill tee shot where position matters sets up a long right-to-left second across a natural break and tree line to a non-flat green. All well and good, but absolutely inconsistent with the previous 17 holes.
Oitavos Dunes is certainly worth a visit. The staff were attentive, professional and quite pleasant. The setting and conditions were lovely. But seriously, it was rated (inaccurately) once in 2017 as a top 100 course (and never again). It is neither in the Links nor architected as a links course. To set reasonable expectation it needs to badge itself honestly as a fun, entertaining resort style club, welcoming to all.
Oitavos was the second of three course we played in the last week, Troia was the first. Oitavos is certainly in a different league to Troia with the course being well cared for and the hotel being good if a little stark. My issue with the course is centred around the middle portion, we played it twice, once overcast and fairly wind free, once starting out in rain and brightening with a fairly strong wind, we played off the whites and I shot 33 and 34 points of 7. It’s too easy. The first 3 holes are distinct and then you are into vast open land where you are basically playing up and down with no particular requirement for accuracy, for a championship course it’s also too short. 8 through 12 are good holes and the views are great. But you are then back onto the open plains for 13, followed by a couple of nice par 3s and one of the easiest par 5s you will find anywhere, 17 and 18 are tough and 18 would be a great hole on any course. The greens are great and I’m glad I’ve played here, but unlike Monte Rei where I’d play again and again, I won’t return here.
Oitavos Dunes is a fun track that's worth a visit. There are some nice holes on the course but none which I would really consider all-world holes. It has a mix of tree lined and more open links like holes but I question the links designation that it sometimes receives. For me the best part of the course would be the back to back par 3's nestled in the dunes. The finishing holes 17 and 18 also present a solid test. From the courses I have played in Portugal I would put Oitavos Dunes solidly in the Top 5. I would not have it in my personal Top 200 courses in the world, not even with geographic affirmative action. I would however, recommend that everyone going to Portugal for golf take the opportunity to play this course and I'm certain you will have a great time in the process. It's absolutely worth a play. It's not worth taking a special trip to Portugal to play it.
Played the course a few years ago now.
I have appreciated the lovely club house, course set up and nice sea views.
However, the track is a bit too tricky according to me, specially on holes 8 to 12.
Oitavos still is one of the best course you can find in Portugal and the restaurant's terrace is the perfect location to enjoy a drink after your round.
Oitavos Dunes was designed by American golf architect Arthur Hills and opened for play in 2001. The course is located in sandy terrain near Lisbon.
Hills crafted a course that starts and finishes with holes that are framed by impressive umbrella pines, but also ventures into the bigger dunes nearer the coast to introduce some real links golf to the round.
With generous fairways throughout, the course's main defence is the subtle shaping of the greens. Some holes have no greenside bunkering and others just a few – but the swales in the greens do a good job of deflecting the wayward ball.
Oitavos Dunes is a delightful resort style course with a mix of links like and parkland holes. Any golf trip to Portugal should include Oitavos Dunes.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Stayed at the Hotel and played 7 round in 5 days (June 2019). Played most of the tee boxes in a variety of conditions. The course is so different depending on the wind. Short and good scoring without breeze and brutal with the wind up - esp the par 5's. All in all it deserves its rating and is an excellent course.
I've played Oitavos Dunes on 3 occasions whilst staying in Cascais, first in 2012 and most recently in 2017. Its ranking is frankly astounding and an insult to the litany of fine courses in Portugal. First, whilst club staff are generally quite pleasant, there is a sense that the club aspires to be something which it perhaps is not given the quality of the layout; and I can easily imagine them shelling out generously for promoting the club. The course itself is a bit confusing, purporting to be links-like but only playing as such due to the wind off the sea on a stretch of back nine holes. The course conditions suggest that it is not well maintained, and hard fairways seldom produce run of the ball except (of wayward tee shots) to pine-filled sandy areas under trees from which it can be difficult to produce quality shots. (Having regularly played Troia, in contrast, where the ground is typically strewn with pine needles and sandy terrain, I'm more than happy to play from conditions designed as such.) I could continue ad infinitum about but the course conditions and design but suffice it to say that I found Oitavos to be roundly disappointing in every way possible, except for reasonably well-conditioned greens...and the bar afterwards.
Played Oitavos today at the end of a week-long golfing trip to the greater Lisbon area.
Oitavos aspires to be something it frankly is not. The above statement includes the caveat that I played it in early November 2018 (for whatever that’s worth!)
Don’t get me wrong, Oitavos represents a nice gentle stretch of Portuguese seaside golf at its best, tumbling through coastal sand, pine and native scrubland. All positive.
If you can keep the ball out of the trees and scrubland you are left with ample room to generous fairways, which coupled with some really interesting raised green sites cut into the side of the ample sandscape.
Here’s the rub, in fact here’s two rubs. This place purports to be a natural links course. It's not. No run on fairways, hit and stick on the greens, best played through the air and crater plug marks on the fairways . It looks somewhat like a links, but plays more parkland than it should.
I suspect this club also has delusions of grandeur. Suggesting that because Monte Rei (ranked 1 in Portugal on this very website) wasn’t ranked in the 2017 Golf Magazine World Top 100 (and they were), that means they are the best course in Portugal.
I have played Oitavos many times with friends (1 a scratch golfer and all others low single figures and it has always played firm, to the extent that pitch marks were rare. Had it been raining or had they overseeded the greens ?
Hi David, a bit of rain right enough, very, very soft. My problem is that a natural links, like Oitavos purports to be, should never be soft.
I enjoyed the test but it played like an Irish parkland in November.