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.
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.
Very nice golf course near Lisbon. Very open layout with some views of the Atlantic ocean. Wind can be an issue many times. Also a nice hotel near the golf course along the 18th fairway. By the way a really though final hole. But the course is an excellent combination of risk-and-reward and strategic holes. If you are around Lisbon this is a must play destination.
Decided to drop into Cascais for a few days golf - Oitavos was up first.
Course: It's a lovely track with a bit of everything - wide open Savannah valley type multi-fareway tee shots (wind continually howling at 30km+ usually into you), to right nasty little par 3' across ridges and valleys. You have to be accurate here and you feel really out in the elements. Great lynx feel esp. on the back 9. Most of the rough hands you out lost balls. Greens are tricky but quality, with some wicked undulations (that will make you see more than there is on the flatter greens!)
Overall it's a lovely test of golf in a quite beautiful setting.
Club: To be honest, a let down. I know this is Portugal but check-in was overall rather clumsy (although polite and professional)
Got to the bar at 5.30 and was told the stopped serving food at 5. Odd, and I was hungry - so Uber=ed it back to the hotel for a bite and beer afterwards.
Also there was no GPS on the carts (I know it's more traditional but the green fees are very high and it would also help speed up the general course speed of play, for sure)
No water provided - have to remember to buy your own. Nowhere to put your water (e.g. cold box). It is hot here after all!
Oh and was given no scorecard, and had to buy a simple course map for 2Euro
My point is it's really expensive and you're not given a 5* experience.
I've played all over the world and for this money, I would expect a more complete experience. Notwithstanding again, that the course is 110% worth playing if you are holidaying in Lisbon or surrounding areas.
Do it, just remember to organise yourself
Oitavos Dunes lies close to the most westerly point on the European mainland, where fairways are set out on beautiful sandy terrain close to the coast. It’s more seaside than links, right enough, though the playing conditions were pretty firm and fast when I played here a few months ago now.
I absolutely loved the opening four holes, played along fairways lined on either side by umbrella pines, with wonderfully contoured greens melting into their surroundings. The course then opens up when the routing moves north and further inland to holes set out across more elevated terrain.
Fairway bunkering on the par four 5th makes this hole easily the toughest on the front nine (rated stroke index 1), though the back-to-back par fives at the 7th and 8th are also pretty difficult due to their narrowness and the danger of out of bounds down the right, beyond the trees on that side.
I liked the elevated tee position of the par three 9th at the furthest point from the clubhouse but the boundary fence to the right of the next three holes distracted me until I reached the thrilling pair of par three holes at the 14th and 15th, situated within the most heavily contoured part of the course.
Holes 17 and 18 bring players back to the lovely wooded area close to the clubhouse, reviving memories of the opening four holes from four hours earlier, and these testing par fours are a great way to complete a round that certainly has its moments at the start, in the middle and at the end.
As long as you keep expectations in check (as in don't anticipate playing a world class layout, which is a very tall order in continental Europe) then you’re bound to really enjoy what’s on offer here. I’ve now visited almost every one of the courses currently listed in the Lisbon & Centre regional listings and Oitavos Dunes is right up there with the best of them.
The central area of Portugal is a very strong region for quality courses and Oitavos Dunes is one of them and a must play. Plenty of excitement, plenty of drama and a course that is so much fun to play.
It will take around a 40 minute to drive to the west of Lisbon to reach the course and what awaits is golf with the two biggest qualities for me, namely great holes and a fun experience that you would have no problem in repeating several times.
A recent trip to the region included playing here are also to the south at Troia - what a trip, loved both courses with Oitavos just nicking it for me.
The opening four holes here have a tree lined feel but obviously on the sandy soil that is evident on the whole course - not a links course but if links-like is a recognised term, then it fits here...
It is from the 5th tee that I started to realise that this is a big course, much more open, some shared fairways but hole after hole that are treat to play. For those luckily to have played at Streamsong, Florida there is a similar feel on at least half of the Oitavos holes.
The par-5 7th is a very good hole; drive needs to be centre/left side as waste-ground eats in from the right - there is a rise to the green for the second half of the hole meaning that reaching in two is doubtful. The very next hole is another par-5 and may split opinion but it is very exciting to play. The second shot is the big one and likely to be blind - a blind shot is difficult to commit to, so I would suggest a walk to check your line/landing spot first. Once in position, the approach is not too difficult to a bunker-less green.
The furthest point north on the course is at the 165 yard par-3 9th - a good looking downhill hole with stunning views to the left out across the ocean.
The 11th is fun and a style of hole rarely seen - a short par-4 from an elevated tee to a raised green and another without sand hazards, other than the natural ones. The hole plays along a small fence that separates the course from the land just before the beach - the fence seems to move in pushing tee shots further left than ideal, if this happens expect a short approach but one than needs extra height to the green upon high.
Back to back par-3’s at 14 and 15 are very different. The 14th is not unlike the 5th at the wonderful West Cliffs a little further up the Silver Coast - all carry across a valley with not a lot of margin for error. The 15th is a little shorter and a delightful hole with a short-iron target feel with the green surrounded by trees.
The last three holes are strong and carry some distance; 540 yards for the 16th and then two par-4s both around 450 yards each, a really tough climax to a super course.
Oitavos Dunes exceeded expectations and is an absolute pleasure to play. Defiantly one of the top courses of Portugal and also as a highly rated European course too but not quite the world ranking that one publication awards the course.
Links golf in Portugal? Could there really be such a thing? Well... Oitavos Dunes is not exactly like the real thing, but it's pretty close! Enjoyment at its finest. This beautiful course has many features of Links golf. You can see the ocean from many points on the course and its proximity to the Atlantic makes wind an important factor. The dunes are there, though they are not massive. The course plays fast and firm, where bump and runs, punch shots and roll-ups will be your friends. Conditioning is very good and the minimalist design philosophy really brings out the natural features of the land. There are no massive elevation changes, but the terrain has subtle mounds and features, making play all the more interesting.
It is not pure links, as many holes are lined by trees, but it sure is a lot of fun! The par 3s are excellent. The back nice is better, in my opinion, than the front nine. The 18th is a great finishing hole!
This course is best enjoyed by walking and makes for a great day! The clubhouse is great with good food and nice views of the area. The practice facility would benefit from an update, but it is not bad.
Oitavos Dunes is as enjoyable as golf can get! Just hope you catch it on a calm day...
In terms of pure scenery, not many courses are as gorgeous as this one.
It’s fairly rare, but after 18 holes, I had so many intense pictures in my mind, that I had a hard time talking about the other elements of the course (strategy, architecture and shot making). I hope to be able to come back to play it for a couple days straight, in order to make a more educated opinion of the course.
The layout is somewhat unusual with a couple of par 5s in succession and later two par 3s. But that is forgiven as these holes are both gorgeous and great golf holes. The 14th is definitely one of the best par 3s you’ll ever see/play.
This is a 30-minute drive from Lisbon, roughly, and no golfer should leave the area without having played it. It hosted the Portuguese Open 4 times from 2005 to 2009.
The course is in a sublime natural reserve (forest & dunes), with very limited housing, though there are some million $ houses on the courses. The hotel seems incredible, and the beaches are great for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing… read “windy”.
Golfer info : enjoy the course by walking … it would be a shame to drive a cart !
Another thing, the staff are real pros. Congrats to the director and and his team!
In term of maintenance, Oitavos Dunes was the only course I played in the area, this week, that was not over-watered (I played in August). The fairways were nice and crispy, as they should be for a links course … these guys know what a great course is to be like.