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.
Oitavos Dunes is a very playable course, in decent nick and good for holiday golf. However there is nothing particularly special about it and, like many others, I find its inclusion in a previous World top100 list laughable and tarnishes the credibility of the list. Its current ranking on this website of 4th in Portugal and 21st in Europe is also puzzling to me.
There are a few nice par 3s (the 14th most notably) and the 18th is a good finishing hole. Beyond that the course is pretty forgettable. A number of the holes are played with double, or even triple, fairways meaning the holes lack definition.
Oitavos Dunes’ location close to the picturesque town of Cascais and not far from Lisbon is a major plus point when planning a golf break. It’s also not far from Penha Longa which is well worth playing. However, I would suggest lowering expectations for Oitavos Dunes - aim off the rankings and go into it with a view of nice holiday golf in a good area and you will not be disappointed.
I’m not one to write reviews but my experience here last week meant I’ve felt the need. Having played a number of the top 100 (Barnbougle, Lost Farm, Kingston Heath for example) I was expecting great things. Headlines
Greens in great condition
Beware the sea mist, we played the first 7 holes with limited visibility. Not the fault of the course of course
Tee time booked for 730am we were there at 710 and when we teed off others had snuck in and there was no one there to welcome us, sell us balls, drink etc
Middle holes particularly uninspiring, backwards and forwards and wide/open. Very little ‘dunes’ about the course
Few holes where you stand on the tee and think ‘how do I approach this?’
Given we played during the summer we hoped the half way house might be open or the buggy round to see us (remember pro shop not open before the round). It did reach us as we teed off on 16, somewhat late
Bar not open when we finished at c 1130
So all in all, can’t understand why it rates so highly and certainly why they charge what they do. If you’re local, best search out Penna Longa, a totally different and wonderful experience both on and off the course.
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.
Same thing was said on the No Laying Up Podcast (Episode 264) a while ago, when Simon Holt was on the pod who is one of the evaluators of the Golf Magazine Top 100. He said it´s nowhere near the Top 100. I find this particularly interesting, because just north with West Cliffs, there is a course which could very well be in the top 100 instead.
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.