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.
Date: January 19, 2020