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.
July 30, 2009