Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, has been heralded for many years as a wonderful city break destination. A beautiful city blessed with amazing architecture, history and culture, not to mention restaurants serving delicious local dishes and fresh seafood. However, that’s not the end to the interest the Vale de Tejo and Oeste regions can offer. If you can bring your clubs and stay a little longer you will experience some of the best golf courses in Portugal.
Along with such excellent courses Penha Longa, Oitavos, and Aroeira that all rate highly in the Top 100 Golf Course rankings, Praia D’El Rey Golf and Beach Resort is one of the area's top courses and shouldn’t be missed. An hour northwest of Lisbon on the Costa de Prata, and not far from the attractive medieval town of Obidos with its whitewashed houses, Moorish castle and natural lagoon, Praia D’El Rey occupies a wonderful and privileged position.
Designed by the renowned and respected American architect Cabell B. Robinson who has been responsible for a number of excellent European courses, Praia D’El Rey opened for play in 1997. The course is set in two loops of nine holes, has a par of 72 and measures 6,405 metres from the championship tees. It is reported that having viewed the site for the course at Praia D’El Rey, Robinson modestly said "This is the kind of landscape we architects try to create, but at Praia D'El Rey it's all here, naturally. Now it's my responsibility to protect it". He has made an excellent job of doing just that.
Rather like the excellent layout at Oitavos just down the Portuguese coast, Praia D’El Rey mixes great holes cut through lush vegetation with a number of holes that run along the coastline and encompass sand dunes and links-style challenges whilst at the same time providing amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby Berlenga Islands. With large threatening bunkers and thoughtfully designed and located greens the course will make the golfer think from tee to green.
The early holes head gently uphill and then downhill towards the coast and the amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean but don’t let them distract you, after a reasonably comfortable dogleg opening hole the 2nd is a cracking par five measuring 463 metres with water on the right and bunkers and rough ever present.
From the 4th hole the course turns inland for the rest of the front nine and the pick of the holes include the long par four 5th measuring 441 metres and the great par three 8th requiring an accurate shot to carry the large lake to an oval green protected by bunkers at the back. Finally, the 9th is a great finish to the front nine. It may be pretty straight, but it measures 393 metres and it’s all uphill with a narrow fairway and there are no fewer than nine bunkers to contend with.
The back nine starts with a superb par five measuring 460 metres with a tricky green protected by a deep bunker left and an even deeper lake right! From here the back nine just gets better and better and every hole is worthy of note. If any have to be picked out for special accolade then it must be the stretch from 12-15 that all run along the coast and are superb tests with or without the often present Atlantic breezes. A mention must also go to the 17th, a monstrous uphill par five measuring 570 metres – for those using yards that’s over 620 of them!
Gold World described Praia D’El Rey as "A mix of holes – some in the mighty dunes, others among fragrant pines – that are an assault to the senses. Wild and wonderful" and we can only concur with them and we thoroughly recommend a visit to this great course.
Praia D’El Rey is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
Because the course was so busy the afternoon I teed it up here, I played the back nine first – which made the more unexciting front nine appear a little insipid in comparison to what had gone before, so I recommend that you don’t reverse the nines if you can help it!
Regarding the front nine holes, the 2nd and 3rd have ocean views but they’re not particularly strong holes, the first doglegging down and right past a large hillside irrigation pond and the second playing slightly downhill to a rather bland par three.
Thankfully, things improve dramatically after crossing the road to venture further inland, with a great sequence of roller coaster holes from the 4th to the 7th and these get progressively tighter as you move from one to the next, culminating in a lovely raised green site at the par five 7th hole (pictured).
The 8th is a terrific par three – played from a seriously elevated tee position amongst thick native vegetation to a distant green that sits behind a sizeable pond – and it requires an “all-or-nothing” tee shot which is better long than short to avoid the risk of playing your next shot from the drop zone.
Moving onto the back nine, the first two holes really only function to get you away from the clubhouse to the coastline, where the main action takes place between the 12th and the 15th. It’s just a pity some may think the big residential development to the north of the property diminishes the longer views along the coast at this point.
I really liked the linksy, lived-in feel along this stretch, with rickety wooden fencing in the left rough to keep the sand from encroaching onto the fairways and the old disused buildings next to the 14th green (pictured) – it’ll be hard for some to stay focused when there are huge waves crashing onto the beach so close to where they’re playing.
After such a thrilling sequence, it’s only natural the last couple of holes back to the clubhouse will appear lacklustre in comparison but you should still have a strong feeling of elation when walking off the 18th, having just completed a memorable round on one of the best courses in the country.
Praia D'El Rey is a beautiful place! Set along the Atlantic, it offers a great golfing experience with high-level service. First, the facilities are good. The clubhouse is nice, with good food and a great terrace for your post-round meal and drinks. The practice facility is fine, but not great, and it could use some improvements, mainly a better short game area.
The course itself is a good one. The conditioning is good and the greens role true. The green complexes are not the most interesting in the world, but they do a good of keeping you thinking. The layout leads you from lush forest to the coastal dunes with tremendous sea views and vistas, and then back into the forest for the end of both nines. The best part of the course is definitely the one playing into the dunes along the Atlantic. While the real estate on the property does take away from what the course could be, holes 13, 14, 15 and 16 are arguably one of the best stretches of golf in Portugal! The 17th hole is a good, challenging par 5 giving you an opportunity at birdie, but it is not a memorable hole. The 18th is somewhat of a letdown, not capitalizing of the good momentum and excitement brought about by the previous holes.
Praia D’El Rey makes for a very good round of golf. If the wind is up, it will show its teeth. On a calm day, good scores can be had! With Royal Obidos next door, it is a great place to enjoy the good weather, the beach and the great atmosphere to be found in that part of Portugal. I look forward to seeing what the new Dye Design course being built along the same shores will look like!
This property has two sides to it… 1/ the course 2/ the resort
The course in itself is both challenging and stunning. The back 9 being world class. One of its strong points, is that it’s playable for all levels. Just play the tees of your handicap. It’s not too difficult, nor too easy, if you play well you’ll score well, just as golf is meant to be. But some drives are quite narrow so on a bad day keep your driver in the bag.
This course needs to be played more than once to understand the finer points of its design and strategy, as there are a few holes where you are sort of guessing the line, without it being trully blind holes.
Golfer info : many people drive a cart, but I walked and don’t feel like a cart is needed. You would much prefer walking the sea side holes, as you will want this moment to never end.
Then comes the resort part – There are way too many houses for my liking. It takes a bit off of the course unfortunately. Both fairways and greens were way over watered, as resort courses often are in the summer season .
On the drive back to Lisbon, my friend and I were so happy to have played it, with plenty of positive things to share and good shots to comment on. If you are in Lisbon, it’s worth the 90-minute drive, definitely!
You will leave the course on a incredibly high note – the ravishing beauty of the last 8 holes is intense.
This course is a strong 5-ball ranking, very strong indeed and close to me giving it the full 6-ball treatment; just a couple of holes that need a re-think but definitely a must-play. For obvious reasons most of the images shown of the course will be those at the ocean from the 12th to the 16th, here the wind blows, the sand dunes look fantastic and the challenge on all of the holes is immense. The 15th is my favourite in this run; around 400 yards from the white tee with bunkers in play on the right; only about 190 yards from the tee but when the wind is ‘into’, they are there for a reason. The last 100 yards to the is through a big dip in the fairway to an undulating green and a stroke index of 3, says it all.
The middle of the back nine at Praia d’el rey is very special indeed, with a few comparisons of the same run of holes at Kingsbarns in Scotland. The course opens with some great variety with a par-4, par-5 and a par-3 but it is the par-3 3rd that is one of the lesser holes on the course; fairly short at 156 yards and downhill but just looks a little ordinary. This is very quickly put behind you as the short par-4 4th is brilliant, 300 yards, slightly turning right and a massive sand-dune at the green on the left is the line with a slight fade. Holes 6 to 9 take on a different feel, away from the coast and into the trees; this change of style works very well and it is easy to think you are playing on the Old course at Vilamoura or even at Woburn in England. During these holes, the par-3 8th over water to a kidney shaped green with bunkers at the back is great fun to play.
The start of the back nine (before that great run of holes) is strong too; water at the green on the par-5th 10th is the biggest problem here. Loved the par-5 17th too, dog-legging to the left and getting on for 600 yards and uniquely on this course, no bunkers at all – the slightly uphill approach is key and avoiding the run-off at the right of the green is a must. Looking at the Portuguese rankings and based on the courses that I have played, Praia De’l Rey would not look out of place in the Top 5, which then could then mean a Continental Europe Top 50 position. I cannot wait to return one day as the golfing area between here and south to Lisbon is highly recommended.
Whilst this may sound slightly strange, I arrived at Praia D'El Rey, looked around and felt like bursting into tears. Before you think I have lost my marbles allow me to explain.I was lucky enough to live in Lisbon for 3 years in the late 90's and got to play at Praia D'El Rey in it's infancy. Back then the course was a delight to play, in amongst the dunes of the back 9 and the relative solitude of the pine forest of the closing holes of the front 9. For me it was a wonderful course, especially played from the white or black tees - a great challenge for any quality of golfer.Returning for a round in 2013 I was excited as I truly loved playing golf around here - I loved the challenge back in the late 90's and the conditioning back then was fantastic.
To be greeted by the sight of endless properties bordering almost every hole took my breath away for all the wrong reasons.Once out on the course I thought the conditioning had somewhat fallen away and being forced to play from the yellow tees made some of the wonderfully challenging holes this course has to offer slightly less of the stunning holes they should be. For example the 5th, 9th, 15th and 16th are quality golf holes and they should be allowed to be played by better golfers from the back tees. Afterall, there are so many teeing options here why not use them?
There is no doubt that the stretch of holes from the 13th to the 15th are wonderful holes with the immense waves crashing to your left but I left with a heavy heart. A course I had truly enjoyed playing has been reduced to a poor imitation of it's former self. In my opinion, what should be one of Europe's magical courses has had its aura removed and thrown into the pool of one of the hideous properties bordering the holes. Such a shame!
The front nine opens with a nondescript short par 4 dogleg left and is followed by a long par 5. The third hole is where the course begins to get a bit interesting with an attractive par 3 of a mid iron distance. Hole 4 is a very nice short par 4 with plenty of danger in amongst the sand dunes off the drive. The fifth is an excellent long par 4 that is the standout hole on the front half of the card which requires a precise drive over a long carry. There then follows what can only be described as some very unremarkable holes up until the turn. They really are an odd bunch of holes and one can only assume the developers plotted where the clubhouse would be first and then routed the course around the ocean and the best bits of land.
The back nine opens with a monster par 5 where the third is over water. Whilst 11 and 12 are okay, the round really comes to life on the 13th a most attractive short par 4. With great views of the sea this hole really does set the imagination alight. As we approached the signature hole, the par 3 thirteenth we begun to see 2 views, one of the ocean to our left with waves crashing in, a real treat for the eyes. The other view was straight ahead at what can only be described as an eyesore in the distance. These holes are really blighted by really ill thought through land grab and building plots that are not in keeping for what should be a five star resort. The par 3 is a gem and I hit a 9 iron one day and a 7 iron the next. The par 4 fifteenth is a another visually arresting hole where one can hook the tee shot right onto the beach of one isn’t careful. The 16th is a beaut, a really good 450 yarder uphill. Sadly though just when the course begins to show real potential it is let down by a colossal and very uninteresting par 5 seventeenth and a very average par 4 finishing hole. The ocean holes are lovely but the rest of the course is a real hotchpotch.
I just left thinking it could have been so much better. The clubhouse is soulless and the properties around the course were either for sale or were empty. How it is ranked ahead of some of the other Portugal courses is quite frankly beyond me. I have played Vilamoura Old and Penina and whilst they are certainly different tracks they are better than Praia del Rey in almost every way.