The championship course at Quinta da Marinha is set within a luxury 5-star resort close to Cascais, a former fishing village on the Estoril coast that’s now a modern day affluent suburb of the Portuguese capital.
Robert Trent Jones Sr. laid out the 18 holes amongst stands of pine trees on a flat piece of property slightly inland from Guincho beach on the Atlantic shoreline with some of the fairways flanked by small holiday apartment buildings.
The six par threes here steal the show, beginning at “Ravine”, the 4th and ending at “Almost There” the 16th. A major attraction of these one shotters is that they comprise a set of “proper” short holes, sensibly measured between 143 and 182 yards.
A number of professional competitions have been held at Quinta da Marinha since it opened in the mid 1980s. The first of these was The Ladies Masters in 1988, an event on the European Women’s Tour that was won by Laurette Maritz-Atkins from South Africa.
In 2002, the course was used for the Estoril Seniors Tour Championship and Denis Durnian emerged as winner, beating Irishman Eamonn Darcy in a sudden death play-off. Finally, in 2007, Ross McGowan won the Estoril Challenge de Portugal competition, shooting a final round 66 to finish three strokes clear of his nearest challenger.
In recent years, the holes have been re-sequenced, with the old 11th now becoming the new 1st hole and the former 10th now played as the current 18th, in front of the hotel. This had led to the awkward situation of playing four par three holes and three par fives on the shorter back nine, which now gives the course a somewhat disjointed feel and doesn't really make for a cohesive flow of holes.
QDM has possibly the most unusual routing of any course I’ve ever played. The 7th tee is adjacent to that of the par 3 6th meaning you play the 6th and then just walk back to exactly the same teeing ground. There are also several occasions where you have to walk across fairways to get to the next tee. This confusing routing is the key reason why a number of our group ended up hating the course.
The routing aside, the course was quite tight with plenty of opportunity to get snookered by umbrella pines. Being straight off the tee is a must to score well here. The 18th is arguably the pick of the holes - a par 5 with water in play off the right of the tee-shot and to the left of the second and third. There were also several interesting par 3s with the 13th being the pick of the bunch. The 4th, played over a gorge, divided opinion (with more hating it than liking it) partly because you can’t see the flag from the tee and partly because of the long route to get to the green.
The conditioning was decent but that is possibly the only positive that my group would agree on. I’ve given it a 3-ball rating but most of my group would rate it lower and do not want to head back.
I played at Quinta da Marinha a few weeks ago with Manuel Hector, the Director of Golf, who operates the club with a small staff from one of those temporary-looking (but entirely functional) one-storey clubhouses next to the hotel.
He’s recently installed a decking area beside this building with an old multi-coloured Citroen Van converted to sell drinks and snacks to golfers and people using the driving range – it’s one of the coolest set-ups I’ve ever come across at any club and one that others might think of replicating if they’re looking to gain instant street-cred with a younger demographic.
The course itself is more old-school as it’s a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design from the mid-1980s (so it’s probably more a Cabell Robinson layout as he was working on all the old master’s European and North African projects during the 1980s and 1990s) and the quality of the build is obvious right from the start with a Biarritz green on the very first hole.
The greens for the par four 3rd, par three 4th and short par four 5th are actually located along the coastline, within a couple of hundred metres from the Atlantic. These holes are perched high above the rocky shoreline so expect sea breezes to affect play here more often than not. Play then returns inland for the remainder of the round, with the par five 9th narrowing considerably as it reaches the green next to the hotel.
After playing the par three 10th, there’s an awkward walk across the 9th fairway back to the 11th tee, which is a result of the re-sequencing of holes to accommodate a finish in front of the hotel. There are also another three par threes to play between the 13th and 17th and, while I’m a big fan of sensible-length short holes, it doesn’t really help the rhythm of the round to play so many par threes at alternate holes so late in the round.
That said, the 153-metre 13th is one of the most spectacular one-shotters you’ll come across, played across an attractive little irrigation pond to a raised green that’s protected in front by several large embedded bunkers and framed by a cluster of umbrella pine trees.
There’s more water to negotiate on the par five 18th, where the fairway narrows to nothing while snaking between another two long lakes, one of which houses a beach club (a wedding party was in full swing on the outside decking as I made my way to the home green) – the hotel owners Onyria certainly know how to maximise the commercial potential of their property!
The course as it’s played today from hole 1 to 18 is different to the one envisioned more than thirty years ago when the intention was to have a clubhouse positioned elsewhere. That’s too bad, but the same good golf holes still exist out there, making this a worthwhile place to play nonetheless.
Not far from Lisbon and close to the also really nice maybe a little better Oitavos course this is a really nice layout of Robert Trend Jones. Some really narrow fairways and water in play on many holes but also some great ocean views. During my round course was under maintenance but nontheless in good condition.
The re-routing has ruined this course. It was always tough, now it is tough with a mad layout that adds even more time to a round. And it's expensive. Go elsewhere.