The Portuguese island of Madeira is known as the “pearl of the north Atlantic” and it’s a floating tropical island garden that is warmed by the Gulf Stream making it a popular short holiday destination. A chain of mountains, reaching up to some 4,000 feet, make a strong backbone for the island and Santo da Serra Golf Club is located in these foothills in the southeast of the island.
Madeiran golf started at Santo da Serra in the 1930s on a rudimentary nine-hole layout. But the course we play today – or rather courses we play today – were fashioned by the famous American architect Robert Trent Jones. In 1991, the Machico and Desertas nines opened for play and seven years later, in 1998, a third loop called Serras completed the Santo da Serra project.
There is no doubt in our minds that the best combination is the original course – Machico and Desertas – but 27 holes is a nice number to tackle for a day’s golf and the shorter Serras loop is certainly a good warm-up prior to playing the Machico and Desertas course, which is the venue for the Madeira Island Open.
Pray for a clear day when you play Santo da Serra. Perched at some 1,000 feet above sea level, the course can literally have its head in the clouds. On a clear day the dramatic views across the bay of Machico are simply glorious.
The Machico is perhaps our favourite and this loop is not only challenging but unforgettable. With four tees to choose from, there’s one for all abilities, so you can choose to relax or take the 6,200-metre challenge which is normally reserved for the pros.
Santo da Serra combines a stroll through a botanical garden with a mountain adventure. Throw in a series of truly dramatic golf holes and you have one of the best holiday golf venues in the world.