Located an hour’s drive north of Lisbon on Portugal’s spectacular Silver Coast, West Cliffs is a Cynthia Dye design that first opened its doors to the golfing public in the summer of 2017.
Offering sweeping views of the Atlantic, Berlengas Islands and Óbidos Lagoon, this dramatic seaside layout has been laid out within a massive 200-hectare property consisting of rolling sand dunes and coastal vegetation.
Dye and her construction team worked closely with local government agencies to ensure minimum disruption to the environment, creating a well-balanced and sustainable links in a highly attractive location where it fits seamlessly into its natural surroundings.
The architect, niece of legendary golf architect Pete Dye, said: “With the Atlantic visible from every hole, West Cliffs is the most natural golf course site imaginable. One of the most impressive characteristics of the course is just how anchored it is to the native coastal environment."
“The terrain at West Cliffs is amazing. On the vast majority of the holes, it was only necessary to site the green complexes with a bit of shaping and then define the limits of grassing. For the most part, the course was already there waiting for us.”
The course sits in the heart of a new resort, which in time will offer residential opportunities and a future 5-star hotel. It’s currently managed by Praia D’El Rey which lies close to the West Cliffs site.
Measuring 6,382 metres from the back tees, the course plays to a par of 72. Greens are carpeted with 100% Pinehurst bentgrass, the fairways are a mix of Perrenial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass and Creeping Red Fescue whilst the rough contains a blend of different fescue grasses.
Configured as two returning 9-hole circuits, the layout features a fabulous set of par threes at holes 2,
5, 12 and 16. Back-to-back par fives at the 6th and 7th form the backbone of
the front nine, with a pair of demanding par fours concluding the round at
holes 17 and 18.
An experience that may haunt my daydreams for a long time. This is a course for golfers, not holiday makers like some of the top Algarve courses cater to.
Played at a 4pm tee time in early May. Atlantic mist hung over the course, and the winding rural drive from the walled town of Obidos primed an atypical experience.
The staff weren't quite as warm as other courses here, although were down-to-earth and respectful. Perhaps it's a more professional show because it's implied that turning up to play a course of such magnanimous quality, and for just 78 euros, is already a win.
Hole 1 and 2 are warm ups as suggested by other reviewers, with hole 2 probably the only uninspired one on the course, a filler on the land between 1 and 3. It's not a bad hole, but West Cliffs has 17 holes that you'd want to play anywhere.
The first of three artificial lakes presents on hole 3, with others on 9 and 18. As has been noted below, they're probably unnecessary and while not detracting from the course, will add to the time that it will need before sand moved by their construction is indistinguishable from the native environment. Immaturity is only noticeable around the lakes, however, with the rest of the course fitting in effortlessly.
These are minor issues and are noted because there's nothing else negative to say.
The design is natural to a natural piece of land, that isn't dramatic, but doesn't need to be. The location next to the Atlantic, unique native flora all over the course, respect for the environment and the high quality and condition of the grasses and bunkers do the work.
Errant tee shots will be lost in the low-lying density that the fairways have been carved into, as will any wayward approach shot. The course is unforgiving: you're not sheepishly hitting a recovery from a few trees scattered in the rough, or even out of the woods... the ball is gone.
Tee shots are daunting and are the course's highlight, as one breathtaking hole after another lies before you. The course crescendos, both physically and mentally, with the par 3 16th and par 4 17th, that punish anything lazy or unskilled. The 16th from the back tee is as intimidating as any golf shot you'll find. The green is only visible from the tee.
Some highlights are the par 4 3rd, with water and a solid row of bunkers protecting the side of the fairway that avoids a blind 2nd shot; par 5 7th, that seems simple until you need to clear the waste on your second shot and hit a perfect 3rd into a tight green; par 4 10th that plays toward the sea and again requires a tee shot over elevated waste; par 4 11th that requires a delicate 2nd shot, again blind if you're too far left on the fairway; par 4 14th with its mid-fairway scrub, where environmental protection prevents retrieval of balls; and 15 through 17, which when combined with the 18th's lakeside approach, will make for heart-stopping tournament viewing. For the amateur, they seem to be the course's ultimate tests, and ironically they're the only holes that aren't pretty as the woodland has been kept around them as they cut across the course's only hill.
The par 5s 6 and 7 typify the place and are the holes that stick in the mind, each 500 odd metres through the native scrub, tempting with nothing more than visible greens, narrow emerald fairways, and brutal sand scrub.
The greens weren't particularly fast, but are reasonably tough, varied, deceptively undulating and fair. No false fronts or artificial tiering. There's no rest around them, with each chip a new experience.
Colours, contours, elevations, variety, constant challenges, strategic cross-fairway tee shots and obvious reverence for the location lift this place into the world class. The metronomic, ever-present waste and scrub present tension and theatre where other courses might provide breathing room.
West Cliffs is in another realm compared to other Portugese courses played on this trip. The the exquisite links, Estela, north of Porto, lacks the sheer brutality and gobsmacking challenge here, while the Algarve courses seem like child's play in comparison. My trip didn't include Monte Rei in the inland Eastern Algarve which polls higher, but I can't imagine how it could come close.
I grew up playing Melbourne's sandbelt courses, including Royal Melbourne among far less famous tracks, and would play West Cliffs again, and again, instead. Remove the history and exclusivity of the world's revered courses, and West Cliffs may be some of the best time you'll spend playing golf.
This is a serious golf course. The scale of the place is immense and as you arrive at the club house you certainly get the feeling that you have arrived at a top level golf course.
Being so new, it will take a little while for the operational side to bed in, and we felt that the welcome was a little frosty with little flexibility offered on tee times etc. This is a minor niggle that I am sure will be ironed out.
So, to the golf course. It’s new, very new but has been seamlessly integrated into the landscape and has a feeling of maturity already. No staked trees here! The first hole is relatively straight forward, and the second a nice downhill par three. The first “proper” hole is the par 4 3rd, with an SI of 1. As tough as this hole is, and as good as the design probably is according to textbook, it felt (along with the 9th) contrived relative to the rest of the layout with a huge artificial lake and an approach shot to a tough green which visually just had too much going on in the backdrop (lake, mound, security office, greenkeepers yard, clubhouse etc) to do the hole justice. This landscape simply doesn't require artificial water hazards, This apart, the course is a masterpiece with a rollercoaster of holes that challenge every shot.
Elevated tees, raised greens and bunkers/waste areas which combine to create a visual treat. Stand out holes are at the back to back par 5 6th and 7th, and the par 3 12th with a sea of sand protecting an undulating green. West Cliffs then challenges golfers with an extremely tough final three holes, especially when played from the back tees. The 16th is a par 3 played between trees and a huge dune to a postage stamp of a green. A genuine card wrecker if not played with care. The 17th a 400 yard + right angle par 4 where only the very best tee shot will offer a view of the small green. The round finishes with the most exciting tee shot of the day, raised high in a huge dune down to a wide fairway where a brave tee shot over a longer carry is rewarded with a shorter and less dangerous shot to the green with water lurking to the right.
This a very good golf course, and in my opinion will go right to the top of the European rankings. It’s not for the feint hearted, and don’t expect to play to handicap but it’s a great experience which for the moment at least can be experienced for the same price as a Surrey municipal. Combine with Praia D’el Rey and Royal Obidos and play it now before the secret gets out to the masses!
Ridiculously good… I was there on opening day in June and the promise of playing something special was delivered with ease. 14 years in the making and holes shaped through what used to be dense woodland along Portugal's Silver Coast.
A great quote from the West Cliffs website says, "The course layout is the result of a long term study of the conditions and characteristics of the terrain to preserve the natural beauty and ecological balance of the site, it seems as if it was always here and we have just perfected nature".
The course style is that of high-tariff holes with a premium on approach shots, especially the front nine with plenty of beach-wasteland all around. This is one of the very best new courses that I have played ever and of the courses through Europe that have opened in the last 15 years or so, this beats them all in my opinion.
Cynthia Dye has exceeded expectation with design, one that her uncle Pete Dye, would surely be proud of. It is just 18 great holes through natural rolling sand dunes and coastal vegetation, with Atlantic views everywhere. The inspiration of green sites are a nod in the Whistling Straights direction, just brilliant.
The first big hole is the 3rd - an imposing par-4, with water to the right, dunes left and centre and an approach that is likely to be blind unless you take a bold line from the tee to the right.
The par-3 5th is to what can be described as an infinity green, around 170 yards carrying over a valley and slightly raised - this is one of many wow moments on the course - if we were in the pre-digital era, plenty of camera film would have been needed at West Cliffs!
The 7th hole, a par-5 is just an epic of a hole; downhill, turning left, over waste-ground, turning right, uphill to the green - this hole has everything - amazing. The 9th hole is dramatic too - big hitters go for the green (par-4, 350 yards but about 240 yards carry direct to the green).
If amateur golfers are playing to handicap after nine holes, then they are playing one of the rounds of their lives.
The back-nine is very good indeed, maybe less of a rollercoaster in terms of the ups and downs but excitement levels remain high. I like the 13th hole a lot, this is a par-5 that moves uphill, with a slight move to the left - the waste areas on this hole are already starting to look attractive with many colourful shrubs all around - I can only imagine that in years to come, this will look an absolute picture.
The last three holes are just breath-taking; even if you do not play from the back tee on the 16th, do walk there and see the tee shot - that needs threading through dunes to a green on high. The 17th hole for me is the only 'talking point' on the course - here is a 400+ yard hole that is an extreme dog-leg to the right; the only issue I have is that you need to hit around 240 yards to be able to see the green as it is protected by a massive dune on the corner of the turn. In saying that, the stroke index is 2, so a bogey for most is acceptable.
The 18th tee shot is from an elevated tee, with options to you based on how brave you feel - a safe bale-out option to the right is there but I am sure many will go straight over the vegetation and hope to be long enough to reach the fairway, then do watch the water that butts up to the green on the right....
An exhilarating course that although will mature and improve already deserves a 6-ball ranking - set to become known as one of the best European courses now and without getting ahead of myself, a future world-ranked course must be on the cards.
The hype has not been exaggerated - this is a staggeringly scenic golf course. Stand on the 16th tee and look towards the ocean and you feel privileged to be a golfer. The contrast of colours is breathtaking.
In terms of playability, the 4s and 5s are generous while the 3s are tough. This may diverge from fellow reviewers comments but although the course can look narrow from the tee, invariably there is a wide fairway when you get there.
The 3s are tough though very attractive. The pick may be the 16th which may have been inspired by the seismic 14th at Oitavos ( playing through dunes on both sides). One grumble may be that the green of the 5th is too extreme for the length of the hole. If you are on the wrong side of the pin, it is impossible to get within 15 feet of the hole (4 of us played, all single figures with a plus 1 player, and we all struggled )
There are no weak holes on the course with standouts 4, 7, 13, 14 and 18. The 18th is just wow - even if you don't play from the tips, go to that tee and enjoy the view !
Having a beer in the clubhouse after, all of us said in unison, the 10th would be a brilliant opening hole.
In summary, please play this golf course. Combine with Praia d'el Rey, Obidos with the sublime Oitavos and Penha Longa just an hour away, Lisbon is a top destination.
WAHOU this course is out of this world !! The environment is wild and the course integrate perfectly in this dream environment. The shape is mind blowing, every hole is a signature hole... It is impossible to answer the question "which hole is your favorite". Back nine are breathtaking. I played by myself and usually it takes me less than 3h to complete 18 holes... Here at wests cliffs it took me 4h30 to complete it because of the views, environment and hundreds of pictures I shot. This course is at world class level... I wish to play it every week. Thank you for this unforgettable moment !