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.
West Cliffs is well known as one of the best new courses in continental Europe. It is a great enhancement to the Praia D’El Rey course, but very different by art and nature, much wilder and rougher than the older one. You will find in close neighbourhood two other championship courses, Royal Obidos, a masterpiece of the late Seve Ballesteros, and Bom Sucesso, a course build through large semifinished/semi-abandoned resort with various modern design villas and managed under the European Destinations brand of European Tour.
West Cliffs is not a links course, but you will enjoy sea vistas on many holes as well as sand and wind will play significant role here on almost every day. Arrival and club house are majestic and you should play here to enjoy the rough nature rather sooner than later, as the course will be surrounded by colony of contemporary villas soon. Modern clubhouse is huge and popped by semi-friendly staff (in particular, should you arrive early for the first tee time in the morning). You might be confused when looking for the first tee, as the one in front of the clubhouse is actually the 10th Tee, drivable short par 4 down toward the sea. It will take you couple of minutes to find the first tee on the other side of the road, and if you are walking (yeah, golf has been meant for walking), you should run there well ahead of your tee time. There will be many more long walks in between the green and next tee on the course, as well as elevation changes, but the course is still fine for walking.
Yes, and it is not an easy course, in particular on a day with strong wind from the Atlantic, moving lots of fine sand from the waste areas all around the place. Almost every hole has shorter or longer forced cary across shrubs and bushes, and you rather stay on the shorter grass, as any wayward shot is likely lost in the desert-like thorny rough. Once you will arrive to the 5th tee, reasonable par 3, you might be shaken: you have to play (forced carry) on the green which is nested on top of high sand hill just of the size of the green, with steep slopes on all sides full of bunkers and thorny bushes. As this is one of the highest places on the course, wind is also a factor here and the Redan-like right to left and away sloping green surface add to the overall fun. There are also multiple blind tee shots on the course (in particular the last 3 holes) and hidden bunkers or sandy waste areas across the fairway in the landing zone (like on the 7th par 5). Among the other features not found often on modern courses you should be not surprised by a huge sand hill with bushes in the middle of the 14th fairway, just in front of the green.
I played this course couple of times under varying wind conditions, and I always enjoyed it. Putting a few extra balls into the bag, might be a good idea here. Just for the case…
I ended my Portugal trip with this final course, and man was this something. Straight off the bat, let me say that this is one of the most beautiful golf course I have ever played on… and I’ve seen a few.
I like to say that “if this were an American course it would be …”. Well this is probably more gorgeous to the eye than most American courses ranked in the top 50 in the world…
Every time you think ‘how can you get a more beautiful tee shot’, the next hole seems to bring it up a notch. It’s just an jaw dropping golf course.
My wife does not play golf but she walked the back nine and was in awe. She actually said that if all golf courses were like this one she would pick up golf.
But golf is not just about a gorgeous view.
The black tees are close to 6400m. so unless you drive it 260 m (285 yds) don’t even think about playing from there. Because the trick here is that there is no rough. Either you are on the fairway… or you ball has good chance of being lost. To me, this is the only blemish to this course. My idea of golf is that it should be a great time out to have fun. I was with my son who plays off 20. He loved every hole , was amazed, until he ran out of golf balls on 12. I played amazing but still lost 2 golf balls. The golf secretary has told me that post-COVID this issue would be taken care of.
The course itself is rarely on flat grounds, as you would expect from cliff side course and greens have massive slopes. So for a first time out I suggest getting a cart.
But whatever you do not pass up the opportunity to play here!You will have an unbelievable golfing experience. I just can’t wait to be able to come back to West Cliffs
A few of tips :
- If you drive from Lisbon to play golf I would suggest you also play praia del Rey, the back nine are world class
- Take an hour from your day to visit OBIDOS which is an fortified city that is 900 years old.
- There is a lovely little exclusive beach just a couple hundred yards down from the club house…
The last couple years there has been tremendous buzz and media exposure around this new course on Portugal’s West Coast which is a welcome addition to the Praia D’El Rey Resort. Last month, I had the chance to visit it for the first time. Better late than never as they say. I caught it on a beautiful day, albeit a windy one. Going out on my own I set out as both player A and B with the full intention of having a match against myself. I was walking and if you have ever gone out and played two balls, well, let’s just say being player A and player B results in about as much walking as if you were two different people walking and playing the course. West Cliffs property is spectacular to say the least, it’s a really tough walk as player A and player B let alone as you walk yourself. I would classify it as walkable for sure, but it helps to have an electric trolley for your bag.
The course starts out pretty tough with a cut off what you can choose, right is dead, 1st hole that plays uphill to a raised green protected by two gnarly bunkers. Gnarly bunkers are a theme for the course and it’s best to stay clear of them if possible.
The second hole affords a taste of the excellent and tough par 3’s on the course. In the wind this elevated tee shot to a wildly undulated green, extremely well protected by bunkers and waste area will strike fear into the best of players. It also gives you another taste of what’s to come.
In a fashion not too unlike her uncle, the architect regularly takes away one side of play saying you can’t miss here and in some cases two sides are taken away. The 3rd hole has water running down the right side right through to the green. The best angle of approach is also from the right side so taking on the water affords the best view and angle. A drive down the left side leaves a blind shot in.
From the 4th hole on, the hilly part of the front 9 starts. 4 requires a solid drive taking on the blind left side to have a chance to reach the green in two, visually it requires quite a carry though in actuality this might not be as bad as it looks.
The par 3, 5th is their take on a Redan and a fun although very challenging hole into a stern wind. Not much room to miss here. Next you run into back to back par 5’s both providing different challenges and running up the hills then back down past where you start. The 6th with a tough tee shot and the 7th with a really tough 2nd shot due to the shape and large waste area running almost through the fairway. The approach to the green is also challenging and was playing into a cross wind.
The 8th is a short par 4 from an elevated tee shot. Don’t go for too much as the angle off the tee is deceptive on this dogleg left. I played to a front left pin from the angle I came in, long and left would have been my surmise. The 9th is another short par 4 running back to where we started, another dogleg left and a rare short hole where 3 wood or driver plays into the safest area past the pond running up the left of the hole. A solid drive leaves gap wedge to sand wedge in and takes the water out of play.
The back 9 really starts off where the front 9 left off, two challenging tee shots and approaches into par 4’s 10 and 11. The 12th being a short but tricky par 3 over a waste area on the right side but playing uphill and difficult to pick the line from the tee. A bit of a non-descript shot IMO. 13 is a long, steep uphill par 5 to a long undulating green and the 14th is a quirky downhill par 4 with a blind drive to a sharply sloped right to left fairway, followed by a semi blind approach over a big grassy mound. I can imagine this hole splitting opinions especially with the mound in front of the green.
15 is a reachable uphill par 5 with a dogleg right to maneuver with the tee shot. Going for this small raised green in 2 takes serious precision and the only good miss is perhaps just short of the green leaving a tricky chip over. I missed just left of the left greenside bunker and was left with a crazy tricky chip/flop shot from an elevated lie over a deep bunker to a green sloping downhill away from me. Not the ideal spot by any stretch of the imagination.
The 16th hole I can best describe as crazy hard. It was playing about 178 meters to the pin and the carry to avoid complete disaster was 170 meters through a narrow shoot between trees on the left and dunes on the right. There was a strong cross wind and this hole is one you need to see to believe. Spectacular but slightly over the top for most players as there is really no place to miss.
17 and 18 were unique holes, 17 being a blind tee shot short par 4 with a strong dogleg right playing downhill after the dogleg to a green tucked into dunes on the left with a drop off on the right. While 18 allots the player with one last heroic driving opportunity by taking on the middle dune and a long carry on this steep downhill par 4 with a strong dogleg left around this dune. A successful heroic carry leaves a mid to short iron that where you have to take on the water on the right that borders the green.
West Cliffs is indeed spectacular and a beautiful property. It’s full of heroic all or nothing shots and will demand your very best golf while trying to properly assess and calculate the risks. It would be extremely easy to lose a bucket of balls out there, especially if the wind is up so my advice for all but the best players is to enjoy a match-play game with your golfing partners and leave the score related worries to the pros.
This is a hard review to write, as I hated the course. Being objective, its immaculate, and with a 5* clubhouse and facilities. But. But. But. Its horrible.
Its just too hard. I'm a sterotypical mid handicapper - anywhere between 10-16 on any given year. I've played well on hard courses in the past. This was just unfair.
The distance between perfection and a lost ball on West Cliffs is measured in feet/inches. I hit a drive on one par 5 that my playing partner remarked in mid air would either get me an eagle or a quadruple. It turned out to be the latter. This wasn't risk reward golf, it was risk golf. Every shot was a potential lost ball.
The issue isnt that the rough is penal (though it is), its that there is no semi/fringe rough, or what little there is adds no protection. I could have used nothing higher than a 7 iron and I would have been better off.
Just too hard.
Without stating the witheringly obvious, the benefit of this website is that "real" golfers share their experiences and we can properly research a course before deciding to play it. The vast majority of reviewers have stated that West Cliffs is tough (not disputed) but beautiful (also not disputed) so if you don't like tough and are not interested in the aesthetics and wonderful design, then maybe West Cliffs is not for you. ps - surprised a decent golfer (10 to 16) found West Cliffs too tough. Whilst the greens and their surrounds are challenging,the fairways are quite generous (50 yards wide) at the driving zone for most golfers (150 to 220 yards)
I think I qualify as a real enough golfer. I’d suggest looking at my review of somewhere like Royal Cinque Ports, I don’t mind tough, tough is fine. And I do take the point about aesthetics, it’s a beautiful and well conditioned course with interesting design features.
However my personal view is that the very best courses reward good, punish bad and deliver something in between the two. I found that West Cliffs was capable of punishing all three, hence my score.
I certainly was not suggesting you were not a "real" golfer, far from it, and I apologise if this was the impression given. I believe that this website is the home of the real golfer where generally, there is an absence of cronyism. I also do not have an issue with your review as it is well made and very useful to prospective golfers that maybe would not relish what is an undoubtedly a challenge at West Cliffs. My view is that there is so much more to the golfing experience at West Cliffs than the tough golf course (I also remain surprised that a golfer of your ability "hated" the golf course because it was so difficult). I read your excellent review of RCP. With respect, RCP is not a tough golf course - in terms of toughest links courses in GB&I, I would suggest its neighbour RStG or Portmarnock, the European Club, Rosapenna Sandy Hills, Carnoustie and Trump Aberdeen.
Wow. That is probably the best way to give a one word summary.
The setting of the golf course is simply amazing sitting right on the stunning silver coast of Portugal. On the back nine the ocean is visible on almost every hole plus a few holes on the front nine as well. While the holes sitting right next to the ocean were built basically inside the dunes and are rather flat, the holes that are situated more inland are anything but flat. It plays like a mountain course at times. That adds to the great variety of holes even though it´s a links course which can tend to be one dimensional at times.
It´s a brilliant course and I´m very happy to have played a course designed by Cynthia Dye. Hope she will continue the legacy of her uncle. It was the first time in my life I played a more or less brand new golf course. The thing I liked most about it: You don´t necessarily need a 7000+ yard monster nowadays to make a course difficult. Yes: the par 5´s were fair to play since many of them are rather short, but many even shorter par 4´s were so difficult.
The course maintenance is absolutely over the top. The greens where so fast I could not believe it. A downhill put would literally give me the shakes. The greens are carpeted with bent grass which is so hard to adapt to. It´s amazing how short they cut the grass.
Enjoy your day at the course and make sure to take plenty of pictures. I´m sure there is nothing you played like this course. It´s crazy good and unique. But warning: The course is so incredibly difficult even on quite days. On one of the days I played it, the wind was blowing hard and while I still absolutely loved my time on the course, it was nearly unplayable. I didn´t even nearly break 100 playing off HCP 7. So even on easier conditions handicaps above 16-18 will have a hard time even getting the ball into play. And that´s not even only my personal opinion. That´s what other players told me in that handicap range.
This are is a world class golf destination in eyes and West Cliffs is the masterpiece. A must visit.
Played in Feb 2020 in perfect weather conditions and I have to agree with previous reviews that the course set up is too difficult. There isnt any semi rough so you are either on the fairway or in powdery sand which is difficult to advance a ball from or lost in scrubland. Four of us played and we thought we played reasonably well but our best score was 27 stableford points. They need to reduce the severity of the rough and the greens or they will struggle to get repeat business. The day we played there were very few on the course in contrast to Praia del Rei which we played the following day.
But Jim, your review does not seem to be fair. A difficult course does not mean that is not a great golf course... Carnoustie, European Club, Valderrama and many others are examples of tough and brilliant courses. For me, West Cliffs is a MUST play in Portugal.
Luciano, whilst Jim's review is too low, I've played Carnoustie and European and whilst they are difficult courses you still generally have a chance of recovering from a mistake for a bogie. At West Cliffs a mistake usually resulted in a lost ball.
I played here on a wet & windy January morning, for the time of year this course is in as good condition as anywhere I’ve played. The fairways were firm and the greens soft and try, and for January lightening quick, most courses in the UK in peak season don’t have greens like this. On the negative side I played off the whites and some may find it a little short but this is a great course with friendly, attentive staff that is well worth a visit.
Had read so much about West Cliffs that my expectations were high and first impressions were certainly positive - fantastic vistas to the sea down the short par 4 10th hole. The back 9 is certainly the stronger and more attractive as it gradually climbs to higher ground. The views from the 14th and 18th tees are outstanding and make you want to launch good shots into the blue sky. The front 9 is, in comparison, good but a little more pedestrian and we found it difficult to warm to holes 1 - 4 (including the very tough SI 1 third hole), although the somewhat bonkers slopes on the par 3 5th did make us laugh / cry in equal measure. The combination of slope and wind made three putting a decent achievement and four of us are single figure players. And that rather sums up our experiences over two rounds at West Cliffs. We were delighted to have played it and very much enjoyed the natural beauty of the course and the setting but don't go expecting to relax and have fun. We played off sensible tees and it was still a proper, exacting challenge. Miss the fairway at your peril because the sand, gorse, heather and juicy vegetation will swallow your ball and wreck your calves. And if you do hit the green in regulation then don't start patting yourself on the back - if you are on the wrong section of the green then you'll be thinking about minimising the number of putts you'll take rather than necessarily holing it. A wonderful course that looks great in photos - but definitely not holiday golf. Play it but give yourself a break too and visit the other courses in the area, especially Praia del Rey.
Played yesterday in perfect conditions and we were still beaten up by this beautiful, but uncompromising course. We buggied the 55 tees, and would follow an earlier tip to play the par 3 off the 59's. Not only are they wedge/9 irons, but are shot holes which as the donor I find infuriating ! It would be walkable, and we've walked similar layouts like Monte Rei, but a few times we were glad we had the buggy. Not walking, with circuitous paths, did make finding errant shots even more difficult, and there will be errant shots - first time up it's not clear where to hit, and knowing that missing the (generous) fairways will result in a lost ball allows gremlins to surface. Cynthia Dye has followed the Colonel Sanders approach of finding a unique blend of bushes and plants to make finding a golf ball almost impossible. We were warned that 4.5 hours was the norm, but we played through a couple of groups and finished in 4 hours. No great hardship in such beautiful surroundings, the course and scenery are as spectacular as you'll play anywhere, in perfect weather too. The greens were quick and fun, and only the 4th (?) was a bit bonkers. Lots of houses being built along the first, so enjoy the natural beauty while you can !
The Clubhouse is excellent, the facilities are good, the vistas are fabulous. On to the course itself - I have to say that for me it just isn't a golf course. I think it's great fun to play if you're part of a big group playing scramble but the greens are so overly sloped that it becomes a total lottery. You hit what appears to be a great approach and you're left with a literally impossible putt and 3 putts are the norm even for good single figure players. The par 3 5th needs some explaining too - I really have no idea what you're supposed to do there LOL! 'Blob and move on'.
The fringe/run-off areas aren't in great condition (at least they aren't in any way consistent) making for extremely hard chipping back onto the greens. The bunkers provide some of the most wicked plugging you will ever experience - to the point where given the extreme slopes of some of the bunker faces you actually will struggle to take a stance to play the shot at all. I had one where the sand all gave way under my feet and sent an avalanche onto the ball effectively losing it in the bunker!
The 55 tees are most realistic for a mixed handicap bunch but then the par 3's become way too short - therefore better to play 55 for 4/5s and 59 for 3's. God help you if you get stuck behind mixed groups playing the 59's or more!
All in all it is a must experience course but the greens are just way too sloped. If you like seeing a 15 - 20 foot birdie putt roll past the hole and off the green then great but that's not golf for me.
It has so many pros going for it that I just hope they consider modifying the greens as then it would become a true gem. I can't see what they are trying to achieve with the greens as they are - surely no tournament will ever go there with them like this - I can't imagine Augusta is as hard!
I would go back for sure as it is heaven in many ways - its just not .... it's just not really a golf course!