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 has beautiful conditioning, amazing views, and outstanding hole design. It is also incredibly difficult.
Golf just doesn't get any better.
I can remember the first time I was taken to a golf course. I can recall the impossibly blue sky of the late morning, the gentle breeze carrying the scent of leaked two stroke petrol and slightly damp but freshly cut grass. The distant chudder of the massive hand pushed cylinder mower being walked over a distant green and the ubiquitous clank of busy spikes on concrete. Those little hand painted post box red flags and the metallic clunk as they came out of the hole on the putting green. That immaculate grass. Impossible bonsai grass that must have been cared for by a wizard. The smell and sound of the proshop was more work shop than retail. racks of rubber and steel. 9 irons and 3 woods with names long since gone. Tommy Armour anyone? It was here I was handed a cut down 8 Iron and taken down the park a few days later for a first hit.
And now, here I am at West Cliffs. 43 years old and I think I have tees in my bag that are older than this facility. But you would never know it until you have played it. That is because it drapes across the landscape like it was always there. However this is a modern course for the modern game. There are nods to history, spectacular Redan greens etc. It is not genesis. But it is a revelation. The routing of the front nine is majestic. Only 1 and 4 slightly don’t live up to the others. The green sites are infinitely complex and you will most likely 3 or four putt from long range on any of them occasionally if you have clumsy touch. They are difficult, not impossible. Needless to say, after 4 days of golf here I was a wreck. At one point I asked if it was legal to use my putter as a snooker cue. Well, is it?
Everything about West Cliffs and Praia is delightful and professional. Impeccable service and attention. The World class practice facilities are hugely enjoyable in their own right. It is professionally run. Unlike many of our clubs which anachronistically suffer from being run by retired finance directors and solicitors who think that 40 years of being chained to a desk in the city and playing off of 15 have somehow prepared them to run a multi-million pound leisure facility.
The back nine brings slightly more respite than the front but when you sit down and savour the holes you have just played and consider them in turn they are all belters. My advice to you all is not to stick to one set of tees if you can but to mix them up depending on the wind. Some holes are infinitely better and more spectacular from the tips so if the wind allows. Take it on.
We were there in June and the wild flora flanking the undulating fairways was blooming spectacularly. It really isn’t holiday golf here. If you like mile wide fairways and lipless bunkers then West cliffs will be too intense to play more than once or twice. But please go. It is reassuring to see that what we build here in our century is better than what came before. It is straight into my top 5 of all time.
As you get older, there is a perception that time passes quicker and quicker with every year – I can only agree with that as it is already two years since the opening of Portugal’s latest quality course opening at West Cliffs – that time really has flown by. I wrote this after my first visit in the summer of 2017:
The central area of Portugal, a little north of Lisbon and especially the Silver Coast region is now a serious golf destination with West Cliffs the unquestionable jewel.
West Cliffs is without doubt one of the very best European openings for a long time with so many positive opinions from the many publications and journalists that I have bumped into since the course opening – the popular consensus is that this will be a firm favourite for all that play here.
I returned recently to see how the course has progressed since June 2017. I managed to re-play the course twice this time and it is safe to say that during the past two years, the course has come on leaps and bounds. All new courses need time and West Cliffs has matured nicely. The most impressive thing now is that the waste areas and sand scrapes which are a key feature of the course are looking really smart indeed. The wild flowers and shrubs in these parts of the course are growing and now frame the holes beautifully.
A couple of the many standout holes are both outrageous (in a good way) dog-legging holes. The 9th is 330 metres from the ‘59’ tee (The 59 means course total length is 5900 metres) but a massive lake is between the tee and the green, so the best option is to play out to the right and attack the green on the approach. A tip here is that aim further right than you think on the tee shot as the fairway cambers to the left and a sandy or watery grave waits for anything even slightly off line. The 9th ends a very exciting first nine holes where there are so many high-tariff shots but another tip is to choose the tees that suits your handicap – there are five sets ranging from the ‘45’s all the way to the ‘64’s and also do let the course slope rating adjust your handicap to give you extra shots too. Doing this will allow you to have a chance to play to handicap. The 17th hole delivers in a big way, the dog-leg this time turning right around a huge dune after 200 metres and with a stroke index of 2, emphasises the degree of difficulty – this hole has improved since 2017 as there is now enough run on the fairway to reach the corner to fully see the green.
West Cliffs is coming along nicely and the first two years have been a huge success with opinions getting stronger on each round played – this is a serious golf course. In terms of rankings, an impressive #2 in Portugal and #16 in Continental Europe last time for the 2018-2019 positions – the next numbers are for 2020-2021, watch this space.
Worth noting too is that playing West Cliffs and also Praia D’el Rey is cracking value – 3 nights’ accommodation at the Marriott with breakfast and access to the health club with 2 green fees at €280 pp, with 1 free of charge for every 8 in a group. Individual green fess during the summer are around €54, again this is tremendous value.
A must play.
Never having visited Portugal before, it was wonderful to get an invite to this region for my first Portuguese golfing experience. We were based at Praia del Rey and on our second day were treated to perhaps one of the most spectacular courses I have ever played.
Some of the holes at West Cliffs have truly amazing views of the rugged Atlantic coastline. You have to just stop what you are doing for a moment or two, to take in the beauty of the location.
The course was immaculate, varied and never dull. The layout was exceptional. My golf was mixed in terms of quality, however it never really diminished from the experience of the setting and the golf course itself. The greens were quick. You not only had to think about your drive but also where to hit the ball onto or at least near the greens. It's certainly not just a 'whack it and see' type golf course.
We played off of the forward tees. Had we played off the back tees we may not have enjoyed the experience quite so much. The back tees were much more demanding and as it was holiday golf, we were determined to make it as enjoyable as possible and it worked.
There are so many stunning holes on this course I don't think I could ever grow bored of it. The two courses here (Praia del Rey and West Cliffs) are both exceptional and highly recommended.
I must admit I cannot compete with the macho self satisfaction of some of the previous reviewers who seem to believe this is a ‘fair test’ when they lose 6 balls in a round. I happen to think that golf should be about enjoyment and this golfer didn’t get enough of it after 2 rounds here!
Yes a great deal of money has been spent, (although more needs to be spent on unfinished buggy paths), yes the practice facilities, clubhouse, setting of the course are all good and yes some holes have nice views but there are many things not to like....
1. The greens had great surfaces but are too difficult to read for visiting amateurs. Most have run off areas that push the ball away from the hole ...or even off the green....and at 9.5 on the stimp according to the starter were as fast as they dare make them!
2. The par 3’s are all short(not 1 played longer than an 8 iron from the 6100yard tees) but they can humiliate you like no other course will. It is easy to 3 putt or to end up 25’ from the hole with a half decent chip because of humps and hollows on the greens. I did like the 5th (yes vaguely Redan like but the N. Berwick hole is fairer).
3. There isn’t much rough to prevent the ball entering scrub land.... (or water)so it will usually be lost or unplayable if you slightly miss a fairway.
4. You need a buggy unless you like to combine fell walking with golf. Why oh why do lazy designers from the USA insist on spreading out courses thereby making the game even more time consuming? I am amazed that some people have walked the course! Overall this is a very difficult test of golf & this (ailing)single figure golfer who has played many tournament courses over the last 30+ years still rates it highly but the designer must have a weird sense of what enjoyment is. This track is more difficult than Royal Óbidos (because of the greens) and far more difficult than Praia del Rey - but you can walk the latter easily & it does have quite a few birdiable holes. Of the 4 courses in the area West Cliffs seemed to be the least busy, so why is this bearing in mind most reviewers rave about it? Well I’m afraid I think I know, so if you go then be prepared to feel humiliated and frustrated at times and try to laugh when you 3 putt. And to anyone who feels this review doesn’t reflect their experience then that is fair enough but it certainly was mine. Lastly it was reported to me by an employee on our visit that last years tournament for lady scratch golfers was won with a score of +18, “....and they all just hated it”!!
I feel like you are missing the point....You haven't mentioned anything about the design of the course, the way the holes play through the land, and anything about the architecture.
It seems like you had a bad two days on a golf course that is designed to show any weakness in your game. From the sounds of it, the greens seem to reward excellent shots on the right tiers or right portions and punish errant shots by running them off into bowls.
Would you like it more if you missed the green and saw your ball kick towards the hole for a tap-in? Personally I like to earn my birdies by thinking about the holes and where to miss and when to attack flag locations.
Personally I think this is a stupid review and any one shouldn't take it into account.
I disagree with the above comment as points 1-4 do cover architectural elements of the course - albeit leaning towards set-up. I’ve not played West Cliffs, but it seems a reasonable review from a paying customer that doesn’t need to be ignored as “stupid”
Nick, I agree with you. Our best score was 30points when we played off the second back tees and EVERY single player loved it
The reviewer mentions the Portuguese amateur that was played in February in 35mph winds
Nick - why don’t you write your own review that focuses on the architectural merits of the course?
I think it's okay if Trevor writes his review like that. He apparently did not have fun and was frustrated. However, it is not clear that he was frustrated because he did not score well and did not play 30 points or he was frustrated because he played well (according to his abilities) but the course is unfair and punishes good shots. I have not played West Cliffs yet, but I find this critique of difficult greens very well known (St. Andrews Castle Course). However, I think that is absolutely unfounded and unjustified. Golf can also be fun when you play well but you do not well and when a golf course shows its difficulties. That is also a design element and indicates quality.
I played westcliffs this week and I do believe the review is absolutely incorrect. However the setup of the course is not a setup for people that want to play 7 birdies a round with a 15 handicap or people that want to have a shot at the green if they hit the ball 100 yards offline. The beauty of this course lies in the nature and the difficulties it brings. It lies in the beauty of studying a course and the greens before approaching them. It lies in learning more about the course every time you play it. For me this is a humbling beauty . And if I find the possibilities to play it more often, maybe one day I will feel i conquered it, .. and that's beautiful
Whilst this is not an easy course, I don't think the review is totally fair. Firstly, this is an outstanding golf course, it is beautiful on the eye, it has wonderful, inviting drives. What it is (for me) is a true test of golf. I played it twice last year in May with 16 players (9-17 handicap) and without exception we loved it. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it incredibly unfair? No - it's just not a course for hackers and will eat them alive. Our winning score on the first round was 29 points but on the second was 37 points and we didn't play from the front tees. Yes, it's not a walking course, but so are many others in Spain and Portugal, so that shouldn't count against it. This course should be celebrated and promoted - it's a real course for real golfers - and definitely once of the best courses we have all played.
This is a tremendous course that can only get better. We played it no more than 16 months after it opened and it was in exemplary condition. There are perhaps two ordinary holes and the rest are challenging and beautifully set in scrub land and dunes near to the sea which is visible from every hole. It’s a physical course to play and next time I would take a buggy as there are some long walks between holes. I imagine high handicappers will struggle here; it is entirely unforgiving of the errant shot off fairway in which event, if you find it, you won’t have a shot. It must be at the very top of Portuguese courses. Currently there is very little housing development but this is planned and it is to be hoped that it will not detract from the current wonderful ambience.
A sneeky November trip to the Silver Coast, what's not to like!
I've just completed a second round on this Cynthia Dye masterpiece. The setting, scale and quality of this venue will just take your breath away as readily as the backdrop of the icy Atlantic Ocean which rolls onto the pristine beach below you.
West Cliffs is best described as a course beside the sea as opposed to a pure links layout, however, this does not detract from the visual splendour as you plunge and rise through pine forests, native scrubland and sand hills.
The course is best played from the fairways :), which are generous albeit requiring carries of circa 200 yards plus from the 59 (white) tees.
It is very difficult to pick out a favourite hole, the Redan style green on the 5th is a joy to behold, followed by the the back to back par 5s (6th and 7th) and the par 3 16th were upon reflection my favourite holes.
A word of advice, if you are playing as a twoball as we were, it is better to play play early morning as you are probably looking at a 5 hour plus round if you venture out on the course later in the day.
Bring spare balls and a willingness to walk as the holes are predominantly separated from one another. Buggies and motorised caddy cars are available for the less intrepid!
I've played Monte Rei which is ranked higher in many lists, Monte Rei is very good, West Cliffs is truly great. Check out this masterpiece before the word gets out
My experience of West Cliffs was a rather unfortunate one, the day we played, visibility was less than 200yds, and the second day we were due to play the round was cancelled due to the fog that has come in off the sea.
However, this course is an absolute belter, truly incredible. I’ve played most of the best courses in England now and a number of the best around the algarve, and this place is as good if not better than all of them.
Every hole has been designed cleverly and tests even the most established golfer. The greens are large, but if you miss them, you are in for a tough experience.
The par 3s are clever with a real mixture of difficulty, I found the 2nd a little underwhelming, but all of the others, especially 16 were brilliant.
If considering a trip to Portugal, you will do well to beat the trio of West Cliffs, Praia del rey and Royal Obidos. However, be aware there is little to no night life around this area and unless you’re staying in the hotel very little to do.
Had the pleasure of playing West Cliffs three times in the course of a week, and the more I played it the more enjoyable it became. As other reviewers have said, the setting on the Atlantic cliffs is stunning, in parts reminiscent of New South Wales GC in Sydney, Australia.
From the promotional photos you would perhaps think you are in for the full links experience, but this is not the case. Quite apart from there being lakes on 3, 9 and 18, there are very few holes that offer a ground route to the putting surface. Greens are large and accommodating, so the aerial route is all that is needed. The approaches were generally a bit soft and shaggy, meaning a shot landing short of the green was unilkely to hop forward and roll on to the green as you would find on a traditional links. Similarly there was not a lot of run to be had on most fairways with the ball tending to get 'stuck' on sidehill and downhill lies, which would normally run through and feed into depressions on a firm links course. This is not a criticism of the course in the slightest, it is exceptional, just don't come expecting to play links golf.
Tee shots are memorable on many holes, with visually daunting carries over scrub - choose the correct tees for your game. However the landing areas are more generous than they appear, probably due to the small amounts of playable rough to the sides - miss the edge of the fairway by more than 10 yards and your ball would generally be lost in the scrub.
Blasting away with driver usually carries a lot of risk and it is perhaps wiser to play shorter off the tee and leave a slightly longer approach in order to avoid the deadly rough.
The view from the 8th tee, played from atop a dune into the prevailing wind with a long carry over wasteland, and the green perched on the cliffs over the ocean, is particularly attractive. The 10th is also a very pretty hole, either standing on the tee or sitting on the clubhouse terrace, beer in hand.
The fairways were in excellent condition, albeit softer than anticipated as previously mentioned. The upside being no heartbreaking sideways bounces into the rough or runouts into bunkers, each shot got exactly what it deserved.
Most greens were large and undulating with ridges and depressions to be crossed for putts of more than 5-10m. Longer putts usually broke in more than one direction - fail to read the first break correctly and you can find yourself a long way from the hole.
For me the highlights were the par-3 5th & 16th and par-4 8th and 17th. I found the par-5 7th somewhat annoying, forcing a long shot from an uneven fairway over a scrub bunker that in was in some parts raked sand, in others penal scrub, without offering an alternate route to green.
Overall a fanastic challenge in a spectacular setting. Highly recommended.
Having played its neighbours on our last trip we were really looking forward to having a first taste of West Cliffs.
Managed to get there in August and enjoyed every second.
Firstly, great warm up practice area, you are unlikely to ever have views like this on a range anywhere!
It was very quiet the day we played so no pressure on the first tee. I decided to play from the third of five tee boxes. That’s 5,565 metres (or 6,100 yds). More on this later.
After 2 gentle enough holes to start, the par 4 third is a tough index 1 requiring two very precise shots to get on this green.
It’s only as you make your way around to the 4th tee box that you start to see what West Cliffs is all about. This par 4 is the start of a spectacular stretch that looks really amazing. You actually have more room than you think off the tee which is the same on a lot of holes.
The par 3 5th hole is a beauty and needs to be played to be understood – again, the bunkers seem to be dominating the green but there’s more space when you get down there.
A nice par 5 uphill (6th) is followed by another beautiful par 5 down the hill. My long straight drive down the hill found the sand which you can’t see from the tee. Personally, I don’t like par 5’s that punish your best drive, if you lay up you have no chance of reaching the green in two. That’s my only real gripe.
On to the back 9 , another great driving hole at the 10th, amazing views of the ocean.
The 13th is a strong par 5 back up hill with a very tricky green.
Amazing sea views again from the 14th. Like many holes here the tee shot is intimidating as there is a substantial carry over scrub / gorse to reach the fairway – it’s a strong feature of the course.
I was comfortably at the back of the 15th green in two but you realise then that the hole is 100 yds longer from the back tee.
Make sure you climb up to have a look at the par 3 16th from the back tee box. This is one of the most intimidating par 3’s I’ve played, albeit a lot easier from forward tees.
The 17th is a very interesting par 4 and you need to get a good drive away here to even see the green. My drive was good but still left a 6 iron to a narrow green – tough.
And finally the 18th! Fantastic par 4. From the elevated tee you can barely see the fairway and the green is distant with a lake to cross also. A long straight one still left me a 7 iron from a hanging lie which I couldn’t keep dry. A great finishing hole to a superb course.
I can sometimes play to my 9 handicap but I would only be tempted to play from the next tee box back ( 6,520 yds) if conditions were calm and I was really on my game. My advice is to play it forward and enjoy. We also took buggies and were glad of them, there are some climbs and walks.
The fairways are more generous than you first think. That said there is not much rough bordering them before you are into ‘jungle’. If you are spraying it off the tee it will be a difficult day.
I have played all the top Irish links courses and this rates up there with them even though it is very different . The design is superb and the maintenance is excellent. Nice restaurant in the big, modern clubhouse.
Our group rated West Cliffs slightly ahead of Royal Obidos. Both are better courses than Praia d’El Rey in our opinion. Having 3 courses like this right beside each other makes this a brilliant destination for a short golf trip.
All in all, West Cliffs is one of the best I have played and is likely to be one of the most memorable you will play.