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.
Date: June 26, 2019