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.
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!
I had read all the reviews and couldn’t wait to play this highly regarded new golf course and in the two key areas expectation met up with reality. The layout and challenging nature of the course across ideal seaside and wooded terrain was outstanding, and the views out to sea and beauty of the on-course nature surrounds are probably as stunning as I have ever witnessed on a golf course. Most of the holes reflect the very best of modern design with the back-to-back par 5s on the front nine and the par 4 18th from a raised tee leaving unforgettable memories.
The golf course has been in existence for little more than 2 years and already suffers from heavy course traffic which means that it’s condition is good but not yet top class. It is pleasing to see a relatively modest green fee for such a prestigious new course, plus the opportunity for nearby Praia del Rey members to include it in their membership package, but it does mean that the course will take time to reach a perfect level of upkeep.
I do have a few minor gripes which prevent me giving West Cliffs the sort of rating which being No.2 in the Portuguese rankings (and only behind the clearly superior Monte Rei) I feel it should have, namely:
1. The par3s are all good holes, but not in any way memorable ones. From the ‘55 tees, which I suggest will be the most commonly used, they are all of similar length, and rather featureless.
2. The course is a long slog unless you are in a buggy, with many lengthy hikes between holes.
3. The greens, in my humble opinion, are over-designed with many undulations which make them extremely tricky for any but the best golfers. Fast greens are good but in places some of the slopes and run-offs are too severe, there is nothing wrong with flatter greens which reward good putting.
4. I fear that the wonderful ambience of the course is going to be destroyed by encroaching property development. Driving from the first tee to the cacophony of building noise on some adjacent developments was a shame, and seems to be a sign of a lot more to come.
I started by stating that this golfing land is very special and that the overall course design is clever and hugely challenging. I feel that if my concerns are properly addressed, or prove unfounded, in the coming years, please remember this is still a very young layout, then West Cliffs could become one of the best tracks in Europe.
I am clearly not as masochistic as some of the other reviewers here and I found West Cliffs somewhat of a slog. My review may be somewhat clouded by the fact that I carried my bag around the course which was an unedifying experience. I am not sure why the course has been routed the way it is. Whether the plan is to gradually fill in the gaps between the holes with houses (blah) or an attempt to maximise sea-views (I could understand that) I am not sure, but the course fails completely as a walking course. For some people that is no big deal, I know lots of courses in the area are similar but that does not mean its a good thing in my book. I really don't like taking a buggy but I probably would if I was back. Unfortunately the long, uphill walks between nearly every hole is my major memory of the course. Now, there are lots of good things about the course, there are lots of elevation changes, doglegs and a variety of shots needed, although there is sadly not a whole lot of room for the ground game. Most of the greens were sitting up or had to be approached via the aerial route so its target golf on half-linksy terrain. In some ways its like the Cashen Course at Ballybunion. The fairways are reasonably wide and you need to think about where to drive the ball but if you are off the fairway then its quite likely your ball is lost as these areas are covered in ankle height heather / scrub. The good news you will probably find as many balls as you lose. As has been said before the views are indeed amazing. I wonder if in time the natural look will be spoiled by more and more houses (like Praia down the road) so get there while you can. I would say the beauty of the area will become more and more sterile as the place is developed. It is a very challenging course and perhaps the low handicapper will enjoy it more than the average teen-handicap golfer. Take care in choosing your teebox and go at least one teebox shorter than you would normally take. There are 2/3 holes that require very long carries to get to the fairway with certain doom if you don't carry over 200 yards, depending on the wind. Overall I was a little disappointed in the course based on all the other positive reviews but it is certainly worth a visit if in the Lisbon area. Perhaps if I was in a buggy I might have enjoyed it more, but the long and arduous routing for walkers, the target/aerial nature of most of the green approaches took something away from the beautiful views. It's eye-candy golf but not my cup of tea.
Played here in early September, unfortunately on a rather grey day. Still, West Cliffs did not disappoint. The clubhouse and restaurant are lovely and the range is excellent. The little short game area is good, but limited to the shortest of pitches. But it represents the course well and what you will face later on.
We played as a two-ball in a buggy. Sadly, given the terrain and sometimes long walks between holes, I think a buggy is advisable. You could try a trolley but I wouldn't want to carry my bag.
This is no doubt a strong course with the propensity to beat you up if you fail to hit the fairway. The native land (similar to Monte Rei on the Algarve) is quite unforgiving and you might not find your ball, let alone have a shot. Take your medicine.
The day I played wasn't overly windy but when the wind is up, this course will be a test for your long game.
One thing to note, you should pick your tees well. We played of the 55s (or 59s) and enjoyed them. Listen to the starter and don't bite off too much. There are a number of forced carries that will make things hard for the higher handicapper off the tee. Pick your tees.
The greens are fine, often ample in size and offering different ways to reach them. They are quite undulating which sometimes leads to tricky long putts and iron shots rolling off if they don't fall into the right spot. I'm not a huge fan of too much undulation of the greens, especially when it comes to long par 3s or approach shots.
This is not a links course, more a course by the sea as I've read in earlier reviews. The setting is magnificent and you can catch the 'silver' sea from many points of the course. The nature around the course is gorgeous.
Overall, I very much enjoyed my round and will for sure come back. This is probably a place that you need to play a few times before getting the hang of it and given the wind conditions will throw various challenges at you.
I did not play the other courses in the area but combined I'm sure this part of Portugal is a destination in its own right and offers something different to the Algarve.
West Cliffs Golf Links is part of a larger development that will ultimately include housing and a 5 star hotel. With Royal Obidos, and Praia D'el Rey in the immediate vicinity, this area just an hour north of Lisbon is becoming a golfing mecca.
West Cliffs is sited on one of the most attractive golfing sites I have encountered. It has sea views from most, if not all holes – as well as holes though sand dunes, others through pine trees – and all surrounded by lush colourful ground cover, umbrella pines, exposed sand & rocks. It’s a heady combination!
Apart from the par 5’s which are strong but fair, the course can be incredibly tight in places. The starter will encourage you to play off shorter tees than you might normally experience – the tees are numbered in reference to the length they play- 5,500 metres becomes 55. Sounds short, right?
I would normally play off 6000+, but 55 was the ideal tee for me. The carries off longer tees can sometimes be challenging but it is the accuracy rather than length that is the major issue.
However the real key is that greens are smallish and very well protected – you really need to be hitting a short iron approach, or be very accurate with your longer clubs. If you can adjust to playing the shorter course you will most likely have an entertaining round.
However – even when you hit greens making putts is no given – the greens are busy!
West Cliffs Golf Links is a refreshingly modern links course unlike anything I have seen. The sandy seaside setting is gorgeous. My only reservation about the course is that perhaps the greens and approach shots are perhaps just too demanding, hence the need to play off shorter tees. That aside I think it is brilliant, and worth repeat plays.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I played West Cliffs twice in April 2018, the second round was a swap from the original booking on Praia del Rey, which we had also played. Its that good.
First play is a real 'wow' experience. Second time around you can start to get to grips with it but for us it was blowing a gale, which made it extremely difficult.
Amazing views around the course and would definitely play again on a calmer weather day.
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.