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Top 50 Golf Courses of Portugal 2020

22 January, 2020

Top 50 Golf Courses of Portugal 2020

There’s no doubt that Portugal punches above its weight in the European golf course rankings. For a country with only 75 golf facilities and just over 15,000 registered golfers, it still manages to showcase eleven of its courses in our Continental Europe Top 100 – proving that quality, not quantity, is what really counts.

Of course, if it wasn’t for Henry Cotton’s Championship course at Penina back in 1966 – followed by the subsequent outbreak of golfing activity in the Algarve thereafter – then the sport of golf would be even further down the tourism pecking order and visitor income would probably have gone elsewhere on the Iberian peninsula.

As it stands, half the courses in our Portuguese regional listings emanate from the Algarve (30, to be precise), followed by the much under-rated Lisbon and Centre area (18), with the remaining layouts shared across Porto & North (6), Madeira & Porto Santo (3) and the Azores (2). Once all the contenders are pooled, we then go about the process of extracting what we consider to be the best fifty for our national chart.

Heading our revised Portuguese table, we have the North course at Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design in the eastern Algarve that first appeared back in 2007. It entered our listings at No. 4 twelve months after opening, before moving to the top spot in 2010 and it’s ruled the roost in that position ever since. Review remarks from last year included; “possibly the most enjoyable and challenging track I’ve played… it may be a bit of a drive from the usual hotspots [but] it most certainly warrants any time spent getting there… an outstanding, world-class course”.

Monte Rei - North course

Nicklaus Design began work on the new South course last summer and this layout will, in the words of Jack Nicklaus, “not only complement the spectacular North course but will also meet the high standards the development team has established.” Carlos Lopez, a board member at Monte Rei, also commented: “We provide an exceptional golf experience and the second course will be designed and built to the same world-class standard.”

The course at West Cliffs entered our Top 50 two years ago at #2 and it retains its runner-up status in this chart edition. Situated an hour’s drive north of Lisbon on the spectacular Silver Coast, it’s a Cynthia Dye McGarey and Matt McGarey layout that was unveiled three years ago, boasting sweeping views of the Atlantic from most of the holes. Players are advised to stay focused on the job in hand, as this is a course built to challenge serious golfers, where the undulating greens and run off areas are particularly testing.

West Cliffs

Three courses make noteworthy two-place upward moves near the chart summit.

The first of these is the Praia and Lagos nines at Palmares Golf, close to Portimão (at #5), which Robert Trent Jones Jr. remodelled a decade ago. Visitors shouldn’t unduly overlook the Alvor nine either, as it’s a loop well worth tackling on the more hilly part of the property and a great complement to the two nines that comprise the 18-hole layout of first choice.

Palmares Golf & Beach Resort

The other two climbers in question within the Top 10, the South course (at #6) and the North course (at #10) at the Quinta do Lago resort, were originally laid out in the mid-1970s and they’ve since been joined by the Laranjal course (also rising two places to #13) to form a mightily impressive 54-hole complex that also features the Paul McGinley Golf Academy and Portugal’s only TaylorMade Performance Centre.

Quinta do Lago - South course

In the lower half of the new standings, Ribagolfe (1) soars fourteen places to No. 29. Set within a big, cork oak forest some fifty kilometres east of Lisbon city centre, this is a championship-standard track from European Golf Design that was built with tournament golf in mind and, sure enough, it was used for the European Tour Qualifying School in 2009 and 2010.

Ribagolfe - No.1 course

The course at CampoReal broke into our Portuguese chart two years ago at No. 48 and it now surges a further nine places higher to No.39. Designed by Martin Ebert when he worked with Donald Steel, the layout lies inside a large estate that’s characterised by rolling terrain and steep, wooded valleys. The club hosted the Ladies Portugal Open on the Ladies European Tour in 2010 and 2011.

There are four new entries in this edition of the Top 50.

New at No. 40, the 18-hole layout at Santo Estêvão is another Donald Steel production from 2004 which is set in the fertile rolling landscape of the Northern Alentejo region. Measuring 6,400 metres from the tips and playing to a par of 73, the course is routed around a 180-acre property located just to the north of the Ribagolfe complex.

Santo Estêvão

Debuting at No. 43, the Ribagolfe (2) course is the shorter and wider layout at the 36-hole Ribagolfe facility. Operated by Orizonte Lisbon Golf – which also looks after the 18-hole courses at Quinta do Peru, Aroeira, and Santo Estêvão – this European Golf Design track was fashioned with input from former Walker Cup and Ryder Cup player Michael King.

Ribagolfe No.2 course

New at #46, the main 18-hole course at Estoril is one of the most historically important in the country. The original 9-hole layout was completed by Jean Gassiat in 1929 then Philip Mackenzie Ross added another nine in 1945, the year that the club was founded. This course proceeded to host twenty editions of the Open de Portugal between 1953 and 1987. In the modern era, fairways are set out on either side of the main A5 highway, linked by a bridge spanning the busy road.

Estoril Golf Club

The final newcomer enters at #48, and it’s the course at the Quinta do Vale Golf Resort in the southeast district of the Algarve, next to the border with Spain. Interestingly, it’s a Seve Ballesteros design that’s configured with six par threes, six par fours and six par fives, and the same par is never repeated at consecutive holes. Opened in 2008, it has maintained a very low profile in a quiet corner of the country but maybe it’s about time it became better known.

Quinta do Vale


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 50 Golf Courses of Portugal click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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