West Cliffs is set to become Cynthia Dye's global masterpiece

West Cliffs is set to become Cynthia Dye’s global masterpiece

The Top 100 Team has been fortunate to travel widely over the years to check out the very latest updates to existing layouts or to attend many new course openings. The recent trip to see the much-anticipated West Cliffs course on Portugal’s West Coast was predicted to be one of the best – and it was!

West Cliffs golf course Portugal

We were very privileged to be invited to preview this course a week ahead of the official opening date of 12th June 2017 and I was there with other representatives from various golf publications and tour operators to find out more about what we’d heard in advance was ‘something very special’.

This certainly turned out to be a very true statement as West Cliffs for me is breath-taking in places, one of the very best courses I’ve seen in a long while. It lies on Portugal’s Silver Coast and it already looks picture perfect, which is hard to imagine considering just a few years ago the terrain was covered in dense pine groves, rolling sand dunes and wild vegetation.

Cynthia Dye tees off at West Cliffs

Indeed, course designer Cynthia Dye said of the original site, “Seriously, you could have got lost in there when we first came here”.

The job to create a top-end course and at the same time maintain an unspoiled natural landscape has been a monumental achievement. The ocean can be viewed from all around the course and what you see from most tees is an expanse of impressive bunkering and natural wasteland with brilliant holes laid out in between.

This is the first Dye-designed course in Portugal and the bar has been set very high for any others that might follow in the future. Cynthia, the niece of the great Pete Dye, has done a terrific job at West Cliffs which truly complements the family name, incorporating more than a hint of Uncle Pete’s Whistling Straits into the design.

West Cliffs golf course

The front nine is very demanding – every single shot has such a high tariff and mistakes are severely punished on these ‘Dyeabolical’ holes – especially from the stroke index one 3rd hole onwards. This hole is rather scary from the tee, with water all the way down the right side, wasteland to the left and an undulating fairway with a huge sand dune sited in the middle, around 120 yards from the green.

Other noteworthy holes on the outward half include the par three 5th and par five 7th – the 5th is not that long (190 yards max) but the greensite and bunkering are magnificent, surrounding a massive, undulating green. The 7th hole is certainly the toughest par five on the course, rolling downhill, turning left, then crossing wasteland before climbing to a raised green – par is a very good score here!

West Cliffs golf course

The back nine is more playable in my opinion, certainly my scorecard said so. There are still elevation changes but they’re not as dramatic as on some of the early holes. The key holes are the 13th and 14th – a par five then a par four running parallel to each other – and these are two very good-looking holes. Bold bunkering and wasteland areas are still the big themes here but the wild flowering around the holes is also a big feature.

The tee shots at the par three 16th and the closing hole are a bit special too – the 16th from the very back tee is brutal; uphill, through a small gap between trees and sand dunes to a heavily bunkered green. The 18th hole affords a big finish to a memorable round, requiring a carry from the elevated tee over wasteland and sand hills, then an accurate approach to the home green which butts up to the lake next to the clubhouse.

West Cliffs 18th tee

There are a few clichéd terms that come into use when describing golf courses, ‘stunning’ being the one that we read all too often. At West Cliffs, however, it will never be an over-used word because that is just what this course is! Obviously, I’ve seen it on day one so there’s still plenty of room for improvement over the coming years, once it has bedded in, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this will become a modern classic, with the potential to be ranked very highly in Portugal and Continental Europe.

West Cliffs Resort will be managed by the nearby Praia D'El Rey Resort, already one of the country’s premier golf resorts and those high standards will be mirrored at West Cliffs. There’s a myriad of accommodation options; townhouses and villas but the Marriott Hotel at Praia del Rey will probably be the choice for most golfers visiting.

The Lisbon/Central region of the country always has been a serious golf destination, even more so now with the arrival of this absolute ‘must-play’ course.

Thanks to The Azalea Group, Praia Del Rey and Monarch Airlines for making this trip so successful and the message from me is to play West Cliffs sooner rather than later.

“Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights to Lisbon from Birmingham, London Gatwick and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £42 one way (£76 return) - For further information please visit www.monarch.co.uk

Andy Newmarch
Top 100 Golf Courses