Praia D’el Rey, located on Portugal’s Silver Coast, about an hour north of Lisbon, is the twenty-year older sister course to the stunning recent addition, West Cliffs. It’s a mature residential community and resort that has been well planned, tastefully executed, and is always well maintained.
There are a lot of places where the terrain and hole design changes so dramatically from one nine to the other that it simply doesn’t work. Indeed, Praia D’ el Rey is a course of two vastly different nines. Both effortlessly blend tight inland holes that wind through pines forest, reminding me of places like Woburn or Woodall Spa in the UK. Together with rugged and expansive ocean holes like those on the California or Oregon Coasts.
That said, the 2nd and 11th are quirkily holes that don’t seem to belong, one a steeply downhill par five over a reservoir, the other a steeply uphill par three where the ball is liable to come back to you if you don’t make the 190 yards carry to the putting surface. Still, that leaves sixteen fine holes to enjoy. From the 10th through the 17th, except for the 11th, you will see the ocean and no doubt feel it as well, for wind is a constant factor on the back nine, whereas the trees tend to hide it on the majority of the front nine except for the 2-4th which are exposed. On the back, nine five holes run along the coast, and each is better than the next, offering exciting shots and plenty of photo ops. Then 18th heads back inland with a long dogleg right through the trees.
The 4th is a short uphill links style hole to a green perched high on a dune giving you a little taste of what you’ll find on the back nine. The 6th hole, played from a high tee, is a tight dogleg right through a shoot of trees that leaves an exacting second shot with a mid-iron to a tiny green protected on either side by bunkers. The 8th is a beautiful par 3, some 190 yards from a tee, raised twenty feet above the green and played over a picturesque pond to a severely undulating green. The 9th is a long par 4 with a tight drive through threes. Right is out of bounds, so you will naturally want to error left.
The Rugged Ocean Holes Are Stunning
Where the course to simply meander its way through the rugged sandy wastes of the pine forest, you would not be disappointed as you commune quietly with nature. But on the back nine, the course takes on a whole new persona with the ocean holes, which run from the 12th through the 17th. The long par four 12th is a dogleg left, usually into the teeth of the wind. Its green nestled in the dunes gives you the first real taste of this beautifully rugged coastline. The 180-yard par 3, 14th, with its abandoned fisherman’s shack overlooking the ocean, is not only a fine par 3 but the most photographed hole on the course. The 15th is my favorite hole, a mid-length par 4 that heads downhill towards the lagoon. The 16th is the same hole in reverse, going steeply uphill. While the 17th is a tremendous uphill par five where you must decide from the tee how much of the large dunes you can bite off from a tee set high in the dunes to get optimum length on this dogleg left. The fairway gets narrower and narrower for your second until you reach the green set majestically in the dunes. Then the course dives back into the pines for a strong par 4 finish that doglegs right and demands a long and accurate second to a green guarded by wild brush on three sides. From the 18th green, head straight to the clubhouse’s large verandah overlooking the 10th tee and brood over the ones that got away while celebrating the ones that didn’t.
I have stayed in many Marriott hotels worldwide, and I can tell you categorically that this is my favorite. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with a pristine beach, large rooms, plus a beautiful pool and patio area, it’s easy to see why. It exudes the feel of a five-star hotel on its looks alone, nor does the food disappoint.
At a glance:
- Fun, playable course an hour from Lisbon
- Nice pro shop
- Great food on the verandah overlooking the 10th hole
- Excellent cliff top Marriott hotel on site
- Decent driving range
- Amazing sister course West Cliffs, five minutes away plus two others within a few minute’s drive
- Great international membership
- Very reasonable pricing