For decades European golfers have flocked to the Algarve to play the likes of Quinta De Logo, Vale de Lobo, San Lorenzo, and Monte Rei. I am lucky enough to have played them all, and none compares in natural beauty, stunning views, or memorable holes as a course I recently discovered a few hundred miles north on Portugal’s Silver Coast.
The Silver Coast is a beautifully rugged coastal region stretching almost 200 miles across the country’s western coastline between Lisbon and Porto. It’s home to charming seaside towns, hilltop cities, and stunning beaches. The region gets its name from the effect of the sun on the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Make No Mistake About It West Cliffs is a Player’s Golf Course
West Cliff, located just an hour from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, is a player’s golf course. It features multiple forced carries, penal undergrowth, undulating terrain, and holes that demand every shot in your bag. That’s before you count the effect of the wind. So it’s no wonder many locals prefer their sister course, Praia D’El Rey equally beautiful although far less demanding. The course is very much links like, although not a true links, the turf is a little springier than you would find at St Andrews or Royal Birkdale. However, the undergrowth and the wind are a match for any British links and then some.
The course was designed by Cynthia Dye, niece of the Legendary Architect Pete Dye. It boasts a magnificent view of the Atlantic.
Ocean from just about every hole. Looking across the course with its sandy scrubland, pine trees, and coastal vegetation, it reminds me very much of Spyglass or Spanish Bay in Carmel, California. Only you could play here for a week for the cost of a single round at either of those courses. It is an insanely good value!
There is No Let Up to The Challenge or The Beauty
The shortish uphill Par 4, 1st, and short par 3, 2nd lull you into a false sense of security because the 3rd is a bear. A long par 4 with OB left and a lake down the entire right side. The par 3, 5th is all carry and a good 180 yards to a redan style green that slopes from front to back and is guarded on the left by a carnivorous bunker. The 6th and 7th are both par fives which at 569 and 587 yards from the back tees are long even if the 7th is downhill. The 8th and 9th are both birdie opportunities, but the 9th is a demanding tee shot with a sharp dogleg left around a lake with deep bunkers guarding both sides of the fairways.
The back 9 continues with one stand-out hole after another. The 10th hole pictured at the start is a short dogleg left, par 4, heading straight at the Ocean, but with a severely sloping right to left fairway, missing it is not an option.
The 11th is a strong par 4 running parallel to the Ocean with the left side of the green hidden by a giant sand dune to all who do not find the right side of the fairway with their tee shot. The short par 4, 14th is another visual stunner with far more fairway than is visible from the tee.
The last four holes are the toughest on the course a long par five, two long fours, and a par 3 that offers nothing but heartache for anyone not hitting the green with a forced carry of some 170 yards over a ravine. The 17th is a tricky, long par 4, uphill then down dogleg that leaves a long blind second over a giant sand dune if you don’t hit a perfect drive. It’s maybe the one hole that needs some tweaking.
Talk about a strong finish. You’ll be reaching for your camera again on 18 tees as the long fairway meanders down to the Atlantic behind the green. While the hole may be downhill, it heads right back into the wind, and you will often be hitting a long iron or hybrid for your approach, off a downhill lie to a green guarded by a lake and plenty of sand.
Beauty and the Beast
The course is an assault on the senses with its sweeping views of the Atlantic, Berlengas Islands, and Obidos Lagoon. Its beauty and the beast both very playable and yet totally unforgiving. The landing areas are generous but seem intimidating from the tee, even more so when the wind gets up. The colors are intense, deep blues, dark greens, and brilliant white sands blended like the canvas of an old master. The course seems natural in its environment, and indeed, very little earth was moved to build the course. Said architect Cynthia Dye, “The course was just waiting for us.”
One critical test I always put to a course is how many holes do you remember a week or a month later? At West Cliffs, there will be many, for no matter how you score, it’s a course you won’t soon forget and one you’ll have a portfolio of amazing pictures to look back on.
The hilltop, walled city of Obidos, just twenty-five minutes from the course, is a must-visit with its charming bars, boutiques, and restaurants. Walk the walls and enjoy the views like a medieval king. Nor should you miss the beautiful Obidos Lagoon.
At a Glance:
- World-class layout
- Amazing views, a photo op on almost every hole
- Beautiful conditioning
- Excellent clubhouse with a panoramic veranda
- Great food
- Good driving range
- Walkable, but some hikes between tees
- Insanely affordable for the quality
- Praia D’Ely Ray Marriott and sister course minutes away is an excellent place to stay
- Visit Obidos castle and the lagoon
- Only an hour from Lisbon