Golf on the Silver Coast
By Cathal Dervan
If you’re an Irish golfer who likes to play the best courses in Portugal then you’ve got to meet Miguel, the starter at the wonderful West Cliffs on the Silver Coast. Miguel looks like a member of a ZZ Top tribute band and is clearly a man who gives this brilliant Cynthia Dye designed links all of his loving. He knows golf. And he knows how good this 18 hole test is, just an hour north of Lisbon and close to the sprawling Praia D’El Rey resort that offers golf, surfing and good times. There’s an Irish connection to West Cliffs and Miguel’s story about the young professional Brendan McCarroll, currently plying his trade on the EuroPro tour, sums up this dream of a course. On a recent visit with his coach to West Cliffs, Brendan stopped for a chat with Miguel after their first round together.
“The coach told me this is the perfect place for Brendan to practise and learn his craft because of the quality of the course,” said Miguel before the killer line. “But it is the test presented that his coach feels makes this perfect for a young professional. The course makes you think about the next two shots, not just the next shot. “That is priceless for a young player learning the ropes.”
That summation is also perfect. A links by nature and by design, West Cliffs will test every club in your bag and every cell in your brain. You cannot just grip it and rip it here – the flora will swallow your Pro V1 if you try that approach. The course is more user friendly these days – handicaps up to 16 are now recommended to play the 5,500 metre layout – and the growth after over a year in play has made the challenge even more tempting.
But West Cliffs is serious golf that deserves a visit. That the vista is quite incredible – stop for a second on the 13th green and look out to sea – makes it all the more alluring. There’s not a weak hole on the course and no weakness when it comes to the welcome from the clubhouse staff and pro shop staff. You can play West Cliffs on holiday and you should but this is not holiday golf. It is golf as good as it gets.
The good news for those looking for a break in the sunshine as high season begins in Portugal is that West Cliffs is not the only great course in the area. Royal Obidos, the Seve Ballesteros design that almost shares a fairway with West Cliffs, is right next door and brilliant. A very different challenge to the almost pure links of West Cliffs, Royal Obidos is everything a modern golf course should be. It is long with big greens, great par threes, a couple of stunning and demanding par fives, pin positions that can deserve a prison sentence at times and a real challenge. Like West Cliffs, Royal Obidos deserves to be played at least once but once you go there you will want to go back, time and time again.
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and there is enough variety of the golfing nature to make the Silver Coast a really viable destination for a short golf break. Praia D’El Rey is a resort course with true links holes on the back nine that skirt along the captivating shoreline and put this course on the ‘to play’ list but be aware that sea fog can be an issue here. Bom Successo is the fourth course in this little part of heaven and it is a very different challenge to any of the three already mentioned. For a start you need to get a buggy – a walk here wouldn’t be recommended after a night of Portuguese wine and cuisine. And shut out the development work on site, some of it finished and some of it in the ghost estate bracket. This is a European Tour property going through a revival with a feel like many of the Algarve courses so popular with Irish golf tourists. The back nine is the stronger of the two but it is less of a challenge than West Cliffs or Royal Obidos and that’s no bad thing on a four or five day break.
Away from golf, the Silver Coast has a charming fortified town called Obidos that is well worth a night out and a surf resort called Peniche that is home to fish restaurant Xakra that is out of this world. But you will need a car and an enquiring mind. Coming out of Bom Successo we spotted a sign for a bar on the Obidos Lagoon.
Sitting out in the sunshine, drinking red Alentejo wine, counting scores and slagging duffed shots is the stuff of dreams – life doesn’t get much better than a golfing trip to the Silver Coast.
Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper, available online at www.thesun.ie, and presenter of the Weekend Sports Breakfast podcast available on iTunes and across all android devices. He can be reached on Twitter at @irlsport
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