Penha Longa Resort Review
You don’t get a much better setting in Portugal than at the Penha Longa Resort where a luxurious hotel and accompanying 27-hole golf course nestles in the middle of one of Europe’s most spectacular parks.
The views, peace and quiet in the heart of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is truly uplifting and it is hard to believe it is a mere 40 minutes drive from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, the nation’s capital city.
It isn’t surprising that the area attracted monks in 1355 who established a monastery here for its solitude. Moorish settlers, the Portuguese royal family, and these days, tourists and golfers from all over the world have also succumbed to its charms over the years.
The Atlantic Championship Course
There is a nine-hole layout named the Monastery at the Penha Longa Resort, but golfers flock here to play the course laid out by Robert Trent Jones Jr 30 years ago in 1992.
It has become a firm favourite for those visiting the Lisbon area and enjoyed for its design and isolation as it weaves its way through the hilly, wooded landscape that makes the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park so appealing.
A renovation project started last year to restore bunkers, and to reseed some of the fairways with Bermuda, while at the same time adding improved drainage, and completely revitalising a number of holes.
While golfers may well be disappointed if they are looking for pristine tee boxes and lush, carpet-like fairways, the course conditions are certainly improving. During my visit in September 2022, the greens were excellent, having recovered from a fungal infection which had caused problems in recent years and fairways vastly better than I remember them from my last visit about 10 years ago.
If you enjoy a challenging course with lots of interest and elevation changes then you will find plenty among the many strong holes here. When the wind gets up you certainly need to think about where you want to hit the ball.
The course sets off with a couple of rather straight-forward par fours along fairways cut within the dense woodland. Mature trees abound so the need to keep it straight immediately outweighs the requirement for distance.
It’s not far before the first hill comes into play - the 3rd is a dogleg left where a long iron to the turning point is followed by a steep climb to a large green surrounded by bunkers.
The following hole appears to be at the most elevated part of the course and OB down the left can ruin an over zealous drive.
Following a downhill par three the most memorable hole appears- a par five with the green tucked behind a small lake with an ancient aqueduct running behind on the other side. This is a really nice hole. If you avoided the water on the 6th, you get no respite at the following par three where another pond runs down the full length of the right before jutting out agonisingly close to the green.
The course continues through the trees and passes a number of villas before heading off into the hills for a terrific finale, starting with a very tricky and long par three 15th. Over water from an elevated tee invariably into the prevailing breeze, this is the hardest test so far.
The 16th is possibly its equal in terms of challenge. The tee is perched high above a narrow tree-lined fairway below in the distance, while the green itself is elevated, demanding a well thought out approach shot.
The 17th continues the theme - a difficult downhill par three from yet another elevated tee.
A lovely scenic par five set in front of the hotel completes a roller-coaster round.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel oozes class throughout, from modern, spacious bedrooms and suites to the six restaurants and beautifully presented public rooms, decorated with some eye-catching artwork. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable and service befits the genuinely five-star environment at every turn.
Its setting is also fabulous, the hotel sits in the valley amid the forested hillsides and is adjacent to the lovely monastery.
For non golfers there is a spa, indoor and outdoor pool and a host of outdoor activities in the surrounding unspoilt countryside.
Its location lends itself perfectly for day trips to the palaces of Sintra and the other world heritage sites in the area.
A special mention too for the contemporary, classy clubhouse with a terrace overlooking the course and home to Arola, a very good restaurant.
Sintra National Park
Golf may be the main reason for a short break at Penha Longa for many but it appeals to others who like to blend time on the fairways with off-course activities and exploring the locality. The hotel is a mere 15 minutes drive from the old town of Sintra, the centre of the park’s many attractions.
The fascinating town is well worth a wander in its own right, containing the National Palace of Sintra and is the base for visiting the many other colourful palaces, gardens and historic homes that dot the surrounding hills.
Guided tours can be booked through the hotel concierge while other guests follow their own itineraries, in which case a rental car is recommended. In order to visit the famous Park and National Palace of Pena, a short taxi or tuk-tuk ride from the town up the hill is a requirement due to parking restrictions. You will also need to pre-book a time slot as it gets very busy.
Deeper into the heart of the mountain forest lies the retreat, the Convent of the Capuchos. All of these attractions are well worth a visit.
Penha Longa is a perfect retreat for those looking for a luxurious self contained break in the hills of Sintra. The hotel has everything you could ask for and it is an ideal venue for couples in particular who enjoy golf, the finer things in life and love exploring.
Non-resident golfers are catered for too, so playing the course alone is an option for those looking to pit their wits on a number of courses in the area.
It is near enough to Lisbon making it within easy reach of the airport as well as the cultural delights of the capital.
The golf course has a classic layout which can be enjoyed by all standards of player.
Recent investment targeting the renovation of the bunkers and the resurfacing of several fairways is paying off and improvements are already apparent.
*The resort offers a number of packages throughout the year.
Visit https://www.parquesdesintra.pt/en/ for full details of the palaces and gardens of Sintra
*Holiday Extras is a market leader in UK airport parking, hotels, lounges, and transfers. Booking Airport Parking in advance means you can enjoy more holiday with less hassle and save money. Plus with Flextras, if you need to cancel or amend you can - without charge. At Manchester, seven days’ Meet and Greet Parking at T1 is available from £66.99. To book, visit HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 316 5678. Price searched on 20th October 2022 for arrival on 26th November.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)