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Where to Play Golf in Madeira

By: Golfshake Editor | Wed 29 Mar 2023

Madeira is a serene, visually breathtaking and welcoming paradise for all visitors, but many keen golfers are now also taking advantage of its incredible climate and fabulously scenic courses.

There is much to discover here; as David J Whyte of Linksland Golf Travel Magazine found out during a unique adventure that was captured in his feature article Discovering Madeira's Rural Golf Retreats.

Should you wish to experience Madeira for yourself, then you can see our travel partners Golfbreaks for the best information and packages.

But, if you need an extra touch of inspiration, then David has described several standout destinations that you must have on the list!

Santo da Serra Golf

Santa da Serra

Santo da Serra Golf is a splendid combination of holes that have hosted the Madeira Open no less than 20 times with the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter and Costantino Rocca gracing its lush fairways. 

Santo’s three loops were designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr. (Valderamma, SpyGlass, etc) in 1991 making good use of the area’s diverse topography. Besides some challenging holes, the course offers amazing views of the Desertas Islands across the sparkling Atlantic Ocean to the south or the sometimes snow-crested ‘Pico do Arieiro’ mountains to the north. 

Palheiro Golf

Palheiro Golf

Palheiro Golf is just a short drive away, an 18-hole track that winds and weaves through its own ‘Nature Estate’ with astonishing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Funchal below, for sure one of the most striking clubhouse views anywhere!

The golf course is also most interesting! The agronomy sometimes doesn’t fall in line with the pristine courses we’re used to but it more than makes up for ‘rough patches’ in intricacy and sheer, shot-shaping enjoyment. The 1st is a climb and there are a few other steady ascents so a buggy is recommended. 

Palheiro isn’t long but it’s full of intrigue! The 4th is a fine example, a short, uphill par 4 with the green hidden in a valley. Off the tee, if you hit the ‘speed slot’, you could tumble down and onto the green. But more likely, you’ll find one of a half-dozen defending bunkers!

Each and every hole here has its own unique character. You could play this course forever and never get bored! After golf, if you’ve got the energy, take a stroll through the Palheiro Nature Estate. But most definitely, book lunch or dinner at the clubhouse. The food and service are superlative and the view, especially at sunset is simply a Madeira ‘must-do’ for golfers and non-golfers alike. 

Porto Santo

Porto Santo

There was only one more golfing venue to sample and this was my favourite. From Funchal, you sail to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo in 2.5-hours aboard the ‘Lobo Marhina’ leaving port at 8am most mornings. Settle down in the dining room for a ‘Full English’ (or the Portuguese equivalent) and do the same on the way back, only this time dinner - the ideal way to spend the crossing. 

The island of Porto Santo is where Madeirans and mainland Portuguese take their summer breaks enjoying one of the best golden beaches in the world, the special sand renowned for its health-giving properties. 

Porto Santo is also where Christopher Columbus made his base for his trans-Atlantic voyages of discovery, marrying the daughter of the island’s first governor and building a house on the island. You can see what remains of it alongside a dedicated museum. 

But it was the golf course that we’d come to discover. Seve Ballesteros laid out this venue on the slopes surrounding Pico Ana Ferreira back in the early 2000s. It’s completely different from the other two courses; more links-like with wind being a consistent factor. 

The front 9 has some strong tests, long and open with a couple of peevish par 3s thrown in. You might think you have the measure of this course until you arrive at the 13th where the ensuing holes cling to the cliff’s edge, absolutely stunning and should take their place among Europe’s best. Again, wind is a major factor in how you play them, especially on the two par 3s, the 13th and 15th. But it’s how much you bite off at the 14th, a dogleg right that will linger long in the memory. If you play it wisely, it’s a bonus to set up a good position to take on the green. Get greedy and it’s an awkward second shot from a devious waste area to get back up to the dance floor. 

There’s also an excellent driving range here at Porto Santo and a testing little par 3 course. Porto Santo Golf Club also offers one of the best clubhouse restaurants, worth booking for lunch or an evening meal. Chef Daniel Rodriguez Mendez, otherwise known as 'Gato' (which means 'cat' due to his unusually pale blue eyes) is from Uruguay and has a real passion for cooking, clearly evident in his excellent dishes. 

New Horizons

There's big news for Madeira: a new golf course is on the way! Set on the westernmost tip of the main island, Ponta do Pargo promises great views and some exciting golf. 

At the beginning of this project, Sir Nick Faldo visited the site four times to plan out his ‘tour de force’. The project has stalled but it seems to be back on track and hopefully this fourth course will open in a couple of years. It’s clearly going to be another visual stunner thanks to its dramatic cliffside location. With nothing between Ponta do Pargo and South Carolina, wind will be this course’s main defence. 

Related Content

Discovering Madeira's Rural Golf Retreats

Why Madeira is a Special Destination For Golf

Golf And Culture Combines in Magical Madeira

Golf Paradise of Madeira Has Best Beaches

Golf Guide to Madeira

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