What Makes Cascais Among Portugal's Best Golf Destinations
If I was asked to recommend the three top bases to golfers holidaying in Portugal, Cascais would be there alongside Vilamoura and Lagos. All are perfect destinations offering a good number of quality golf courses within easy reach and each is a vibrant hub offering endless bars, restaurants and accommodation of all shapes and sizes.
Each one has a different vibe, while Cascais has the added attraction of being within easy reach of Lisbon, 40 minutes away by a regular and excellent train service that runs daily between the two until the early hours.
Another good thing about Cascais is its climate. Hot summers are tempered by a cooling Atlantic breeze that allows for all year round golf including in the height of summer when the Algarve tends to be too hot for play, even for the British!
This means if you plan carefully you might be able to enjoy off course treats too such as the Caiscais CoolJazz Festival staged in July each year.
A recent bonus for golfers is the introduction of the Cascais Digital Golf Passport which allows for seamless booking of all of the seven courses in the area.
Golf is good here and the collection of courses make for a very enjoyable break.
I had been wanting to play Oitavos Dunes for some time so I was glad to get the opportunity of playing there this summer.
This course has been high up in the rankings of top Portuguese layouts since its inauguration in 2001 and it has to be on the list for anybody wanting a challenge.
Often affected by the coastal wind that blows off the Atlantic along this part of the coast, it can be certainly difficult - a two or three club wind is very much a possibility.
I’d guess that appeals to those looking for links style golf and it is very fitting as this course is as close to a southern continental European links as you can get.
Its layout is somewhat unusual and has the appearance of being three courses in one.
The first four holes seem typically Portuguese parkland in style - fairly narrow fairways lined with umbrella pines and sandy wasteland beneath.
Then everything changes. From the long and tough 5th hole that often plays into the teeth of the wind, all of a sudden the trees have gone and golfers are out in the open with virtually nothing but grass covering a large expanse of land.
It then changes again as it enters the dunes where the best holes lie. Back-to-back par 5s at the seventh and eighth are stern tests indeed and if the wind does blow the par 3th ninth offers no respite.
The splendid short par four 10th and 11th run downwind in prevailing conditions offering birdie chances, but otherwise the course is testing. As soon as the drivable 11th is completed you are faced with a long par three followed by the very demanding par five 13th - uphill, elevated green and into the wind again. A par here is a great result. If that’s not enough you then reach the signature 14th, a par 3 into the wind over a large sandy ravine to an infinity green.
The final pair of holes head into the trees once more with the 18th being a very testing dogleg left which hugs waste ground on the left towards the splendid on-site hotel.
Cristiano Ronaldo is building a huge house adjacent to the clubhouse here, testament to the area’s appeal as well as providing post round talking points with a beer on the terrace.
Of further interest, the club is negotiating a pairing with the new Dunas Course at Terras da Comporta to the south. This arrangement would be the equivalent of golf in paradise.
A second prestigious course in the area lies at the Penha Longa Resort which features a Robert Trent Jones Jnr layout of some repute. It is indeed an exceptional layout, set among the rolling hills of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel here is excellent and the course is of great interest, although I have always found its conditioning disappointment considering its pedigree. Lack of investment or simply a challenging piece of land I do not know, but it has great unfulfilled potential. Read my full review of Penha Longha and fabulous attractions in nearby Sintra.
Almost next door to Oitavos Dunes is Onyria Quinta da Marinha, a hotel and accompanying golf course which has undergone a fair bit of change in recent months and there is more to come.
In January a swanky new clubhouse opened and the course layout reverted to its original routing. Course improvements are in the pipeline to restore some conditioning that has taken a battering due to high levels of play.
It remains a fun resort layout and the accompanying Quinta Marinha Hotel is a great base. A more detailed review can be seen here from my previous visit in September 2022, before the clubhouse opened and the rerouting was introduced.
There is much to enjoy in Cascais itself. It has a small beach used by locals, a trendy marina, good shopping and plenty of bars and restaurants in the town centre such as the lively Lota da Esquina.
Interesting for a daytime tour it however excels in the evenings when it is a hive of activity.
The marina is a big attraction night and day and features some top restaurants such as the seafood Mecca Marisco na Praca Marina.
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The airline, which is based at Lisbon Airport and has been a member of Star Alliance since 2005, serves over 90 destinations across three continents.
For more information, or to purchase tickets with TAP, please visit flytap.com.
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