The birth of Oitavos Dunes goes back to 1908, when the grandfather of current owner Miguel Champalimaud discovered this seaside terrain on the outskirts of the picture-postcard town of Cascais.
For nearly three decades until his death, Carlos Montez planted pines to stabilise the sand that blew across the Rock and create the dunescape that would allow a residential and sporting estate – Quinta da Marinha – to be built.
Miguel’s son, Carlos Sommer, carried on the work by building the first homes in the 1950s as the estate on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean developed at pace.
Horse riding, tennis and a Health Club also arrived but the land was so sensitive that it took Miguel 17 years to secure the necessary permits to add a golf course to the attractions.
American Arthur Hills was commissioned to lay out the course because, the story goes, his proposal was the only one without a lake in it, and the family were eager to create a ‘proper’ links.
Following the path between dunes that leads from the back of the 8th green to the elevated 9th tee you are greeted by a breathtaking view that has few peers in Iberian golf.
It opened in 2001, adding further lustre to this pretty area 45 minutes west of Lisbon, where golf has been played since Estoril was formed in 1929, with Quinta da Marinha and Penha Longa added in 1984 and 1992 respectively.
Oitavos calls itself a championship links but as is almost always the case on the continent, it isn’t quite what we expect one to be… even if the Atlantic setting dazzles in a way few in Britain and Ireland can.
You will however find swales in fairways and greens partly obscured by large mounds, you will find steep run-offs and devilish pockets of sandy trouble surrounding other greens, and you will find a classic out-and-back routing and holes exposed to ocean breezes.
The first third of the course is a steady start – including a shock twist to the landscape that leaves you feeling on the 5th tee that you have been transported to Crans sur Sierre – but it steps up a level in its stellar middle section, highlighted by the gorgeous 9th.
Following the path between dunes that leads from the back of the 8th green to the elevated 9th tee you are greeted by a breathtaking view that has few peers in Iberian golf. After you’ve armed yourself with some material for Instagram, you then have to hit a long iron onto the acorn-shaped green.
Playing in same direction as the 9th, the 14th has the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop to an infinity green beyond a gorge of sandy waste; it boasts close to the same level of aesthetic appeal and probably even more drama than the end to the front nine.
The turn for home begins with a strong par 4 then a sporty one… and then four holes where there isn’t a two-shot hole in sight, the highlight of which is surely the 14th.
Playing in same direction as the 9th, it has the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop to an infinity green beyond a gorge of sandy waste; it boasts close to the same level of aesthetic appeal and probably even more drama than the end to the front nine.
Another worthy short hole follows and then a relatively open par 5 before a modest finish on less firm terrain more akin to usual Iberian fayre that loses it a few marks.
A multiple host of the European Tour as well as the EuroPro, the Seniors Tour and the Ladies European Tour, it is an elite course in continental terms even if there is a nagging feeling such terrain and setting could have produced something even more special. Chris Bertram