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Course focus: Praia D’El Rey, Portugal

Chris Bertram visits this seaside course near Lisbon, which has one of the continent's finest settings
 

Praia D’El Rey: The backstory

Praia D’El Rey sits on Portugal’s Atlantic seaboard, on what is known as the ‘Silver Coast’.

An hour north west of Lisbon near the incredible medieval town of Obidos, it is framed by the protected landscape of the Serra de Montejunto and pristine beaches.

It is home to Portugal’s only marine nature reserve and is a mecca for surfers as well as golfers, who were first lured to the area by American Cabell Robinson laying out Praia D’El Rey 22 years ago.

Praia D’El Rey: What to expect

Beachside holes that offers golf as raw as a seaside scene gets outside Britain and Ireland.

You get Atlantic waves crashing into the beach that could be at Trevose. You get undulating fairways lined by piles of sand that could be Brancaster. You get a shale path that could be Southerness. You get a crumbling cottage that could be at Pennard.

And on top of this pleasing scene, you have the man-made appeal of engaging green sites, a clever routing and astute playability.

Praia D'El Rey

Praia D’El Rey: Links litmus test

Praia D’El Rey enjoys a dazzling location… but it is not a links as we would understand it in Britain and Ireland.

It is closer to one than most courses in Continental Europe, as a result of the abundance of sandy and firm fairways.

But the grass is not fescue and you will rarely consider bump and run shots around the green.

That said, because it is so breezy, on your longer shots you will try to control your ball’s flight in exactly the same way as you would at West Lancs or Hunstanton.

Praia D’El Rey: The standout holes

The 10th begins the journey to the coast but it really gets going at the 13th, a short par 4 with the ocean thundering in to your left.

It’s followed by a beautiful par 3 of 165 yards, with the crumbling stone cottage sitting to the left and beyond it the Atlantic as far as the eye can see.

It is an exquisite precursor to probably Praia D’El Rey’s highlight, a par 4 that plays right along the shore with the beach and out of bounds left, and bunkers and rough to the right.

Its kidney-shaped target sits hard to the beach and while this ends the seaside stretch, another super hole follows in the other direction.

Praia D'El Rey

Praia D’El Rey: In summary

This is a course that is spectacularly good for its seaside stretches while the holes among the pines inland are hardly modest.

There is an impressive variety to the holes and a sensible routing that makes this resort course walkable.

It’s true that there are some weaker holes – the likes of the 3rd, 17th and 18th come to mind – but that is only relative to the acute highlights among the rest. So its consistency is notable.

And in those startling highs, its setting is the key. The best holes are almost inevitably the ones that look out on the Atlantic, making it one of the most aesthetically pleasing courses in Continental Europe.

As a result, it has several unforgettable moments…no-one forgets those seaside holes in a hurry. It’s also true, though, that in the 4th and 5th there are memorable others too.

And finally, it’s playable. It can obviously get breezy but there is enough width to the fairways on those costal holes. In fact, by far the tightest holes are inland.

For more information visit the Praia D’El Rey website.

Chris Bertram

Chris Bertram is a specialist in all things golf courses.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG.
He has been freelance since 2010 and spends the majority of his time playing golf and writing about the world’s finest golf courses.

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