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Lisbon’s Silver Coast is fast upstaging the Algarve as Portugals’ destination of choice for golfers who expect quality both on and off the course – and Seve’s last ever design is a chief attraction

If, in the morning, you tend to scoff down a bowl of cornflakes before grabbing your iPad and dashing off to work in your black Audi Sport TDI, you might want to stop reading now.

There’ll be a review of the Algarve in an next issue. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with Audis, iPads or cornflakes. It’s just that good old herd mentality – following the crowd sees many of us to stick to what we know when being that little bit more adventurous might lead us to a surprising new discover. Golfers are not immune.

If you’re weighing up this beautiful country as a possible golfing destination, the Algarve, admittedly, is an ideal location for golf, sun and fun, which is why it’s long been a magnet for golfers from all corners of Europe. And yet it is precisely that popularity which has left other areas of the country with less pressured fairways and unique luxury accommodations that offer outstanding value for money.

The Oeste region near Lisbon is a prime example. It has a cluster of fabulous resorts located within easy reach of the city’s airport, which is now served by multiple daily flights from the UK by Easyjet, Air Portugal and British Airways. Time it right and you can complete the 40-minute dash north to this picturesque corner of Portugal just in time for breakfast. Leave the cornflakes well alone. Why not try hot Brazilian coffee and a munch on a warm nun’s belly? The "barriga de freira", a popular traditional pastry, is, like many aspects of this country – enjoyably and deliciously quirky.

It’s perhaps fitting, then, that Portugal is also home to the last course ever designed by the late, great Seve Ballesteros. Like the man himself, Royal Óbidos Spa & Golf Resort is a little unconventional, but totally and utterly brilliant. Royal Óbidos is superbly located in a region tagged the ‘Silver Coast’ for the effect of the sun on the Atlantic Ocean. It's blessed with UNESCO World Heritage sites, national monuments and a coastal area of breathtaking natural beauty. The historic walled town of Óbidos – whose name stems from the Latin for citadel – is also one of the most striking in Portugal.

There’s no easy introduction to your round at this newly-opened course with, say, a friendly, short parfour. The first hole is actually a teasing right-hand dogleg – one that you’ll be lucky to par. There’s also a stunning series of half a dozen or so holes that meander between an intricate system of lakes connected by cascading streams, calling for shot-making of the highest quality. It’s tough, but extremely entertaining. One of the brightest highlights of the round on this 7,100-yard layout is the 12th, a 460- yard par-four, where the golfer has to negotiate both the drive and the second shot between and over two lakes as well as a curving stream. The facilities generally are best described as ‘extensive’, with a spa and tennis courts on hand, and the clubhouse is a great place to relax, overlooking no fewer than nine of the eighteen holes.

From its generous terrace you can enjoy spectacular views across the course with the Atlantic Ocean and Óbidos Lagoon in the background.

Refuelling after a day on the links is as much a treat as the golf itself, as this region is one of the most renowned for its local seafood. Specialities include oven-roasted sea-bream and rock-bass, plus unique delicacies such as Atlantic “sweating” lobster, cockles from Óbidos Lagoon and shell fish from the nurseries of Porto de Barcas.

But it’s the quality of the golf on offer that really whets your appetite – thanks to Royal Óbidos now making this morsel of Portugal a truly mouthwatering golf destination. Just minutes away from Seve's creation are two of Portugal's acclaimed resorts – Praia D’El Rey, with its stunning seaside links and Bom Sucesso, with an outstanding championship course by Donald Steel. As a result, there are now some very tempting packages to consider, taking in golf at all three locations and accommodation at Praia D’El Rey's sumptuous 5-star hotel, or at Bom Sucesso, one of the most stylish European resorts to have appeared in recent years, featuring a range of architect-designed apartments and villas, plus tennis, football, cycling, a range of water sports, a shopping centre and an art gallery.

These resorts are now working together to offer a very special experience, providing luxury accommodation and unforgettable golf over three sublime courses. If Portugal is on your radar – and it should be – Royal Óbidos, Praia D’El Rey and Bom Sucesso promise the quality that will convert you forever.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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