Escape the crowds in the Azores
Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and
North America, just two hours from Lisbon and the closest point
in Europe to the US, the Azores are a Portuguese archipelago made
up of nine volcanic islands warmed by the gentle currents of the
These beautiful islands sit atop an ocean ridge, which some say
was the location of the fabled city of Atlantis!
Click here for a map of the Azores
Being pollution and very much stress free and having a mild ocean
climate, the Azores are one of the healthiest regions in the world,
but they are also a delight for the eye. The fertile volcanic soil
gives them a lush and varied vegetation hydrangeas, camellias,
hibiscus and magnolias can be seen everywhere.
Here you can enjoy a relaxing holiday in unspoiled nature. Water
sports, including swimming, wind-surfing, sailing, deep sea fishing,
scuba diving and snorkelling are available, although the islands
do not have sandy beaches. Golf, of course, can be played all year
Contrary to many people's expectation, the Azores are not dry and
hot. The climate is however ideal for playing golf, provided you
dont leave those waterproofs behind. Unless, of course, you
want to invest in some new gear - golfing equipment is very good
value for money here!
Terceira Island has only one golf club but there will soon be another
nine holes which should help in promoting the island as a holiday
venue for golfers.
Terceira Golf Club
Terceira Golf Club, built in 1954 by Americans from Lajes Air Force
Base, is located in an area of natural beauty, 13 kms from Angra
do Heroísmo and just 10 km from the airport. The course features
several ponds, ravines and lush fairways lined mainly with tall,
closely-planted cryptomerias (Japanese cedars), all enhanced by
numerous flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas and azaleas.
This undulating but easily walkable layout gives an impression
of peace and serenity, with no housing development, and no rushing
your putts because of people waiting behind you. At worst you may
be distracted by the occasional cow mooing in a nearby field...
The course is not overly demanding. The first nine is quite short
and straightforward and most of the fairways are fairly wide and
bunkers scarce. Watch out though for the par 4 10th, where you have
to cross a ravine and cope with water, as well as for the long par
5 17th which is extremely narrow off the mens tee, and has
a stream running across the fairway plus two ponds! Another testing
hole is the par 3 18th, which has bushes or trees on either side,
and a green that slopes dangerously towards the pond in front.
Terceira Golf Club is currently (June 2006) undergoing a complete
transformation, the clubhouse resembles a building site, the course
needs a little manicure and the trolleys are rather ancient, but
they are working to improve things dramatically and everything should
be up to scratch in a few weeks time.
here for club details
SAN MIGUEL ISLAND
The picturesque island of San Miguel offers year-round golf on
its two championship standard golf courses and a new hotel resort
and spa are being built in the middle of the island.
Campo de Golfe de Batalha
Batalha is situated on the north coast of San Miguel just 10 minutes
from Ponta Delgada, the islands capital. It is managed by
Verde Golf and Country Club, who also manage Furnas Golf Club, and
was designed in 1986 by architects Cameron and Powell.
This well-maintained 27-hole layout has matured into a beautifully
scenic course with tall trees, lush vegetation and good fairway
grass offering the ball a good lie. It is a demanding but most enjoyable
course featuring some long par 4s and offering dramatic, spectacular
views over the sea and lakes that become deep blue when the sun
The first nine faces the ocean, while the rest of the course plays
through woodland with volcanic mountain views. The large undulating
greens tend to be on the upslope so you need to club up by two more
than you think! Another piece of good advice is to hire a buggy,
as it a very strenuous walk and youll enjoy the views better
if you're not slogging on foot!
Although it is hard to choose the best hole, we think the view
from the par 3 5th tee, where you have to drive over twin lakes,
or the soaring par 4 6th are strong candidates. (see image gallery
The large Clubhouse with its classic island architecture and modern
facilities offers elevated views over the course and ocean, and
it has an excellent Golf Shop with cheaply priced golf gear. Each
year, Batalha hosts the most important international golfing event
in the Azores - the Sata Azores Open - in conjunction with the Furnas
here for club details
Furnas Golf Course
Furnas is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of San Miguel,
in the mountains above the Furnas Valley, famous for its tropical
vegetation, hot springs and mineral water, and close to the beautiful
Furnas Lake with its famous 'caldeiras' (see
The course itself, with its tropical vegetation, beautiful lakes,
tree-lined, undulating fairways, small, elevated, contoured greens
and black sand bunkers, is a tough challenge for most players -
especially, as we found, when the fairways are soggy. At 1,700 feet
above sea level, passing clouds sometimes mist the fairways or,
on some days, considerably more than just mist them - the day we
played, the mist looked like smoke pushed by the wind!
The trickiest hole is the 410m long 9th hole situated between two
lakes with a small green at the end; the prettiest is the 18th,
although it is rather daunting from the back tee where you must
drive over water. We found it a very interesting course that we
would have liked to play on a dry, sunny day.
Each year Furnas hosts the most important international golfing
event in the Azores - the Sata Azores Open - in conjunction with
the Batalha course.
here for club details
ABOUT THE AZORES
When you walk out of Terceira Island airport, you could imagine
yourself anywhere: Scotland or Ireland come to mind when you look
at the green pastureland on the hills and the numerous grey stone
walls - until you notice the luxuriant tropical vegetation! Numerous
different plant species grow everywhere here, among them agapanthus
and the symbol of the island - blue or white hydrangeas (see image
gallery below right).
Terceira is very rural; every little plot of land seems to be used
for agriculture, while cows are everywhere, even tethered in peoples
back garden. They say that there are more cows than people on Terceira
- the same is said of sheep in another beautiful golfing land -
New Zealand. More exotic crops such as olives and bananas are also
In this tranquil and unspoiled natural setting, you cant
help feeling relaxed; people take things easy and the pace of life
is different, so that you have the very pleasant feeling of going
back in time. However short your stay here, you will leave feeling
totally relaxed: in the words of an American pilots wife met
at the airport It does that to you!
The island of San Miguel or The Green Island, 40 minutes south-east
of Terceira by 'plane, is the largest and most populated island
of the Azores.
It is just as beautiful and very similar to Terceira, but perhaps
not quite so rustic, although there are plenty of cows, green pastures
and stone walls to protect crops and cattle from the wind, and flowers
everywhere, even alongside roads and bordering the golf course fairways.
The island can also boast the only two tea plantations in Europe.
THINGS TO SEE
The 'caldeiras' are hot springs, a reminder of the volcanic origin
of the islands, with both boiling water- and mud-pools.
The San Miguel Cozida das Furnas is a special dish
using three meats (pork, beef and chicken) plus vegetables cooked
in the hot springs. They also cook corn in the boiling water or
use it to soak the material for making wicker baskets.
In Furnas, there are twenty varieties of mineral water with different
therapeutic qualities: one is good for the skin, another good for
eye disease etc. They are also rebuilding the Spa.
The Festas do Espirito Santo (Holy Spirit Celebrations), from May
to September, are very important to the people of the Azores. They
are celebrated in every village in the islands with the ceremony
of the crowning of the 'Emperor' followed by 'charity' dinners with
everybody contributing, wine being distributed to the people around
the villages and music and fireworks which can be heard for hours
a little unnerving when youre trying to concentrate
on your golf game! Traditional values such as faith, family and
work still matter a great deal to the people here and tiny, colourful
chapels for the Holy Spirit, called Imperios (left), are scattered
throughout the island.
Bullfighting on a rope (see right), in which a bull with padded
horns is attached to a rope and let out into a square or street
for the most daring to try their hand at bullfighting, which here
frequently means climbing up to safety!
For over three centuries Angra do Heroismo was an important port
in the middle of the Atlantic, stopover of many boats travelling
between Europe, Africa and America. It is today a UNESCO world heritage
The local gastronomy includes of course, on islands, a splendid
assortment of freshly-caught fish specialities and tender meat dishes
made using the locally-raised cattle. Also reputed in Terceira is
the 'Alcatra', a pot roast with wine, bacon & garlic, and the
'Cozida das Furnas' from San Miguel, cooked in the boiling water
of the 'caldeiras' (see above).
You can experience a traditional everyday meal such as would have
been prepared in the well-to-do rural estates a hundred years ago
at Quinta do Martelo, 25 kms from Terceira Airport. All the food
is cooked in a traditional wood-burning stove and all the vegetables
are home grown. Accommodation and all sorts of entertainment facilities
as well as a museum where traditional craftsmen's workshops have
been reproduced and an incredible array of old tools are on display.
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.quintadomartelo.com/
There are now three regulated regions in the Azores which are Pico,
Biscoito (Island of Terceira), and Graciosa: Red and white table
wines, mostly produced for local consumption.
This stunning group of islands must be one of the best kept secrets
of modern tourism. Get there before it gets overdeveloped. Oh, and
we were forgetting, you can also take part in one of the Azores
special pursuits - whale or dolphin watching!
Whale and dolphin watching
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Terceira Mar ****
A brand new hotel situated near the historic town centre of Angra
do Heroísmo in Terceira, with 139 rooms, including 8 suites
& 2 twins for handicapped guests.
Facilities include 2 tennis courts, a salt-water pool and a very
good Spa and health club.
Rua Padre José Jacinto Botelho, 5
9700-097 Angra do Heroísmo
Reservations: +351 213 300 541
Website : www.bensaude.pt/
Email : email@example.com
Hotel Avenida ****
Situated close to both Ponta Delgada town centre and the sea, it
was completely renovated and enlarged in 2004.
Rua Dr. José Tavares Carreiro
9500-119 Ponta Delgada
Tel : +351 296 209 660
Fax : +351 296 209 669
Tel. Res. : +351 296 301 880
Fax Res. : +351 296 301 881/2
Website : www.bensaude.pt/
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW TO GET THERE
There are daily services to mainland Europe via Lisbon and a bi-weekly
service to the US and Canada as well as regular inter-island flights.
SATA International offer weekly direct flights from London Gatwick
to São Miguel in the Azores. Prices for a return flight start
at £217 per person plus tax.
SATA International also operates daily inter-island flights throughout
the islands of the Azores. They offer an "Azores Air Pass"
(20% discount on the normal fare) for people who would like to visit
other islands during their stay. A return ticket to visit two islands
with the SATA Air Pass costs approximately £150 per person
Above prices valid 2006, for further information and bookings call
SATA on 0870 6066 664 or visit their website at www.sata.pt.
For further information on Portugal and the Azores call the Portuguese
National Tourist Office in the UK on 0845 355 1212 (local call)
or visit www.visitportugal.com.
Photo credits: © The Portuguese National Tourist Office - Hotel Terceira Mar - GolfToday