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Golf Today > Travel > Golf in Madeira


Have some Madeira, m'dear?

The Madeira Islands are a small corner of sub-tropical paradise in the Atlantic Ocean, just 3 to 4 hours from most European capitals.

If you feel like a relaxing golfing holiday in beautiful surroundings with a mild climate and fine food and wines, then head for Madeira. Golf is available on two courses in Madeira and one in Porto Santo, and whichever course you choose, you can look forward to spectacularly stunning views, exotic flowers and challenging courses.

Click here for a map of the Madeira Islands


Palheiro Golf Course
As you’re driving up the steep winding road leading to Palheiro Golf course, you may wonder whether you are going golfing or skiing and how on earth they were able to build a golf course up here! But Cabel Robinson, who designed it in 1993, has managed to integrate the 18-hole par 72 course perfectly into the dramatic setting.

Perched 500 meters above Funchal, Madeira’s capital, in the 200-year-old country estate and parkland of the Quinta do Palheiro, the course and Clubhouse's panoramic terrace enjoy stunning views over the Bay and the city of Funchal, and the Desertas Islands.

Palheiro Golf Course

You will remember the course first for its beauty. Its magnificent setting, its elevation changes, mature trees and shrubs, lush sub-tropical vegetation and splendid views make it an unforgettable, idyllic course.

More importantly for a golfer, you will also remember it as a course you’ve enjoyed playing. Although it is a worthy challenge for all handicap levels, bogeys and even pars are feasible by the average player thanks to several tee positions and generous fairways. You may not score your best but you will not be frustrated after a game here. If you’re not a long hitter, you can have a lot of fun manufacturing shots to play the five very short par 3s. And if you’re an expert player, your skills and accuracy will be pleasantly tested.

Severely sloping Bermuda grass fairways, well-positioned bunkers and numerous hidden hazards demand accurate tee shot placement to set up the best approach to the fast, undulating greens. The most difficult hole is one of the five par 5s, the 529 meter-long 12th, a dogleg to the left with an undulating fairway rising to a well-protected green. Make sure you take enough club for your approach and you will be pleased to end up with a par! One of the fun par 3s is the beautiful downhill 3rd hole, with Funchal in the background, where club selection is essential as a small ridge in front of the green will catch a short ball and an out of bounds runs to the left of the tricky green some 100 feet below you.

Another fun hole was the short Par 4 16, where after avoiding the out of bounds down the left, one of our group miscalculated his approach and had to watch his ball tumble down the path left of the raised plateau green back to where we were standing not once but three times! He took it with a laugh, but he may not have fully enjoyed the views of the Atlantic from the top!

Palheiro Golf Course

Highlights also include the beautiful but challenging par 3 13th (right) with its narrow green, and the dogleg par 5 18th, which offers long hitters the chance to reach in two for a memorable finish.

This course is a joy to play – but it is advisable to hire a buggy - and you may feel like playing it more than once to avoid repeating the same mistakes, and hopefully making the right club selection on these short downhill par 3s!

Click here for details of the golf course

After your round, you will be welcomed in the traditional Madeiran-styled clubhouse made using local stone, red tiling and marble quarried from the Portuguese mainland. It lies below the 18th green, sharing with it spectacular views over Funchal with its white houses and light terracotta roofs. It is open throughout the year, providing a well-equipped Pro-Shop, buggy hire and an informal grill bar. The stylish clubhouse is complemented by the superb restaurant of Casa Velha right next door near the half-way house. (Click here for more details)

Santo da Serra Golf Course
Madeira also has another jewel of a golf course - Santo da Serra, situated near Funchal and less than 15 minutes from Madeira Airport. It looks over the bay of Machico, where the Portuguese navigators first landed on Madeira Island. The original course, built in 1937, was redesigned in 1991 by Robert Trent Jones, who created a completely new 27-hole golf course in beautiful surroundings. With its spectacular sea and mountain views, the course is regarded as one of the most picturesque European mountain courses. The 2nd and 4th holes of the Machico Course are particularly memorable. Pine, mimosa, eucalyptus trees and exotic flowering shrubs add to the beauty of the steeply undulating course, which also boasts difficult, demanding greens.

The Santo da Serra Course
The spectacular Robert Trent Jones designed Santo da Serra Course

This world class championship course has been ranked 87th in Europe by Golf World magazine and it has hosted the Madeira Island Open, part of the European Tour, every year since 1993.

Click here for details of the golf course


Porto Santo Golf Club
Just a 20-minute hop in a small Fokker plane or a two-hour ferry trip will take you over to Porto Santo Island and its new golfing masterpiece - the Porto Santo Golf Course. Designed by golf legend Sevariano Ballesteros, it opened in 2004 and is rapidly becoming known for its splendid views and for the superb golfing challenge it provides.

Porto Santo South Golf Course

Although it’s only 40 kilometers from Madeira, the “Golden Isle” offers a totally different feel to Madeira. The climate of Porto Santo is dry and stable, with very little variation between seasons, hence the desert-like landscape, which comes as a surprise after Madeira’s lush vegetation.

The fairways of the first nine holes at Porto Santo, or South Course, are flanked by bare rocky hills, with - sadly - views over some very plain houses and three wind turbines. Not the prettiest of sights, but never mind, the views over the Atlantic are spectacular. The South course has a definite Palm Springs feel to it, with its lakes and scenery, and requires an accurate long game and concentration at all times.

On the back nine, or North Course, you won’t forget the particularly difficult 489m long par 5 10th, where you have to cross water twice, and then make sure you pick the right club for your approach to a small green.

In sharp contrast to the South course, holes 13, 14 and 15 of the North Course are true links-style, played on top of a wind-swept cliff and offering stunning views over the deep blue ocean and rugged coastline.

The 13th is an impressive 175m-long par 3 to an elevated green, with a fence you may or may not wish to hold on to if the drop to the bottom of the cliff makes you feel dizzy! The par 4 14th is a sharp L-shaped dog leg to the right, offering the chance to emulate Seve, who went for the green in one over the waste land and cliff-side rocks on the Course's opening day. The Club remains discreet about the outcome of his attempt... Then the par 3 15th demands another frightening shot over a ravine.

But having got past those three, if you think you can relax on your way back to the Clubhouse and enjoy the view along the coastline, think again. You still have to tackle the 450m long, stroke index 2, 16th, before finally confronting the 18th, where even the best players have to lay up before the water in front the green.

The 10th at Porto Santo North Golf Course

Whatever your handicap, it's a tough challenge at Porto Santo. Unusually, the course features six par 5s, and the par 4s play very long with the Bermuda fairway grass taking roll off the ball. And against the wind, even our good players couldn't reach the greens of the par 3s with a driver!

But despite the difficulties, it remains a very enjoyable course to play. You will appreciate the challenge and look forward to your reward on the 19th's panoramic terrace, as you watch your fellow golfers struggle with the approach to the 18th green with something cool in your hand! The Clubhouse is stylish, the catering is superb and so are the Spa and the locker rooms.

Seve Ballesteros has also designed another, similar, 18-hole course, about to open, making Porto Santo Golf Club the largest course in the Madeira Archipelago able to cater for 500 golfers. A large new hotel is also going to be built as well as eight tennis courts, and all this, together with the horse-riding centre already in existence, will help to lengthen the tourist season and be additional attractions for visitors and residents.

Click here for details of the golf course


This stunning group of islands, within easy reach of most European capitals in just three to four hours, with their warm climate and superb courses, make for the perfect short-haul getaway, and could soon become a favoured golfing destination. Try to get there before the crowds!


The Madeira Islands, known to the Ancient Romans as the Purple Islands, were discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th Century.

Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about 360 miles west of Morocco, and 540 southwest of Lisbon, they consist of several islands of which only Madeira and Porto Santo are inhabited.
These volcanic islands, warmed by the influence of the Gulf Stream, enjoy warm comfortable summers and mild winters that make them an enchanting holiday destination all year round. However Madeira, with its mountains, does get a fair amount of rain, hence the lush vegetation.

The Bird of Paradise flower

Madeira - 'The Pearl of the Atlantic'
Madeira, long renowned for its year-round temperate climate and unforgettable mountainous scenery, sub-tropical vegetation and beautiful flowers, now offers further attractions for the modern day visitor, such as golf and levada walking, deep sea fishing, dolphin- and whale-spotting (these are best done in summer), as well as surfing and wine tasting which can be done all year round. The Levada walks are trails along the maintenance paths beside the Levadas or irrigation canals which enable you to explore areas inaccessible by cars.

Levada walking
Levada walking through the mountains

Porto Santo - 'The Golden Isle'
Porto Santo, which lies only 40 kilometers north-east of Madeira and is reachable either by boat or by plane, is a tiny island with about 5,000 residents, most of whom are fishermen. It is known as the 'Golden Isle' because of its arid landscape with shades of brown and yellow. Despite their proximity, the two islands offer completely different landscapes; Porto Santo is also much flatter and windier than its neighbour Madeira.

Porto Santo - The Golden Isle

Porto Santo is Madeira's beach island, a favorite holiday place for Madeira people. It has a year-round mild and sunny climate and nine kilometers of unspoiled golden beaches. Its sand is famous for its healing properties- washed by the calm, limpid, deep-blue sea.

Apart from the beaches and the new golf courses, the other tourist attraction is the house - now a museum - where Christopher Columbus lived in Vila Baleira before setting sail for the New World.

If you love beaches, you will be in paradise in Porto Santo. You will find a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of modern life, for this small island is the ideal spot to escape everyday stress. (You can also take the opportunity to try a de-stressing treatment at the new Thalassotherapy Centre: www.vilabaleira.com)

But if you are looking for a more active way to relax, the island offers a wide choice of outdoor activities – boat trips, sport fishing, diving, windsurfing, water-skiing, mountain biking and paragliding.

Vila Baleira has a handful of shops, banks, several restaurants, bars and clubs and a good selection of hotels. And thanks to the hot, dry weather, the island also produces an especially good Madeira wine which you will be welcome to sample.

For more details about things to do, wine and gastronomy, etc… visit: www.visitportugal.com


Casa Velha do Palheiro, Madeira (a Relais & Châteaux Hotel)
Casa Velha do Palheiro is set in 30 acres of the renowned Palheiro Estate and was created by the first Count of Cavalla who collected exotic trees from around the world to be planted on his Estate some 200 years ago. Nestled in the hills just above Funchal and 15 minutes from the airport, this five-star country house hotel offers 32 rooms and 5 suites in the more modern buildings in the grounds designed and decorated to the highest standards.

The Casa Velha do Palheiro Hotel
The Casa Velha do Palheiro Hotel, Madeira

When you first step into the house, you have a feeling of entering somebody’s home rather than a hotel - not surprising as it used to be a British-owned home.

The hotel suggests you have lunch at the Golf Club and dinner in the hotel. Table d’hôte and à la carte menus are on offer, prepared to perfection by award-winning chefs. The service is impeccable - there are more staff than rooms.

The 'Balanca' private motor yacht

Guests are made to feel at home in this haven of peace and they are given privileges: they have their own private entrance to the Palheiro Gardens, and they have the right to tee off from the 10th tee of the Palheiro Golf Course right next door. The private motor yacht 'Balanca' (right) is available for coastal cruises, swimming, dolphin and whale watching as well as deep sea fishing. Guests can also enjoy tennis, croquet and a swimming pool with a large sun terrace with sauna and steam bath close by. Conference and meeting facilities and a Tea House are also available.

The Casa Velha offers various favorable packages. For more details:

Casa Velha do Palheiro *****
Rua da Estalagem 23, Sao Gonçaio
Funchal, Madeira
Tel. : +351 291 1790350
Email : info@casa-velha.com
Website : www.casa-velha.com

The Quinta das Belas Vistas Palace Gardens Hotel

Quinta das Belas Vistas Palace Gardens, Madeira
This is a prestigious new hotel which opened in May 2002. It has been created from a prominent manor house superbly positioned on the brow of a hill with fabulous panoramic views over the mountains, the ocean and Funchal's city center.

Quinta das Bellas Vistas Palace Gardens *****
Camino de Santo António 52 –A
9000-187 Funchal
Tel. : +351 291 775936
Fax: +351 291 762 171
Email : Reservations@quintadasvistasmadeira.com
Website : www.quintadasvistasmadeira.com

As an example of prices, a 7 night stay package at the five-star Quinta das Belas Vistas from 1 July 2006 costs £721 per person, inclusive of scheduled flights with British Airways from London Gatwick, transfers and bed and breakfast accommodation. Flight supplements and fuel charges may apply.
Reservations: 02380 828313 (UK number)
Website : www.cadoganholidays.com

The Vila Baleira Thalassa, Porto Santo

Vila Baleira Thalassa, Porto Santo
This hotel is located 4.5km from the city centre and 6km from the airport and has direct access to the golden sand beach. It has 256 rooms and 56 fully-equipped flats with self-catering. Here you can enjoy the beach, thalassotherapy, horse riding, diving, swimming, tennis, gym and volley ball, and for those who - sadly - have to work, conference rooms are available.

Hotel Baleira Thalassa ****
Sítio do Cabeço da Ponta
Apartado 248
9400-030 Porto Santo
Tel. : +351 291 980 800
Fax: +351 291 980 801
Email :vilabaleira@ferpinta.pt
Website: www.vilabaleira.com

As an example of prices, a 7 night stay package at the four-star Vila Baleira Thalassa from 1 July 2006 costs £543 per person, inclusive of scheduled flights with TAP Air Portugal from London Heathrow, transfers and bed and breakfast accommodation. Flight supplements and fuel charges may apply.
Reservations: 023 80 828313
Website: www.cadoganholidays.com

And, should you be stopping over in Lisbon on your way to Madeira:

Hotel Açores, Lisbon
The hotel has 128 rooms, including 5 suites and 3 rooms equipped for handicapped guests, and is close to public transport and to the historical Lisbon town centre.

Hotel Açores Lisboa
Avenida Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, 1
1070 - 060 Lisbon
Tel : +351 21 722 29 25
Fax : +351 21 722 29 49
Email : hotelacoreslisboa@bensaude.pt
Website: www.bensaude.pt/bensaude/


It is easy to fall in love with Madeira, so if it happens to you, why not make it your permanent home? The latest addition to the Palheiro Estate - Palheiro Village - offers the discerning buyer the opportunity to purchase freehold property within a village environment.

Located conveniently close to Palheiro golf clubhouse, Palheiro village offers a range of apartments and villas together with its own club facilities. Owners in Palheiro village will also have access to the planned new spa facility.

For more details:
E-mail : roger.still@ palheiroestate.com
Website : www.palheiroestate.com


TAP offer return flights from London Heathrow to Funchal, Madeira from just £52 one way per person (prices correct as at June 2006). For further information and bookings call TAP on (UK number) 0845 601 0932 or visit www.flytap.com.

For further information on Portugal and the Madeira Islands, call the Portuguese National Tourist Office on 0845 355 1212 (UK local call) or visit www.visitportugal.com.

 Photo credits: © Instituto de Turismo de Portugal - GolfToday


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