Terras da Comporta Dunas Course opens for play

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Terras da Comporta, Dunas course, is open for play and the David McLay-Kidd design offers breath-taking views and excitement from start to finish
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

When considering planning a golf trip to Portugal, Lisbon has long been the aspiring challenger destination to the Algarve. With the addition of a number of new course builds and major developments in the infrastructure, things are on the up for Portugal’s West Coast, as the sandy soil and rustic landscapes are ideal for the natural, sustainable course designs, currently in vogue for course architecture.

Over the past decade, golf in Lisbon has been on the up. With the addition of West Cliffs at the Praia del Ray resort, tipped as one of Portugal’s best golf courses, Lisbon is well and truly on the golf map, and this has taken a huge leap forward with the recent addition of the Dunas Course, at Terras da Comporta, which many believe will become a world ranked course and possibly up there with the top 100 golf courses in Southern Europe, and possibly the world.

The Golf Today team was invited to visit David McLay-Kidd’s design course in June 2023, recently after the official opening. Arriving without much knowledge and little expectation, the course absolutely blew us away, as we have never witnessed such premium quality from a newly opened course, on what can only be described as perfect golf course terrain. The owners of the site are Vanguard Properties, who are the largest property developers in Portugal and clearly have very deep pockets. With large budgets comes high-quality presentation and the attention to detail here is incomparable.

Dunas art pic

Situated in a secluded coastal setting on the edge of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, The Dunas Course is the first of two 18-hole championship layouts that were planned at Terras da Comporta. The landscape is vast and extremely firtle, making it the ideal terrain for a golf course without limitations on space requirements.

The sand-based soil and undulating landscape is a rare find, and hard to build on, so it’s little wonder this masterpiece took thirteen years in the making. Many architects now spend years scouting the globe for landscapes that can accommodate their ambitious vision to create great golf courses that challenge the golfer, without having to totally reshape the existing land to create unnatural and manufactured course designs. The Dunas course achieves this in a unique setting, surrounded by nature and wildlife.

Sustainability is high on the agenda as all the best practices were followed in the creation of the Dunas course

When asked where the water is sourced, David McLay-Kidd replied

‘The water is groundwater, it’s all aquafers. This whole region for 50km north and south is sand and, when it rains here, the sand acts like a giant sponge and the whole area has a deep, well-supplied aquafer below. We are 1,000 meters back from the ocean with nothing else in between, and that aquafer is leaking out underneath the ocean out to sea so we’re using water that’s ample and lots of it, it’s beneath us and it’s headed out into the sea so we’re not affecting or hurting anything, and we’re using very advanced irrigation systems that are using as little as possible to keep the golf course alive.’


David McLay-Kidd

Even though the option to use sustainable water is there, a rare feature is the abundance of fescue grass which is used for all the fairways and rough. This gives the course a genuine links feel, with the option to create tight lies and firm fast fairways as the course matures.

Although there is no local airport, the location of Terras De Comporta is accessible from both Lisbon and Faro. It’s more-or-less equidistant, with around an hour's drive from Lisbon airport. To find something special, you often have to go a long way to get there, and this is a fine example of the prize being worthy of the effort. The sheer expanse of the site is quite mind-blowing, and at the time of writing, there is not much around except the golf course. This is certain to change over time, with the addition of a hotel already in the plans and golf course real estate also on the roadmap.

As you arrive at the course there is an overwhelming feeling that you have arrived somewhere unique. The driving range itself is like nothing we’ve experienced and could easily be confused as the starting hole!

Dunas Driving Range

This is complemented by an exceptionally large putting green and a superb chipping and pitching area, with everything any dedicated player would need to hone the short game before teeing off.

The course offers the option of six variations of tee boxes based on different colours, with gold being the longest at 6,650 meters (7,280 yards) and blue the shortest at 3,850 (4,200 yards). This really makes the course playable and challenging for any golfer, male or female, and the beauty is that the design and layout of the hazards from the tee shot cater to all levels of players. We chose to play from the black tee, which is highly recommended for club-level golfers or single-figure handicaps.

The underlying theme of the course is very much risk/reward, as from the first tee you are presented with an uphill dog-leg par four, which rewards a direct shot to the green over a huge sandy area on the left of the fairway. The more you take on, the shorter and easier the approach

Dunas 1st hole

The second hole eases you into the round with a par 5 that requires a well-positioned drive to offer any chance of reaching in two. The theme of risk-reward continues, as the green is protected by a bunker short and a second to the right, putting a premium on accuracy. If you can carry your driver over 250 yards there is a good chance for birdie here from the black tees.

2nd hole at Dunas

One of the enjoyable features of the Dunas course is the openness of the drives and it could therefore be described as a second-shot golf course. As long as you hit the ball relatively straight and reasonably long you should generally be presented with a chance to make par. It’s not been tricked up, or made unnecessarily fair, so the enjoyment factor is a real treat.

As you make your way through the front 9 nine, the variety and quality of the holes you are presented with is mind-blowing. If you like taking pictures on the way around, make sure you have a full battery in your phone, as it will certainly get a lot of use. Every hole is a delight to the eye, with the contrast of the blue skies, the yellow sand, and the lush green fairways, each one offering a different challenge.

3rd hole at Dunas

There is no shortage of holes to feature on the front nine. One of our favourites was the stroke index 1, hole number 7. With 3 or 4 different options from the tee, depending on length and courage, this hole creates drama and visual excitement. A good drive short of the left fairway bunker should give you a mid-iron approach to the green.

Once on this green, you really get a feeling of being in the middle of a golfing oasis in the middle of a remote landscape. It’s truly breathtaking.

Dunas 7th hole

Making your way from the green to the 8th tee box is another very short walk between green to tee. The routing of the holes and the flow of the layout are quite noticeable, particularly for a new course on such a vast site. Although not encouraged here, walking the course would be quite manageable.

Dunas 8th hole

Standing on the 8th tee is yet another delight to the eye. As one of the shorter holes on the course, you’d expect a par or birdie here, as the green will be reachable for some.

Dunas 9th hole

The ninth is another superb hole, with a dogleg right. An option to cut the corner for the longer hitters to leave a pitch to the green or the more conservative approach down the left of the fairway opens up the hole for a mid-iron approach.

This hole takes you back to the clubhouse, as you would expect with many high-quality designed courses. The main clubhouse is currently under construction in 2023 but there is a halfway house now operational.

Making your way to the tenth hole, you won’t be disappointed. This is one of the most visually appealing tee shots on the course, as the fairway flows left to right amongst the dunes. The big hitters can benefit from flying most of the trouble on the left, but those without the distance will need a well-placed drive to hit the fairway.

10th hole at Dunas

The green site here is cleverly guarded on the right by a huge, intimidating bunker, ready to catch out anyone unable to square the clubface on their approach.

Dunas 10th

The flow of holes 10, 11, and 12 is seamless, as the course effortlessly ebbs and flows through the dramatic dunes and pine trees on the back nine. The course feels like it belongs here and has always been here, as each hole blends into the landscape with its own challenges and characteristics.

11th at Dunas

The par four 13th hole is another of our favourites, as the vista from the tee box is mouth-watering and makes you want to grab the big stick. There is a reasonable length carry required to set up a short iron approach to an inviting green nestled amongst the dunes and pine trees.

Dunas 13th hole

The final third of the round provides further drama and quality of the highest level. The par three 14th is a wonderfully simple hole. The anaconda-shaped teeing area stretches out to 195 meters from the back tee and can play as short as 89 meters from the forward tees.

Par 3 14th hole at Dunas

The 15th is the final par five on the course, measuring 479 meters from the black tee. The fairway is guarded with cross-bunkers so accuracy is required, as a good drive can set up an opportunity to reach in two to give a chance of a welcome birdie.

As you approach the end of the round the drama and excitement continue with the 16th. Take on as much of the left side as you dare to leave a shorter approach.

Dunas 16th

The final par three of the round is the 17th and is arguably the best-looking of the short holes. A short of mid-iron is all that’s required to reach a green cut into the dramatic landscape. Picking the right landing spot is key here, as the green has a ridge in the middle which makes it tricky if out of position.

Dunas 17th hole

As you make your way back to base, the eighteenth hole doesn’t disappoint. Measuring 395 meters from the black tee, it’s crucial to get a good drive away if you want to finish with a par. The uphill approach will take you right up to the front of the clubhouse, which is currently under construction. As with many great courses, the option to finish on the 18th and make your way to the 19th for a light refreshment whilst taking in the view of the eighteenth hole is sure to be a true delight.

In summary, our opinion is that the Dunas course could quite easily sit amongst the best courses in continental Europe. It’s rare for a new course to tick so many boxes with such an interesting and exciting design. The landscape and scenery are what make this place unique, and the course itself will bring satisfaction and enjoyment beyond the usual round of golf.

To book a round on The Dunas Course, email golf@comporta.com for more information, visit www.comporta.com

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About Simon Bale

Simon is the publisher of Golf Today and is extremely passionate about golf and playing golf courses. Having been a longterm shareholder of Top100GolfCourses.com, he has extensive knowledge on golf course design and has played over 300 courses worldwide.

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