Portugal's other golf destination, Lisbon and Cascais, boasts sun, wine, golf, more
The 10th tee of Oitavos Golf Club in Cascais, Portugal offers you the best view from the course across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Cabbo da Rocca lighthouse, signaling the western most point in Continental Europe.
Unlike the Algarve golf mecca to the south of Portugal, golf isn't under such a microscope on these shores of the country, simply because there's too much else going on: from the historic town of Sintra, to the capital city Lisbon and upscale suburb Cascais. Scandinavians in particular flood the area during the winter months for weekend getaways when their golf courses are blanketed by snow and darkness. Any northerner is shocked to discover winter is the "off-season" in Portugal, where the mercury seldom drops below 70 degrees and sunshine is commonplace.
Oitavos highlights the golf in the region. Opened in 2001, this was the first overseas project for American Arthur Hills' design firm and has been the subject of rave reviews. It hosted the 2005 Portugese Open on the European Tour and has secured the tournament three more times in the coming years (it has also secured Hills' firm plenty more work in the region). The beautiful back nine is highlighted by back-to-back Pine Valley-esque par 3s and the 18th rivals the most difficult finishing holes in Europe. In similar conditions, this monster par 4 is more difficult than the 18th at Carnoustie.
Up the road from Cascais is Praia D'El Rey, another seaside links course that jumped out of the gate when it opened in 1997 but has since lost some of its appeal due to the mass of construction around the course. Even still, the stretch from 12 to 15 offers second-to-none seaside views so long as you're looking to the left and can omit the half dozen cranes inland.
Golf just scratches the surface here though. Operators in Cascais run tours through historic Lisbon and Sintra, and tastings at local wineries as well as buses north to Porta, home of the famous Port wine aperitifs. At Praia D'El Rey, you can take surfing lessons. Gastronomy in Portugal is simple compared to French cuisine but no detail is spared, and a meal can often take up the bulk of your night with the right wine and company.
Who says you can't combine romance and a golf trip? Even if you're no Casanova, you can still woo your golf-loving significant other around the links. Consider the Costa del Sol region of Spain, staying in a castle in Scotland or sharing dinners in style on the Mexican coast after playing Jack Nicklaus' epic Cabo del Sol Ocean Course. Famed Pinehurst and Kiawah Island are also great bets for a romantic ace.
Podcast host Dave Berner catches up with Tim McDonald upon his return from a golf trip to Vietnam. Consumer golf shows are growing in popularity, TravelGolf.com blogger RonMon reports. And photographer Ray Alonso on his nude calendar, The Bare Essence of Golf. Just in time for 2007.
Hilton Head Island has been nationally recognized as a bastion of upscale golf and a haven for retirement, but it's also becoming a place families can call home. In the last 20 years, Hilton Head has become more family oriented as younger people have relocated there to take advantage of employment opportunities in its burgeoning tourism industry and reasonable cost of living. Of course, great golf and beautiful beaches might have also had something to do with it.