But no matter how average your game, there’s always the promise of sun on your face, springy fairways under your feet and ‘uma imperial’ in your hand after the round. Now that we are all looking forward to a return of holiday golf, it might be time to explore a bit further too. While the Algarve is rightly a mecca for golfers, there is another part of Portugal with beckoning fairways that’s a little bit quieter and in many ways more interesting.
The scene around Lisbon may be a bit more spread out but the courses are certainly worth a visit.
For a gentle start to your tour, Aroeira Pines Classic, about 15 miles south of the capital, is the perfect opener. It has hosted the Portuguese Open twice in the past, but don’t let that intimidate you. The front nine is wide and generous to get you back in the swing, while the back nine starts to get more tricky.
Traditionally, golfers aiming for the Costa Azul have been based in the splendid seaside town of Sesimbra, but now new in the Aroeira complex is the swish Aroeira Lisbon Hotel, between the resort’s two courses.
It has comfy beds, good bathrooms, a bar, a stylish restaurant that does a fine cataplana and a swimming pool – everything the weary golfer would need. Some very reasonable stay and play packages are available with buggy hire and range balls included, even one with a free drinks option.
The hotel is also handy for the huge and beautiful Fonte de Telha beach, with its miles of sand and excellent bars such as Aroeira Beach. The sea will be cold, inevitably, but a little paddle is perfect for your blisters.
Aroeira’s sister course, Challenge, is just that. Tighter and in some ways tougher than the Pines, it’s a stiff but fair test, a stylish array of villas lining the fairway. Have no doubt, footballers live here.
For a complete contrast from the busy, urbanised Challenge, head out to the secluded forests of Ribagolfe, about 30 minutes from Lisbon. Here you will find two courses set in acres of cork oak trees with no signs of human habitation. The only other sign of life we saw was a tiny blue mantis wandering over the third green.
Hazards here include lakes, bushes and wild boar, who like to have a vigorous snuffle across the fairways, though I am fairly sure that would count as an animal scrape (Rule 25-1 for R&A sticklers).
We played Ribagolfe Lakes, formerly Ribagolfe I, or the blue course. It pays to be accurate here as the rough is very prickly and may have a bad-tempered hog in it. It is walkable, though in the summer I’d go with a buggy because without the benefit of the sea breezes you get in the Algarve it gets pretty toasty.
This and the Oaks course will be a serious test of your game, with Ribagolfe Lakes being a regular host of the European Tour Q School, where wannabe pros basically fight it out for the chance to earn a living on the circuit.
And as we are in the Lisbon area, do take time to check out this fantastic city. Sat beside the Tagus river it has a wealth of history. As well as the riverfront, the most interesting area is the ancient Bairro Alto neighbourhood, a maze of cobbled streets packed with nightlife.
We stayed in the chic Lumiares Hotel right in the heart of the area, with a fabulous rooftop bar and restaurant with views across the city to the Sanctuary of Christ the King, a vast statue on the other side of the river. The hotel backs on to the Rua do Diário de Notícias, the street where Portugal’s first popular newspaper began.
There’s no newsroom there now, just an array of bars, so pretty much the same thing.
I’m a big fan of Portuguese food and wine, so a good place to head is ByTheWine, a busy and buzzing bar/restaurant a short stroll from the hotel, ideal for a large Periquita rose, but there is pretty much a bar round every corner, even an ‘English’ pub.
But with golf/normality returning, be that bit more adventurous and try a new destination for your golf hols. Challenging but fair and in beautiful surroundings, Lisbon’s Costa Azul sounds good to me.