Madeira golf courses might be few and far between, but those that have carved a few tracks on the island have done it in style. The big names here? Cabell Robinson, Seve Ballesteros and a potential course in the works from Nick Faldo make this island deliciously tempting for golfers looking for more than a potter around a safe 18 holes. New to the game? Every course has an academy, driving range and practice greens for you to pick up new skills. If you’re really new to the game, you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t need a handicap to play at the Palheiro course close to Funchal. The bad news? It’s not the most forgiving track for newcomers…
The fairways, greens and views at Palheiro are exactly what you’d expect golf in Madeira to look like. Botanical, obviously, but the planting here has some age to it. Set in the midst of a 200 year old country estate, your backdrops are seascapes, established woodland, sub-tropical gardens and craggy mountain skyline. If you can tear your eyes from the stunning views for just a second, the track you’re playing is equally impressive. A Cabell Robinson course, the 18 championship holes are full of valleys, ridges and off shore winds to rattle you. The 3rd hold on the front nine will make you question whether a strong enough drive could land your ball in the centre of Funchal, and the bunkers on the 6th will undoubtedly trap anyone risking an attempt on the green. Tricky enough to elevate it above a simple round of holiday golf, with a driving range, lessons and the usual add-ons to help you enhance your game. Beautiful.
Orbzii tip: Want to save on green fees? Have a chat with your hotel receptionist. Certain hotels on the island – such as the Enotel Quinta do Sol, offer guests discounts of up to 30% on green fees for both of Madeira’s golf courses.
Santo Da Serra
The 27 holes at Santo Da Serra golf course sit so high on Madeira’s hills that you need to strategise your play for cloud cover. Driving straight into the stratocumulus is only for the brave – so you’ll either need to be a sure shot or pop back when the cloud cover burns away. Aside from that, you’re looking at three, nine hole courses surrounded by tropical planting and sea views. Fast greens, hilly terrain and a mix and match option with the three tracks makes Santo Da Serra a course you can play again and again. If you think your game might need a tune up, the golf academy has a strong set of facilities to shape your swing. A bucket of balls on the driving range could be the ideal way to while away the minutes until the clouds lift. Though, with this course’s fast greens, the putting, chipping and bunker greens might be a better use of your time.
Golf in Madeira is a little thin on the ground. But, with a sense of adventure, a 71km ferry trip and a bit of island know-how, you can find your way to another course. Designed by Seve Ballesteros, Porto Santo Golf Course sits happily on Madeira’s neighbouring island – Porto Santo. And, really, this island is a must visit, whether you bring your clubs or not. But, today we’re here for the golf and, you’ll not be disappointed. The 18 holes of cliff tops, bracing sea-air, water hazards and sizeable greens are an exhilarating challenge – with a few holes that could go toe-to-toe with some of the best in Europe. The coastal location delivers on British links golf vibes, while the greens leans more towards stateside golf. It never really touches on anything uniquely Madeiran, other than the setting, but Seve’s design draws on the best of the world’s courses to make a highly playable track.
The 9 hole pitch and putt is the perfect compromise if you want to golf here without eating in to too much exploring time.
Orbzii tip: Not keen on the 2 hour ferry journey? You can hop across by plane, where you’ll be in the air for just half an hour – but do add time on to allow for the usual airport protocols.
Is Madeira getting a new golf course?
For just over a decade, there’s been a controversial new golf course in the making at Ponta do Pargo. Designed by Nick Faldo and laid out over some of the island’s most difficult to develop terrain, the Ponta do Pargo golf course has met with more than a few challenges on the route to 18 hole glory. The Madeiran government has now snapped up all the necessary land and is looking to get development underway again. For now, it’s one to watch.
With golf in Madeira limited to three courses, it pays to take a look at your other options. On this island? You’re looking at a putt and a potter around a few mini golf offerings. Not ideal, but it’s a great way to get family and friends swinging a putter – and for you to work on your green game. Your first port of call should be the Panoramic Park in Funchal. A lovely place for a stroll among the flower beds, it’s also the only open-access mini golf location on the island. A little municipal, but the views more than make up for that.
If you’re eager for more mini golf, you’ll need to track down the handful of hotels on the island with their own facilities. Usually only open to guests, some hotels will allow visitors to use the courses if you’re dining at their restaurant or taking a drink at the bar. The Quinta das Vistas Palace Gardens Hotel and the Cabo Girao holiday village both have mini golf courses worth a visit.