|Located just minutes from the famous Casino Estoril, Estoril Golf Club is a classic European parkland course. (GolfPublisher.com)|
ESTORIL, Portugal - The latest James Bond blockbuster is actually based on the original James Bond novel. Ian Fleming's Casino Royale was published in 1952, and the titular house of chance where the budding 007 battled Monsieur Le Chiffre was modeled on the real-life Casino Estoril.
The flashy casino that birthed Bond remains the centerpiece of this city of vintage hotels and neighborhoods 20 kilometers from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. There's a similarly nostalgic tinge to the circa-1930s Estoril Golf Club, built by Mackenzie Ross.
Hilly and tight, playing to just 5,345 meters (5,950 yards), par-69 This golf course doesn't reward length very often (although a few short par 4s, notably Nos. 6 and 17, beg long hitters to drive the green). The handful of elevated tees allow for easy shots and gorgeous views of the Sintra Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, particularly at the third, fifth and 12th.
From a golfing standpoint Estoril's strength is its dynamic par 3s, each a different length with a different look and challenge. The 220-yard eighth is something else, with an unusual bowl-shaped green that funnels everything to the middle.
There aren't too many available pin positions here, and the right tee shot will likely roll down pretty close. But the wrong one will land in the voluminous out-of-bounds left or one of the many bunkers.
Following No. 8 you have to take an overpass across a freeway that splits the course. The other side plays on significantly lower land, and it's a long walk down to the ninth tee. Don't worry, though: A shuttle bus carries golfers and their bags bag up when the course re-crosses the road to the 17th.
The 10th, the last par 5 on the course, plays through dense woods and doglegs right to an elevated green. It's drivable at less than 500 yards, but it's tight enough around the green to make you think twice about ripping a fairway wood off the deck.
The two par 3s on the back nine are gems. The 13th plays from an elevated tee to an elevated green, and anything short is a tough pitch up. The 16th is 200-plus yards through a tight chute to a guarded green.
The golf course closes with a short but tricky dogleg right with a bunker corralling shots played too far left.
Amid the modern courses on Lisbon's "Golf Coast," Estoril might seem a bit old-school, but it's an enjoyable round of classic golf. You won't find many holes that summon the driver, but the layout has many challenges and looks you won't see elsewhere in the region.
The course has a reputation for being wet at times, especially in the lower collection areas. It's a walking-only track, and a private one, open only to guests of the nearby Palacio Estoril or with particular packages. Aside from the 18-hole championship course, there is a full-length nine-hole course and a driving range on the property.
If you want to play Estoril, you'll probably have to spend at least one night at the Palacio Estoril. It's not a bad compromise. Built in the 1930s, this elegant five-star hotel features traditional rooms and decor and a variety of banquet, conference and dining options.
Casino Estoril's dinner/cabaret evening, Danca Com Letras, includes a three-course meal and a bottle of wine. The bizarre show that follows can best be described as an extraterrestrial journey of song and dance through the alphabet, topless and possibly on acid.
For more traditional dinner theater, try one of the many Portuguese Fado shows in Lisbon. Or skip the show entirely and dine at the Palacio Estoril's Four Seasons room, which changes its menu and decor with the seasons (or what passes for them in always-temperate Portugal).
Estoril was the site of the Portuguese Open from 1954 to 1972.
February 1, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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