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Real estate and construction intrude on the stunning ocean views at Praia D'el Rey.
Real estate and construction intrude on the stunning ocean views at Praia D'el Rey. (GolfPublisher.com)

Praia D'El Rey golf course in Portugal a victim of overdevelopment

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor

OBIDOS, PORTUGAL - Browsing glossy brochures and photos of Praia D'El Rey Golf & Beach Resort, the seemingly undisturbed coastal holes seem too good to be true.

They are.

This 600-acre Marriott resort about an hour north of Lisbon is developing rapidly. Along the coastline, construction looms at every turn.

For golfers uninterested in resale values and time shares, each "clank" of a crane is the sound of the golf course losing just a little bit more of its natural beauty.

You'll have to be patient to get to the visual money shots that remain. The front nine winds through forest and dunes that open occasionally to offer a teasing peek at the sea. Most holes are lined on one side by housing present and future, the latter marked by white stakes.

The front-side highlight is No. 8, a daring little par 3 that plays from an elevated tee down to a small, shallow green guarded by a pond in front.

From the elevated 10th tee you can catch a glimpse of the massive resort development on the coastline and a taste of things to come. But first you must navigate the par-5 dogleg right with a pond-guarded green, followed by the tricky, uphill par-3 11th.

At No. 12 you finally come upon the shoreline. To the left of the green is Praia D'El Rey's charming visual landmark - an abandoned lookout hut, one of many built along the coast by law enforcement to spot drug smugglers.

Quintessentially Portuguese with its colorful beige and orange exterior, it has become the course's unintentional icon.

The 13th is your best birdie hole, a drivable 286-yard par 4, but the track finishes tough.

No. 17 is a demanding uphill par 5 you surely won't play right the first time. A dogleg left, the hole is guarded by natural area and out-of-bounds on both sides. The fairway bottlenecks, and the second shot must be kept short of a hollow full of tall grass and shrubs.

The tee shot on the wooded 440-yard 18th plays through a narrow chute before doglegging right to an elevated green.

The verdict

Opened in 1997 with a Cabell Robinson design, Praia D'El Rey is an upscale golf course with good conditioning and some beautiful topography and scenery. But it could be much more.

There are some beautiful ocean views, but you're never more than a 90-degree head cock from housing and cranes. Several times I had to back off shots due to construction noise. It puts a damper on your round.

The course is long on flash but lacking in some details. Praia D'El Rey encourages walking (and bars carts on some days), but the routing through housing uncomfortably lengthens the jaunts between holes, especially when the temperature tops 80.

And don't be shy about stocking up on the complimentary water outside the resort hotel before you take a shuttle to the course - it may be all the hydration you get. There are no on-course water coolers, no convenient halfway house, and we didn't see a beverage cart until the 18th fairway. My foursome was a bit salty by then.

Peak-season rates are €90 weekday and €110 weekend. Buggies are an extra €38, electric trolleys €18.

Where to stay

The Marriott Praia D'El Rey, sprawling along two and a half kilometers of sandy coastline, is a stylish hotel with all the five-star amenities you would expect. There's a free courses shuttle, the spa offers a variety of massages and beauty treatments, and the hotel can arrange other activities, such as tours and even surfing lessons.

If you'd rather be closer to the action of Lisbon, the new Hotel Mirage in Cascais offers similar flair closer to the capital city.

Dining out

Plenty of food options at the Praia D'El Rey. The Atlantico Grill, the main dining room, offers buffets and a la carte specialties. Romy is the gourmet choice for creative Mediterranean cuisine. There's informal poolside eats (barbecue, salads) at Sharx. The golf clubhouse has a grill room and bar and a patio overlooking the course.

Fast fact

The International Association of Golf Tour Operators voted the Praia D'El Rey Europe's Golf Resort of the Year for 2007.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. 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. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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