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Author: Tim Ladrak

Golfing on the island of Madeira

30 May 2023
5 min. read
Tim Ladrak
The Island of Madeira is a beautiful Portuguese archipelago located off the northwest coast of Africa. Known for its stunning landscapes, forests, and rugged coastline, Madeira is also a popular destination for golf enthusiasts. The island boasts several world-class golf courses, including Palheiro Golf and Santo da Serra Golf, which offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and challenging courses for golfers of all levels. With its mild climate and beautiful natural scenery, Madeira is an ideal destination for golfers looking to combine their love of the sport with a relaxing island getaway.
A stunning ocean view on the island of Madeira, during a Dolphin watching boat trip. (Photo: Tim Ladrak)

Madeira was first discovered in 1419 when the Portuguese navigator João Gonçalves Zarco landed on the island. Until July 1960 the only way to reach the island was via boat trip from the mainland. On July 8 of that year, Madeira airport was opened and the island was directly reachable by plane from Lisbon. The main airport is famous for its challenging landing due to the island's short runway and surrounding terrain and you will be in for a treat. Landing in a southwestern direction, you will get a lovely view of the island, the deep blue ocean, and the islands around Madeira. Buckle up!

A view from the plane across the deserted islands. On the horizon, the island of Porto Santo is visible with the daily boat leaving towards the island. 

The island offers a variety of activities for tourists to enjoy. You can explore the lush landscapes through hiking and levada walks, or take in the views from the sea on a boat tour and hopefully spot some dolphins along the way. For those interested in history and culture, Madeira has several museums and historical landmarks, including the Madeira Story Centre and the São Tiago Fort. Visitors can also relax on one of Madeira's many beautiful beaches or enjoy the island's vibrant nightlife. And last, but not least: as a golf enthusiast you can enjoy beautiful courses with spectacular ocean views.

Madeira, a golf destination

Madeira is a golfer's paradise with several world-class golf courses. Palheiro Golf is a challenging course in the hills overlooking Funchal, offering stunning ocean views and tons of natural vegetation. Santo da Serra Golf is another popular course, known for its narrow fairways, tricky greens, and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Both of these courses have hosted international tournaments and offer excellent facilities and services, making them a must-visit for any golf enthusiast visiting Madeira. 

There is a third golf course in the vicinity of Madeira, but it will require a two-hour boat trip (or a spectacular helicopter flight) to the island of Porto Santo. Porto Santo Golf was designed by golf champion Severiano Ballesteros and is a typical ‘Seve’ course with 6 par 3’s, 6 par-4s, and 6 par-5s. The course was designed to blend into the landscape and crosses the island from the dunes to the dramatic basalt cliffs. It offers a perfect combination of natural beauty and a challenging game of golf.

Palheiro Golf and the tournament

A beautiful morning view of the city of Funchal, taken from the first tee box of Palheiro Golf. (Photo: Tim Ladrak)

Palheiro Golf proudly hosts an annual golf tournament known as the Palheiro Golf Classic, an event that we had the pleasure of participating in during this trip. The day started with an 18 holes shotgun start, coinciding with a breathtaking sunrise morning that set the perfect backdrop. The start of the tournament was particularly memorable, as the first tee had a camera crew capturing every (poor and stressed) tee shot.

Looking at the other side from the tee box a photo against the sun with a view on the strongly undulated first fairway. (Photo: Tim Ladrak)

The Palheiro Golf course is very undulating throughout its layout, making it an absolute delight and challenge at the same time for most golf enthusiasts, and the use of a buggy is very much advised. The course maintenance was great, with well-manicured fairways, greens, and tee boxes for the first 12 holes. While there was a decline in quality towards the concluding six holes, it did little to diminish the overall joy and challenge of the course. You simply can’t overstate the beauty of the surroundings; the course offers breathtaking ocean and mountain views. During the round, it was nice to see the ongoing construction of a new driving range that promises to provide an ocean view as well - an exciting but also much-needed addition to the course.

An ocean view onto the par 3 11th hole of Palheiro golf. On the horizon, you can see Las Ihlas desertas, the uninhabited ‘deserted’ islands. (Photo: Tim Ladrak)

The Palheiro Golf team was very hospitable and helpful during the tournament. For those looking for a great dining experience, visiting the clubhouse after your round is also recommended.The combination of great cuisine and the picturesque backdrop of the city of Funchal created an unforgettable experience

Palheiro hotel

From the golf course, you can walk directly into the hotel and its forest garden. (Photo: Tim Ladrak)

Located next to the golf course in the hills, you will find an amazing 5-star hotel at the Palheiro resort. It's all about luxury and style here and the hotel is surrounded by natural trees and plants. From the great welcome drink in the lobby to the fancy rooms with a small garden and terrace, the quality of the hotel was great.  And oh boy, the restaurant served up lip-smacking dishes that'll have your taste buds dancing. Whenever you are around, make sure to say hi to Luis, everybody’s favorite waiter. He will bring a smile to your face for sure!

And don't forget to take a dip in the pool, pamper yourself at the spa or play a game of tennis on the court.

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