Standing on the 17th tee of Vidago Palace Golf Course I had no indication of quite what I was in for. It had been quite a round up to that point; negotiating most of the cunningly placed creeks, coping with Augusta like slopes on the giant greens, and one wayward fairway wood aside, keeping to most of the fairways. But up on the 17th tee, (I say up, because all of the tees here are built using retaining pink stone walls) it looked to me like a regulation dog leg left par 5, so playing it safe I hit a drive down the right side, and then a second skirting the trees on the left side. It was only at this point, turning the corner, the full majesty of this stunning hole hit me; the ground literally falling away beneath my feet, it was like staring down into an abyss, with my ball perched just at the edge. There, seemingly miles below, lay the green surrounded by bunkers. It really was an extraordinary hole.
After recovering from the spectacle of the 17th, the par 3 18th kept up the tension as a great finishing hole, a mighty tough 220 yard par 3 to a green surrounded by bunkers and trees.
Portugal is blessed with some outstanding golf courses particularly in The Algarve and around Estoril, but the drawback is they are very busy and very commercial. The Vidago Palace Golf Club has none of that to contend with, sitting in the north of Portugal just an hour from Porto amongst the hills and valleys of Chaves, a stone’s throw from the Douro Valley, it’s crowd free and an undiscovered gem that simply must be played.
The course dates back to 1936 when the Vidago Palace Hotel, once the summer retreat for King Manuel II the last of the Portuguese monarchy was a magnet for Europe’s well to do, flocking here to enjoy its medicinal mineral spring and 5 star hospitality. 9 holes were originally constructed by legendary course designer Mackenzie Ross winding through the 250 acres of parkland surrounding the hotel, and following a €50 investment from new owners Unicer in 2010, the course was expanded to an 18 hole, 7,000 yards par 72 championship track. And you can see the fruits of their labours, from a relatively benign front 6, the course expands into the park’s hills and valleys culminating in that epic finish.
The new owners commitment was amply rewarded earlier this year when the Portuguese leg of the prestigious European Seniors Tour was held at the club.
Club pro Paulo Ferreira was an entertaining playing partner during my round, not least because I had the satisfaction of beating him by a single hole. But it was heartening to hear how passionate Paulo was about making the Vidago Palace Golf Club a real contender to Portugal’s more popular courses.
Quite frankly, it has everything for the perfect golf holiday. A sensational course, a luxury hotel literally fit for a king, world class spa facilities which still makes use of the mineral spring water and best of all – a crowd free environment, cocooned within Vidago’s historic centennial park.
I want to play at Vidago Palace Golf Club. Tell me more.
Sample package – 1 Night – 1 Green Fee
€240, Sharing Classic Room (€120 pp).
€260, Sharing Superior Room (€130 pp).
Includes 1 Night Accommodation, Breakfast and 1 Green Fee per person.
Tel: +351 276 990 900