Philip Mackenzie Ross, the former design partner of Tom Simpson, is given architectural credit for several Portuguese courses that were fashioned in the 1930s – including, Vidago Palace and Miramar – and he was also responsible for the remodel of Jean Gassiat’s original 9-hole layout (formed in 1929) and the addition of new nine holes at Estoril in 1945, the year that the club was founded. He was then invited back to lay out another nine holes (today’s Blue course) a decade later.
One of the most historically important golf clubs in the country, Estoril was instrumental (along with Oporto, Miramar and Lisbon Sports Club) in establishing the Portuguese Golf Federation in 1949 and the club then hosted twenty editions of the national Open championship, from its inception in 1953 until the final one at this venue in 1987.
The modern day layout still extends to 27 holes, with tight fairways positioned on either side of the A5 highway. Only one hole was lost to construction when this road was built – replaced by the current 13th – on a rather hilly but also rather short course, where a lack of length is largely due to having only two par fives on the scorecard, at holes 5 and 10.
Holes of particular distinction on the front nine include the par fours at the short downhill 3rd and right doglegged 9th. On the back nine, the 359-metre left doglegged 14th is another terrific hole, whilst the 179-metre 16th is rated by some as one of the best par three holes in the country.
William fforde, in The Pocket Guide to Golf Courses Spain & Portugal, sums up Estoril in the following way: “Full of history and not to be underestimated, a relatively short, pretty, tree-lined course, whose narrow fairways and subtle, often hard-to-find greens require careful tee shots, and more.” Estoril may never make the upper reaches of the Portuguese golf course rankings, but that shouldn’t deter the more intrepid golfing connoisseur from seeking out its undoubted charms.