“This is where golf originated!”
I thought that might get your attention ... We all know the game took a firm grip on the sandy shores of my native Scotland but here on the ‘Garden Isle’, the first track was roughly hewn from a field right across the fence from where I now stand.
We’re staying at ‘Bio-Quinta Do Pântano’, an organically certified farm on the edge of the village of Santo da Serra and here, back in 1928, a swathe of pasture was ‘repurposed’ into Madeira’s first rudimentary golf course. All two holes of it! Today, the ‘Bio-Quinta’ is an easy 8-iron from a far more sophisticated facility. Santo da Serra Golfe Clube offers 27 magnificent holes that have hosted the Madeira Open from 1993 to 2015 with the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Howard Clark, Mathias Grönberg, Mark James, Gordon J. Brand and Paul Broadhurst all gracing its fairways. It’s as good a test as you could wish for - with views to match.
The Great ‘Organic’ Outdoors
“A million miles from the madding crowd”
Life on the Quinta is a million miles from the madding crowd! From our patio, I could hear golfers chatting and the occasional cry of ‘Fore’. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more sanguine spot surrounded with a healthy dose of organic outdoors. I woke up during our first night and was dumbstruck by the silence. I know it sounds weird but I think it was the silence that woke me up. Early in the morning, there’s the occasional ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ from the resident rooster with chastising clucks from his hens. Horses munch on the sweet grass, a prankish white goat and shifty-looking sheep make the most of the sweet, organic pastures. You can almost hear the apple trees growing. I noticed the trees here are covered in lichen. My father used to tell me this was a sure sign of pollution-free air. In the highmountains surrounding Santo da Serra, it’s assuredly true!
History of the Quinta
“This tabletop came from the original golf clubhouse”
Emanuel prepares espetadas in the original clubhouse bar top - with the cat watching on
Our host, Emanuel Pereira gave me some background to the property. His grandfather purchased the hotel ‘Poisada da Serra’ from an American, a Mrs Turner who came to Madeira in 1906, buying up land f or investment. It wasn’t a smooth ride for the dear lady and she eventually went bankrupt allowing Emanuel’s family to purchase the hotel and neighbouring lands.
It was Emanuel’s uncle, Manuel Pereira and wife Olina who created the first two golf holes to be found west of Continental Europe and he and his wife both played the diminutive course. “This tabletop came from the original golf clubhouse,” Emanuel told me as he loaded up another green Laurel branch with tender meat. “It’s made out of cedar“. Now it’s used for serving espetadas (meat-on-theskewer) next to an open fire grill. That evening, Emanuel, prepared espetadas for us washed down with flagons of local cider served on the old clubhouse bar. I thought I spotted a few ancient spike marks!
The Village of Santo da Serra
“Simple fayre from simple lands and oh so tasty”
The ‘Bio-Quinta’ makes an ideal base for a few days of peace and healthy reflection. You can drive to Santo da Serra clubhouse in less than three minutes or you can stroll into town. Sunday is ‘Market Day’, a hive of activity around the old church where locals come to worship then wander around the extensive stalls or enjoy espatadas with rounds of ‘bolo do caco’ bread -simple fayre from simple lands but oh-so-tasty!
There’s lots more to do, both near and far but maybe the best thing is to enjo y this lovely Quinta and its healthy, relaxing quality.
“The village of Santo da Serra is a half hour drive from the main city of Funchal”
The village of Santo da Serra is a half-hour from the main city of Funchal and only around 15 minutes from the island’s international airport.
Accommodation at the Bio-Quinta comes in the form of two self-contained studio apartments and another two spacious houses. The main house which we were staying in can sleep up to 8 people. It’s self-catering but there are several eating options very nearby. Emanuel’s sister runs ‘Restaurante A Quinta’, their ‘bacalhau’, (codfish done in cream) particularly palatable!
For more information on the Bio-Quinta Do Pântano and village of Santo da Serra, visit www.madeira-rural.com