“Seve Ballesteros came to Madeira’s neighbouring island of Porto Santo to layout his golf course” — David J Whyte
The 15th green concludes a dramatic run of cliffside holes at Porto Santo
Madeira is fairly well-off when it comes to golf. The three existing courses are completely different from one another. If they ever get around to building the fourth course at Ponta do Pargo, the Madeira islands will become a prime golf destination. As to which is the best of the current lineup, my opinion changes after playing each of them. Porto Santo was my favourite for a good while, while Santo da Serra is certain in lovely condition these days. Palheiro, where I’m a member is hilly & tight, but it’s a fun experience. So the bottom line is they each offer a widely differing experience and it’s great to have such variety. Visiting Porto Santo island in the summer months is also fun but it’s very, very busy. Apart from the golf course! That tends to ‘burn-out’ at this time of the year so you’re better to leave a golfing visit here until the winter period. Off the tee, the course is wide and open. The green approaches are fairly open also. The wind is what makes the challenge here. The front-nine has an ‘All-American’ feel with 3 or 4 varying-sized lakes tightening up the otherwise generous fairways.
It does not get much more dramatic than the exciting dogleg 15th.
The back-nine progresses towards the dramatic cliffs found at holes 13, 14 and 15. I first played the course with Andrew Oliveira, the Director of Golf at Porto Santo and, to give me maximum ‘wow’ impression, we started with the back nine. Andrew’s sister, I was surprised to learn, lives in Elgin, Scotland and he was off to meet her on the coattails of the upcoming Scottish Golf Show. I also met Andrew’s father on the practice green at Santo da Serra (where he’s a member), a kindly gentleman with a crafty twinkle in his eye. “Where are you from, laddie?” he asked in a pseudo-Scottish accent. “Dundee,” I enlightened him! “Ah! Clepington Road,” he declared in the same pseudo-Scottish accent, naming one of Dundee’s main yet surely little known thoroughfares, especially to a gentleman of Madeira? Mr Oliveira, as an uber-keen golf enthusiast had lived in Scotland in his younger day.
The 9th at Porto Santo Golfe as approached by the FAP
PORTUGUESE AIR FORCE
Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP) have many keen members at Porto Santo
Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP) is stationed on Porto Santo, the airport hosting both military and domestic flights. Porto Santo was in fact the first of the Madeira Islands to obtain a runway in 1959. There’s a story of a more recent UK flight bound for Tenerife diverting to Porto Santo to eject a 53-year-old uber-intoxicated, verbally abusive English male. He was left standing on the tarmac, his luggage stacked next to him. It was several days before he could find a way off the island and in the UK tabloids, it was reported that he had been ‘abandoned on a desert island’. He should have been!
The Sunflower Bar in Porto Santo
The great thing about hanging out with Andrew and his airforce pals was going to the local ‘tasca’ after the golf round. The Sunflower Bar serves Black Beer, a local favourite! Coral ‘Tonica’ might be trying to follow in the footsteps of the old Guinness campaign implying that ‘stout’ is good for you. I can see why the guys enjoyed it but I’ll stick with the Portuguese ‘vinho tinto’, thank you very much!
Chef 'Gato' is from Uruguay and clearly has a real passion for cooking…
EYE OF THE TIGER
We'd had lunch at Porto Santo Golfe and knew it was a 'bit special’ so we came back for dinner! It was the nearest restaurant to our hotel… after all! Chef Daniel Rodriguez Mendez, otherwise known as 'Gato' (which means 'cat' due to his unusually pale blue eyes) is from Uruguay and has a real passion for cooking according to his boss, Paulina. Paulina and Gato worked previously in two excellent restaurants on the island which are no longer… La Roca and La Siesta. Now they are putting their considerable efforts into Porto Santo's clubhouse fayre and I bet the club members and visitors are very pleased. It has to be one of the best restaurants on the island!
David J. Whyte