With remarkable clifftop golf courses overlooking the radiant ocean, championship quality loops designed by the greats of the golfing world, and mild temperatures year-round, golf in Madeira is full of life’s pleasure.
While Madeira is not the first golf holiday destination that springs to mind when planning golfing trips, the credentials of the golf courses on offer and the all-round experiences available are certain to whet the appetite. Madeira’s best golf courses have been designed by renowned golf architects and former world number one professional players, and incorporate verdant greenery, woodland, lakes and unexpected hazards, giving golfers challenging and original experiences in sublime coastal settings. These courses have received various accolades, included in PGA Tours and listed in prominent guides of the world’s best golf courses.
While Madeira’s golfing credentials are highly-respected, the island has more to offer for those who want golfing holidays blended with other activities and points of interest. In particular, Madeira and its neighbouring island of Porto Santo have celebrated spa, wellness and thalassotherapy amenities. Perfect for unwinding after days spent golfing and exploring the islands, some of the best active trips to Madeira include a combination of golfing, day trips and wellness.
Here are the best golf courses in Madeira and what you can expect from them:
Palheiro Golf Club
Found in a dramatic location almost 500m above sea level on the grounds of the 200-year old Palheiro Estate, the Palheiro Golf Club offers golfers magical views over the sea and across the island. As a result, the 18-hole championship golf course is described as being one of the most beautiful in Europe. Just 10 minutes from Madeira’s capital of Funchal too, this golf club is close to amazing amenities in an enviable and verdant location.
Palheiro Golf Club has a lot more going for it than glorious looks alone. A par 72 championship course stretching over 5,859 metres, Palheiro Golf Club’s course meanders through an environment of maritime pine, botanical woodland and sub-tropical vegetation.
The course was designed and conceptualised by the renowned golf architect, Cabell B. Robinson, who has created a magnificent layout combined with challenging hazards in the form of hilly terrain, ridges and valleys. There are also contoured fairways and bunkers that guard fast, rolling greens, meaning precision is often key to golfers here. The course comes highly praised by novice to intermediate golfers, while the landscape and hazards also present challenges for low handicappers. There are no specific handicap requirements to play here.
Palheiro Golf Club is also home to an array of other facilities that make golfing holidays here a well-rounded experience. There’s a six hole academy course, a pro shop, golf buggies, a short game practice area and a driving range, putting green and chipping green. A PGA golf professional and a team of experts are also located on-site, offering advice and tuition to those who want to continue improving their game. With The Tea House halfway through the course and a clubhouse serving delectable Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine, Palheiro Golf Club provides an all-round golfing experience in Madeira.
Where to stay…
Another impressive aspect of the Palheiro Golf Club is that it is directly accessible from Casa Velha do Palheiro, the five-star hotel and spa in the former hunting lodge of the First Count of Carvalhal. As well as five star amenities in a magnificent country estate setting, the hotel enjoys free access to the Palheiro Gardens and is home to one of the best restaurants on the island, Casa Velha Dining Room.
There’s no better way to unwind after days spent golfing than in a spa surrounded by lush woodland. With a Finnish sauna, Turkish steam bath, rain and waterfall shower experiences, the spa at Casa Velha do Palheiro offers an original combination of facilities. There’s also an indoor pool with massage jets, a fitness room and a myriad of wellness treatments and massages, all offering an abundance of options for relaxing tired muscles and soaking up the surroundings.
Casa Velha do Palheiro
Santo da Serra Golf Club
Located on a clifftop with sea views over the bay of Machico, the Santo da Serra Golf Club is internationally recognised. The club attracted many of golf’s greats during the Madeira Open – formerly part of the PGA Tour – which was hosted at Santo da Serra on 20 occasions. Impressively, Santo da Serra has also been named one of Rolex World’s Top 1000 Golf Courses. This is also a popular location for royalty, with Great Britain’s Prince Andrew and Conde de Barcelona – the father of King D. Juan Carlos of Spain, both having played here in the past.
The champion standard course itself is comprised of three loops of nine to form an impressive 27 hole course. A par 72 course set over 9,003 metres, Santo da Serra is found in a lush natural environment with lakes, trees and sand. The course was first built in 1937 but was redesigned in 1991 by the famous golf architect Robert Trent Jones Sr, who turned it into the 27 hole course it is today.
The Machico and Dersertas loops form the championship course where the Madeira Open was hosted and are both seen by golfers as being challenging propositions. The Serras course is a little more forgiving with flatter terrain. The challenge for golfers tends to come from the demanding putting surfaces, due to small greens, significant slopes, roughs and semi-roughs. The hazards and complexity of the courses makes this a suitable proposition for golfers with low handicaps, but the club does not stipulate a golf handicap is required in order to play here.
As well as the renowned courses, Santo da Serra has an abundance of facilities, including a spectacular practice area, two putting greens, a chipping green, a bunker green and a driving range with different tee positions. There’s a pro shop, rental clubs, trolleys and buggies on-site too, as well as resident professional golfers offering tuition. A club house with a restaurant and snack bar forms a hub of golfing life in Madeira.
Where to stay…
Santo da Serra is just five minutes away from the motorway that connects the golf club with the rest of the island. Madeira’s capital of Funchal is just a 30 minute drive away, while the charming hotel Porto Bay Serra Golf is located just a short walk from the golf course.
Nestled withing fragrant gardens, this home-from-home style hotel dates back to 1920. The unique facade can be peeled back to find comfortable and cosy interiors as well as an extensive spa. The spa homes a heated pool, sauna, gym and massage rooms, making it an ideal place to unwind after days spent golfing, this is a place to truly indulge and savour the moment. As well as spa facilities, guests can relax in the games and reading room or explore the local Levadas.
Porto Bay Serra Golf
Located on the small island of Porto Santo, just a 15 minute flight or two hour ferry journey away from Madeira, the golf club at Porto Santo is a popular stop on the itineraries of keen golfers visiting the locality. Another glorious coastal course on a clifftop, golfing here offers pristine sea views and an outlook over Porto Santo island itself, with its incredible landscape centring on two extinct volcanoes.
An 18 hole course with two nine hole loops, Porto Santo’s golf course is set over 6,434 metres, with a par of 72. The course was designed by former professional golfer and world number one Severiano Ballesteros, who created a challenging game incorporating the island’s rugged natural beauty. Spanning from an area of dunes to the basalt cliffs, the golfing environment feels genuinely original.
The southern route is a longer game in an area peppered with lakes – said to be more American in style, while the northern route offers a higher outlook from the clifftops, with characteristics closer to British golfing traditions. The environment also has water hazards with rolling fairways and greens, providing a workout for the mind as well as the body. There are no handicap requirements stipulated to play golf at Porto Santo and players of all abilities report an enjoyable and challenging golfing experience here.
Porto Santo’s golf club also has a practice range, putting greens, a pitch and putt area, a pro shop, golf buggies and a modern club house with a restaurant, bar, sauna and Jacuzzi.
Porto Santo Island
For those looking for a more in-depth spa experience following days spent golfing, Porto Santo is also a renowned thalassotherapy destination. The natural therapeutic qualities of the island’s sand and waters were first discovered by doctors in the 1970s. The sand is comprised of a unique mix of algae, shells and materials from other marine microorganisms and is known as biogenic sand. The sea water on Porto Santo is also rich in nutrients and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iodine. The combination of the two offers anti-inflammatory properties to visitors and a scientific basis for wellness and relaxation. Various spas on the island offer thalassotherapy treatments as a result.
The golfing and wellness offering available on Porto Santo in particular makes it an ideal spot to incorporate into twin centre holidays in Madeira.
Calheta, Porto Santo