There are few more beautiful sights than stepping onto the balcony of your hotel room to find yourself high above the 1st hole as it arcs into the hills and woods that surround you.
It helps of course that you are staying in five star luxury in Sintra, less than hour north west of Lisbon. Penha Longa is a vast resort that blends the old (a 14th century monastery and royal carriage courtyard) with the new. The hotel is plush and luxurious while remaining calmly muted so that it sits elegantly within its environment, without overpowering it.
I was there for the golf – all 27 holes were designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr – but there is so much else to do that I took advantage of the exceptional spa (the Zen garden with hot tub is out of this world), visited two of the resort’s eight restaurants… and two of those have Michelin stars. If you’re a foodie you’ll be in heaven and even if you’re not the choice stretches from Indian to Italian to classic Portuguese and tapas.
As for the golf course, there is such a big and sweet rhythm to it that it manages to feel five star every bit as much as the resort. There are some climbs here: the par four 16th will definitely hurt as the Index 1 drops from a high tee and then rises steeply through bunkers to a perched green that is tough to reach. It’s one of the best and toughest holes around Lisbon. But the entire course moves easily through the forest that towers above you, dropping and rising, and presenting many greens where putting surfaces tease you by being out of view.
The resort is at the top end of the five star scale and rates reflect that, but with the Unlimited Golf package of €270 per night, per room, with breakfast included there’s an excellent way to experience what true five star luxury is all about. (www.penhalonga.com)