Golfing among stately Japanese cedars, lush landscapes and Atlantic ocean views
Sao Miguel, Azores
You’ll need to fly 930 miles off the coast of Portugal to the Azorean island of Sao Miguel to play these two beautifully stunning courses. Universally loved by avid golfers, many have said that golfing in the Azores, if only once, is well worth the trip.
Furnas Golf Course l 37.7804° N, 25.3408° W
The stunningly beautiful Furnas Golf Course was created in 1939 by the renowned landscape architect, Philip Mackenzie Ross. It is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of São Miguel Island, high above the Furnas Valley. Originally designed as a nine hole course it is set among some of the islands most lush tropical vegetation.
In 1986 the course was expanded by the renowned UK based Cameron Powell Golf Course Design. The principals expanded the course to 18 holes, integrating in into the original course with an extremely skillful and respectable touch. The present day look and feel of the additional nine holes is that they were there from the beginning.
The Furnas Golf Course is universally praised as one of the world’s most intimate and breathtakingly beautiful courses. Throughout Spain and Portugal it is regarded as the finest example of bringing two courses together with absolute seamless execution.
Long fairways are connected by undulating terrain that provides not only challenging rounds but fantastic views. To keep things interesting, this spectacular course has its fair share of hazards, with deep lava sand bunkers and strategically placed ponds, testing the skills of even the most accomplished linksmen. With somewhat small and wickedly contoured greens, possessing a good short game will come in handy on this magnificent course.
Throughout the 18 hole course there are enormous stands of Japanese Cedar trees, many of which of which have clusters of Sulphur shelf mushrooms clinging to their burnished red trunks. Even a non-golfer would be awestruck by the lushness and utter beauty of this course. As is the case with most courses it is impeccably manicured and impossibly green and without a building in sight the feeling of remoteness is profoundly peaceful.
Although we are not golfers we had the good fortune to meet the Director of Communications for the Azores Golf Islands Company and she was kind enough to take us on a walking tour of the Furnas course on the day it reopened from the mandated COVID19 shutdown. Walking the full 18 holes we were absolutely mesmerized by the beauty and grandeur of this magnificent course. Had we stayed on the island long enough we may have taken up the game!
Batalha Golf Course l 37.8041° N, 25.6338° W
While it may not receive as much attention, or recognition, as the Furnas Golf Course, the Batalha Golf Club is nonetheless a masterpiece in its own rite.
Founded in 1986 and designed (as were the additional 9 holes at Furnas) by the renowned UK based architects Cameron Powell Golf Course Design, this 27 hole gem is situated on north coast of São Miguel. Golfers in the know will tell you that the Batalha Golf Club deserves top billing as one of Europe’s finest courses.
The Batalha Golf Club consists of 27 holes laid out in 3 x 9 loops. Flatter and less undulating than Furnas this course possesses its own demons in the form of exceptionally long fairways, sizeable bunkers and unpredictable stiff winds blowing off the Atlantic.
While the winds may test the best intentions of even the most accomplished golfers as they sweep across the long and generous tree lined fairways, the occasional glimpses out to the ocean more than make up for the challenge. In an interesting and thoughtful nod to the past several old stone walls have been incorporated into the design, offering the overall layout a rustic, natural feeling.
Although Furnas and Batalha are distinctly different courses, what they do have in common is their incredible natural beauty with nothing in sight to interfere with the endless views. With mild year-round weather these two courses make for a world class golf destination well worth the time and effort to get there.
The Azores Golf Islands Company also owns and operates the 18-hole Terceira Island Golf Club on the island of Terceira, a short plane ride from the island of Sao Miguel. Dating back to 1954 this is a heavily wooded course close to the World Heritage town of Angra do Heroísmo.
History tells us that a major battle for control of the island was fought between two opposing Portuguese armies at Batalha, thus earning the course its name. Today the only battles taking place here are between equally fierce, modern day competitors with clubs and colorful attire!