Golfers looking for a safe destination with excellent courses and beautiful weather this summer are in luck as the award-winning islands of Madeira and Porto Santo are now fully operational and welcoming international travel.
The islands – which were last year hailed as the ‘world’s best emerging golf destination’ at the World Golf Awards, and as Europe’s ‘leading island destination’ for the fourth successive year, as well as the world’s ‘leading island destination’ for a staggering fifth year running in the 2019 World Travel Awards – are delighted to be able to welcome back tourists and have taken every step to ensure the safety of every resident and visitor.
Discover Madeira, the consumer-facing brand of the Madeira Promotion Bureau, has been working with the local and Portuguese authorities to put plans in place for holidaymakers to return, with the wellbeing of all being paramount under the current circumstances.
Determined to be renowned as a ‘safe destination’, the Madeira islands have been working with SGS, the world leader in certification, to ensure good practices for the prevention and control of COVID-19 and other possible infections. The certification process is available to all companies in the tourism industry and is easily identified by the logo appearing under the umbrella of “Madeira Safe to Discover”.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, golf clubs and other tourist activities across the islands are also adopting the “Clean and Safe” stamp, created by VisitPortugal, which distinguishes tourist activities which are compliant with certain hygiene and cleaning requirements.
Not only has Madeira worked hard to gain these certifications to provide comfort to those travelling to the islands, but was also a pioneer in the development of a safety guideline document, which lays out the precautions and measures put in place for every aspect of a visitor’s holiday, from the moment they touch down at the airport.
Madeira is home to three stunning golf courses in total, with Santo da Serra and Palheiro Golf located on the mainland, and Porto Santo Golf located on the nearby island of Porto Santo.
Trent Jones’ redesign of Santo da Serra – which dates originally from 1937 – created a spectacular 27-hole complex in a beautiful natural landscape, with views of Porto Santo and the bay of Machico, where Portuguese navigators first landed in 1419.
The Machico and Desertas nines form the 6,825-yard championship course, on which the European Tour’s Madeira Islands Open was held on 10 occasions – Mark James winning the inaugural 1993 tournament. The third and fourth on the Machico are regarded as the signature holes, sitting atop cliffs more than 2,200ft above the Atlantic.
The 3,193-yard Serras course offers a delightful alternative, with lakes and mountain views along flatter terrain.
The Cabell Robinson-designed Palheiro Golf opened in 1993 and sits within the magnificent Palheiro Estate, which is more than 200 years old. The course borders the five-star Hotel Casa Velha do Palheiro and meanders through a pristine environment of maritime pine and botanical woodland, garnished with lush, sub-tropical vegetation.
And, at nearly 1,640ft above sea level, the location enjoys dramatic views of Madeira’s mountainous skyline and the vast Atlantic Ocean, as well as – nestling below, just 10 minutes away – the island’s capital, Funchal.
The par-72, 6,656-yard course takes full advantage of Madeira’s hilly terrain, with abrupt ridges and deep valleys. It is listed inside continental Europe’s top 200 in one benchmark course ranking, and the presence of a splendid hotel, secured a spot for Palheiro in the top 80 in two recent ‘best European golf resort’ lists.
A short, 20-minute flight – or a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride – will cover the 27 miles between Madeira and the archipelago’s eastern-most island, Porto Santo, home to Porto Santo Golfe, which hosted the Madeira Islands Open between 2009 and 2011.
Ballesteros’ 7,036-yard course, which opened in 2004 and was built to environmentally conscious standards, comprises two distinct nine-hole loops, spanning an area from sand dunes to basalt cliffs.
The US-style southern route is dotted with lakes, requiring a long, precise game; while the northern route is atop yet more fantastic cliffs, near a stunning beach, also called Porto Santo. The signature hole is undoubtedly the 200-yard, par-three 13th, which requires a shot over a gorge to reach a cliff-top green.
A spokesman from Discover Madeira said: “We are obviously delighted to welcome back golfers and tourists to Madeira – but their safety is paramount, which is why we have been working so hard to ensure that the islands are the safest they can possibly be.
“We want to take the worry away and give visitors the reassurance that they are protected, so they can relax, enjoy their holiday and make the most out of everything Madeira has to offer. It’s been a tough and strange few months, but we look forward to welcoming you all to the islands to enjoy our beautiful courses, spectacular landscape and, of course, the sunshine.”
Located approximately 1,000km from the European mainland – and just 500km from the African continent – Madeira enjoys an amazingly mild climate, ranging from 25°c in the summer to 17°c in the winter, with very mild average temperatures and moderate humidity, making it the perfect year-round destination for a golf break.
The best way to enjoy the archipelago’s golf is with a Madeira Golf Passport – available from most hotels and the golf clubs – which entitles the bearer to five rounds of golf across the two ‘mainland’ tracks: Santo da Serra and Palheiro Golf.