The Azores Golf Islands

 

We are going to visit Sao Miguel in the Azores Islands playing Golf! Most people we talked to about our upcoming trip nodded in a vague I should know where you’re talking about way. “Where’s that ?” or “How do you get there”? Was the usual replay. to find out more read on.

The Azores

The Azores Location

Sao Miguel Island is the largest island and the administrative capital of the Azores archipelago which is part of Portugal. The Azores comprises nine islands of varying sizes with a total population of around 250,000, over half living on Sao Miguel and lies 900 miles off the west coast of Portugal. For hundreds of years it has been an important stopping point for ships crossing the Atlantic, these days many of the ships visiting are of the cruise variety. All the islands have volcanic origins and together with the Canary Islands, Madeira and Cape Verde comprise the little known biogeographic region of Macaronesia (good bit of quiz trivia).

Getting there

The Azores are remarkably easy to access from the UK, SATA the Azores airline fly direct during the summer to Sao Miguel capital town of Ponta Delgada from Gatwick (Saturday flight), however for most flexibility TAP flights from Heathrow and Manchester connect well with a short stop in Lisbon. While in Lisbon do consider a stopover, it’s a one of my favourite European cities to visit, a great city to wander around and with the metro system very easy to get around the city without spending a fortune on taxi fares.

The Climate

The Azores - Sao MiguelThe weather in the Azores is changeable! The islands enjoy a mild temperate climate throughout the year and benefits from the Gulf Stream. The average air temperature varies between 11°C (night) and 26°C (day) depending on the time of year and the surrounding ocean averages between 15°C and 25°C the sea temperatures act as a radiator keeping the air temperature relatively warm at night.  Being so far out in the Atlantic, the islands are prone to rainy days at any time of year, and without these showers of course, you could not enjoy the beautiful flora on the islands.

Winter – November to March. Some bright sunny days, a few wet and windy days and some overcast and cloudy days, with average temperatures of between 11°C (night) and 17°C (day).

Spring and autumn – April to May & September to October. You can expect consistently warmer weather, brighter sunnier days with average temperatures of between 11°C (night) and 24°C (day).

Summer – June to August.  Lovely warm sunny days with average temperatures of between 15°C (night) and 26°C (day). It can be quite humid especially on the coast or in areas where there is a lot of vegetation, basically perfect.

Warning! If you are looking for a beach holiday with guaranteed sun, then the Azores are not the right destination for you, it’s not the Canaries. However, if you are looking for a holiday where visiting the beach is just one of many activities, then the Azores might well be the perfect destination! It defiantly has a year round golf climate.

 

Sao Miguel Island

 

The Azores - LakesSao Miguel is one of the most picturesque Islands we have visited, around every bend are exceptional views of this small Island around 65 miles long and 10 miles across. Each end of the island has upland areas over 1000 metres high with spectacular flora and fauna. Old volcanic creators with Azure blue lakes, cliff top viewpoints that are accessed via roads not out of place in the Alps and of course the sea that can be seen from most parts of the island.

A car is pretty much a must on the Island to get around but driving on the Island is one of the most stress free driving experiences I have had abroad. Firstly the island has some good main roads, secondly there are not that many cars on the roads. Think of a quiet Sunday morning on the roads at home and you have rush hour in Sao Miguel. Thirdly Island life is pretty slow here and the speed most people drive can best be described as snail’s pace, but go with the flow and it adds to the pleasure of enjoying the island.

The Island has four main towns Ponta Delgada the capital and entry point to the Island, Ribeira Grande in the north of the island, Vila Franca and the hill town and centre of Geo springs Furnas. All are very unspoilt and cater for locals first and tourist later as well as the main towns there are a few larger fishing villages and farming communities, if you want to find the unspoilt charm of Portugal of 40 years ago this is the place to go. The main industries on the islands are farming (70% of Portugal’s dairy products comes the islands) and fishing. The Island is also self-sufficient in electricity being sourced from solar power and Geo-thermo power.

untitledThe Azores Golf Islands

 

There are 3 golf clubs on the Azores archipelago, Terceira Golf Club on the neighbouring Island of Terceira 90 miles away which was the former course for US military personal at the nearby airbase. Sao Miguel has two Championship golf clubs, Furnes Golf Club an 18 hole par 72 course and Batalha Golf Club a 27-hole complex and current home of the Ladies Azores Open on the Ladies European Tour Access series. Both the courses on Sao Miguel are members clubs with active club competitions however the courses are extremely quiet by UK standards even at the weekends tee times can be easily accommodated and during the week you feel as though you have the course to yourself.

The Azores - Batalha Golf Club

Batalha Golf Club

The Azores - Batalha GCThis course, designed by Cameron Powell in 1986, offers 27 holes in three loops of nine , A, B and C all 3 loops have their own special features; A is probably the most technically challenging, B has some superb tree line dog legs and an outstanding par 3 6th hole. The C course is slightly shorter but possess a more tactical challenge with again some spectacular tree lined holes and a very tough par 5 finishing hole. Its magnificent setting, nestling on the edge of the surrounding hills and with sweeping views to the ocean, large raised greens, wide and generous fairways and its volcanic sand bunkers.

The course opened to the public in 1993 and its imposing clubhouse offers all the normal facilities including excellent practice facilities, Club and Buggy hire

We played all three combinations of Batalha and enjoyed all the combinations, The B and C nines are more undulating and a buggy is worth considering. The course condition is good and a very enjoyable game of golf for any standard of player.

Batalha Golf Course is situated on the north Coast of São Miguel Island, just 10 minutes from the centre of the capital Ponta Delgada and 5 minutes from Ribeira Grande. Both golf courses are well signposted off the main roads.

A & B, Par 72 White tees 6,473m Yellow tees 6,230m Red tees 5,324m – B & C, Par 72 White tees 6,288m Yellow tees 6,057m Red tees 5,216m – A & C, Par 72 White tees 6,349m Yellow tees 6,071m Red tees 5,250m

The Azores - Signature 6th hole at Batalha Golf Club

203 yard Par 3 6th hole on the “B” course at Batalha Golf Club

Furnas Golf Club

The Azores - Furnas Golf ClubA spectacular golf course set in the midst of a powerful volcanic landscape with luxuriant tropical vegetation. This is a truly incredible golfing experience and not what you would expect as the fir tree lined fairways and sloping hillsides give the course a very Scottish feel, it’s unlike any golf course you will play in the rest of Portugal.

The first nine holes of the course were laid out by Mackenzie Ross in 1936, and represent the first golf course on the island. The holes meander through a landscape of spectacular natural beauty. Extended in 1992 by golf course architects Bob Cameron and Chris Powell, the course now boasts 18 magnificent golf holes and warm British style clubhouse.

The Course itself set amid stand of majestic Japanese cedars and with fiendishly contoured greens (especially the 18th) is quite gentle in nature but is without doubt a genuine test of skill and finesse. The Although the course is high in the hills some 700m above sea-level it’s a relatively flat and easy walking course.

Furnas Golf Course is situated in one of the most beautiful part of São Miguel Islands, set above Furnas Valley and close to volcanic crater Furnas Lake, with its famous hot springs and Terra Nostra Gardens. It’s a 25 minute drive from Ponta Delgada, 15 minutes from Caloura, Água d’Alto.

18 holes, Par 72, White tees 6,232m Yellow tees 5,955m Red tees 5,256m

 

Where to Stay on Sao Miguel

Most of the decent hotels are in the main town of Ponta Delgarda. The town also has the best range of bars and restaurants together with a nice marina area.

The Azores - Ponta Delgarda Marina

Ponta Delgarda Marina with the Hotel Marina Atlántico on the right

Hotel Talisman in the old part of town is a charming 4 star hotel, individually styled rooms an excellent restaurant and its own cosy Sports bar with free Wi-Fi and in a great central location. It even has a small plunge pool and sun deck on the roof. A warm welcome and great service is one of the hotels main plus points, the hotel owner is also a keen golfer so is very golfer friendly. www.hoteltalisman.com

The Azores - Hotel Talisman  The Azores - Talisman Sun deck

Hotel Talisman – Old town centre location

Hotel Marina Atlántico is a modern 4* hotel and part of one of the best hotel chains in Portugal, overlooking the marina the hotel has excellent appointed rooms. Good amenities including a spa and an indoor pool and a large underground car park for guests. Excellent restaurant and bars and within a few minutes’ walk from the town centre.

Staying outside Ponta Delgarda there are two main options. The Geothermal Spa town of Furnas has an exceptional Art Deco hotel the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, a sister property to the Atlántico Hotel. This property is ranked as a 4 star and recently won an award as the best 4* hotel in Portugal, this I can well believe as it’s probably better than many 5 star hotels we have visited. Together with large room size, indoor pool and Spa, award winning restaurants, and possible the best gin & tonics in the world! the hotel is set in the grounds of its own thermo hot water pools. Rich in minerals these natural springs are extremely popular. www.bensaudehotel.com

The Azores - Terra Nostra Garden Hotel  The Azores - Terra Nostra Hotel

 

The other hotel is the excellent Caloura Hotel Resort, approximately 7 miles along the coast from Ponta Delgarda and set on the cliff tops close to the small fishing village of the same name the Caloura Hotel has one thing that sets it apart from its rivals – its View!!

The Azores - Caloura Hotel Resort

Caloura Hotel Resort from the Sea

All the rooms at the resort look out to sea so everyone is treated to the spectacular view. The hotel has an excellent restaurant, large outside pool and terrace area with café. A few minutes’ walk away you find a small sheltered beach. We stayed at this hotel during our trip and really enjoyed the experience, excellent staff and is still a family run hotel. We would defiantly recommend car hire for stays at this hotel.  www.calourahotel.com

The Azores - Caloura Hotel Resort

Sea View from the Caloura Hotel

 

What else to do on Sao Miguel

The Azores are a paradise for anyone who likes an activity based holiday, with its climate it is perfect for mountain bikers or hiking and walking tours, nature lovers will enjoy the year round whale and dolphin watching, water enthusiasts can enjoy world class Surfing and Scuba Diving. Other activities include Horse riding, fishing, bird watching and visits to points of interest such as the tea plantations or the thermal springs. Above anything else it’s perfect for a couple of days simply driving around the islands and enjoying the spectacular scenery.

The Azores - Volcanic lake  The Azores - Windmill  The Azores - Seascape  The Azores - Scuba diver

 

Overview of the Azores

A wonderful holiday destination, we fell in love with the Island of Sao Miguel and its people very quickly. You can’t get further away from the sunbed packed mass holiday resorts in Europe than Sao Miguel. Spectacular scenery, good food and wine, Very enjoyable golf and excellent choice’s for accommodation. Big thanks you to Pilar at Azores Golf Islands for all you help and guiding us around the golf courses and excellent restaurant recommendations. To Katherine at the Caloura Hotel Resort, such a wonderful resort and especially for sorting out the Scuba Diving with the extremely professional Acores Diving centre.

If you enjoy doing things on your holidays the Azores and Sao Miguel could well be the place for you to explore. We certainly recommend it and will be returning ourselves sooner rather than later. Its truly is a Golfers Oasis but closer to home than you may expect.

The Azores - View point

Rob & Rachel from Quality Golf Destinations visited Sao Miguel during September 2014