West Cliffs is simply one of the best golf courses we have played.
It had the wow factor from the opening of the doors at its clubhouse to the last putt on its dramatic final green.
Every hole pleases the eye while demanding precise hitting to avoid the many sandy obstacles.
Much to our delight, Mrs W and I played it well and our little private match went down to the wire.
And we realised it was an achievement to have lost only one ball between us because our playing partner saw more than 25 disappear!
To be fair, he remained jolly good company throughout, never allowing Cynthia Dye’s masterpiece to eat away at him.
Despite the relative shortness of West Cliffs, we were advised that our 12.8 and 18.4 handicaps suited the yellow and red tees respectively.
This still left us with a stern challenge, given the considerable carries on many holes.
The sandy scrub, dotted with colourful fauna is present from hole one, a short par-four and a gentle introduction if the drive can be tracked down the left-hand side to avoid trouble.
The first big test comes in the club selection for the downhill short par-three second over more nasty stuff with a backdrop of some of West Cliffs’ new homes.
Mrs W’s shot was too big and found sand at the back, while mine was thinned but appeared, apologetically, in the middle of the green.
These were hors d’oeuvres before the meat of the course was delivered.
The par-four third has the danger of a camber towards bunkers and a lake running down the right-hand side while too far left and a dune awaits. It is the first big test.
And the hits keep coming as the fourth demands a substantial carry over sandy waste before curving towards a green defended by deep traps.
West Cliffs is far from a mere drive fest. Thought must be given to strategy on every hole, especially the par-threes.
This is evident on the fifth, protected by bunkers in front of a huge green that banks severely from right to left.
Finding the target is not the end of the show because the borrows on its putting surface are fiendish.
After the testing par-five sixth comes one of the craziest holes I have ever played.
The seventh begins with another long drive over thick bushes with only a mound on the left-hand side a sign of the insanity to come.
The fairway then dips sharply into about 30 yards of white sand punctuated by small bushes and rocks.
Even if the player clears it (I didn’t), the third shot must be negotiated past a hillock on the right and away from a giant deep bunker to the left of a two-tier green.
I would love to return just to watch that hole being played well.
The sea comes into full view on the eighth – a bending par-four into a risen target. If a drive can clear the inevitable acre of fauna, an opportunity exists here.
My only ball loss of the day came because of a mental meltdown on the ninth, a short par-four around a lake bordered with sand. My ball landed in the former after I thought I could smash it out over the latter—glug, glug, glug. No score.
We had been challenged by the outward nine but, in my opinion, the homeward holes ratchet things up even further.
From the tenth tee, the vegetation has become noticeably more colourful. Vivid reds and yellows of seaside fauna accompany the white sand, verdant bushes and black and brown rocks.
All have to be cleared to reach what appears as only a slither of fairway with the sea as its backdrop.
More sand dune threats follow on the curving par-four 11th, before the short 12th and a clip against the breeze into a huge green defended by a fall-off to the right.
Mrs W roared back into the contest with a stunner that landed four feet from the flag and nailed her birdie.
On the superb uphill par-five 13th, only horrible scrub can be seen from the tee, as well as bunkers in the distance on the right.
The hits keep coming on the 14th where the views are simply awesome and there is a sandy hillock of ‘special environmental interest’ directly in front of the green! It was one of the pars of my life.
If Mrs W had a complaint about West Cliffs it would be that the par-threes are too short from the red tees.
This meant she had only 80 yards to the 16th and scored easily. Ours was a bit more difficult into an obscured green with a dune to the right and deep bunker to the left. Those playing off the back tees would have a blind uphill shot of 30 yards further.
After the big par-four dogleg 17th comes arguably the best home hole I have ever encountered.
From the 18th tee, the carry downhill towards the sea is the best part of 200 yards before decisions need to be taken on the approach to a green which has a substantial lake to its right and big bunkers to its left.
I played it as a five and was delighted to achieve just that.
Knowing how some have said that West Cliffs is one of the hardest courses they have played,
I can only surmise that the starter gave us the correct tees on a gorgeous day for golf. That meant we could score decently because we were on our respective games.
However, it is clear that any ball offline or not driven hard enough will be lost.
Regardless, of how we performed, this is an unforgettable course. Every hole has a special ingredient and the vistas are staggering.
We didn’t have time to stay long in its clubhouse but what we did see was very impressive indeed.
Suffice it to say, I would give it a hearty recommendation and, of all the courses we have played in Portugal, I would come back here first.