The first time you are amazed is before you have even really arrived at the Palheiro Golf Club. From a height of 500 metres, you look down steep cliffs in front of the clubhouse to Funchal, the capital of the Madeira archipelago. Behind the clubhouse, you are immediately amazed again, because the course goes steep uphill to the first green. There are a few surprises in the course of the round. The 18-hole course cannot be pigeonholed.
There are too many very different holes for that. The fairways are mostly relatively wide, but on some of them the landing zones from the tee are still very small due to the slopes. On others, you can only guess where to hit without knowing the course. Wooden stakes do help with orientation, but if you keep your ball within sight with an iron off the tee, you are certainly not at a disadvantage compared to driving into the unknown. At least not on the first round at Palheiro Golf Club.
Many different challenges
With improved course knowledge, you can approach the par-72 course quite differently. The first time, however, you need to make smart decisions. The length of the course is not a difficulty for any skill level. But those who miss fairways or greens will run into problems. This is not least due to the nature of the terrain. Cliffs, steep slopes and deep valleys are just waiting for a ball to miss the target – even if it is only half a metre.
However, the Cabell B. Robinson design is never unfair. Rather, the challenge is to adapt to the ever-changing challenges. On one of the high plateaus it can be very windy, on the next hole you need a good feeling for the length of your shots for the height difference between tee and green. In some other places, strategically placed trees form the biggest obstacle. Some greens are surrounded by bunkers. You never know exactly what’s coming next. But even on the greens you are not safe. Partially heavily ondulated and difficult to read, the putting surface sells for as much as the rest of the course.
At the moment, one still looks in vain for a driving range at the Palheiro Golf Club. While a short game training facility and practice greens are already in place, the range is still under construction. In general, a lot is happening at the club in the south of Madeira. All greens were renovated during the Corona pandemic. The first roughs have already been changed to a more water-efficient type of grass. More are to follow to make the entire club even more sustainable. However, irrigation is already done exclusively with rainwater.
Palheiro Golf Club (Photo: Azalea Group)
Unconventional and a dream for the eye
Unconventional is probably the simplest description of the Palheiro Golf Club. In positive terms, you could call it varied. Those who don’t enjoy it would probably criticise the lack of a clear line in the layout. However, no one will complain about the wide views over the sea that open up again and again. The fantastic view down to Funchal is also offered in several places on the course. Thanks to the subtropical vegetation, for which Madeira is famous, you get a real holiday feeling. But since everything here has its contrast, you also play your way past the island’s prison in the course of the round.
The topography of the course almost “screams” for a cart, but the terrain can also be mastered with a trolley. Only those who are absolutely physically fit should carry their bag. If you opt for a buggy (45 euros), this will spare your muscles, but you should keep your concentration on the sometimes rutted cart paths.
Palheiro Golf Club (Photo: Azalea Group)
One of the most beautiful spots in Madeira
On the club’s terrace, you can enjoy the excellent cuisine and the view over Funchal and the sea. Mediterranean dishes “with an oriental touch” are served by the neighbouring Hotel Casa Velha do Palheiro, which runs the restaurant. Fish and seafood here are fresh and regional. Around a dozen desserts sweeten the memory, especially the Pastéis de Nata, for which Portugal is world-famous, should not be missed. The club terrace is definitely one of the most beautiful spots in Madeira.
The clubs terrace and its stunning view across Funchal. (Photo: Azalea Group)