High-flyers get the chance to mix business with pleasure at the ‘world’s best emerging golf destination’ when the 2020 World Corporate Golf Challenge (WCGC) lands at Clube de Golfe do Santo da Serra, in April.
Santo da Serra is one of three stunning golf courses in Madeira, which earned the ‘world’s best’ accolade in last year’s World Golf Awards. What’s more, it was recently named the 10th best course in Portugal by the leading golf publication, Golf Digest.
The World Corporate Golf Challenge – which was launched in 1993 by England’s FIFA World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore and his former Fulham team-mate John Mitchell – is held over a number of different events at a variety of venues, with the Madeiran stage to be played on April 18, and the grand final, in Cascais, in July.
Previous winning teams include Rolls Royce PLC, Credit Suisse, Nevada Bob’s, and TaylorMade.
For this year’s Madeiran leg, participants will enjoy a course which was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Snr, in 1991 – having opened originally in 1937 – who 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.
But visitors to the ‘the islands of eternal spring’ are not limited to one venue like the competitors in the World Corporate Golf Challenge; they can enjoy two further acclaimed courses: Palheiro Golf, in the hills above Funchal, and Porto Santo, on the nearby island of the same name.
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. Porto Santo is on the nearby island of the same name.
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, and was recognised by Golf Digest as the ninth best course in Portugal.
Seve Ballesteros’ 7,036-yard course, which opened in 2004 and was built to environmentally conscious standards, comprises two distinct nines, 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.
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.