The stunning par 4, opening hole8th green amongst the dunes Don't be short at the 14th hole!
I have heard a lot about Oitavos Dunes and like all courses by the sea you are in the lap of the gods when it comes to the weather. Today has seen plenty of rain and we are going just out after a club competition. At least it was a shotgun start so the course is going to be clear, and as I tee my ball up on the stunning looking 415-yard first, I know Iím going to be in for another great dayís golf. Hopefully the golfing gods are with me and I donít get too wet.
As I look down the fairway I have sand dunes to my left and pine trees to my right and what looks like a sliver of perfectly-manicured green carpet separating the two. I manage to find the middle of the fairway Ė the best position to see the green would be on the left of the fairway for todayís pin position Ė but Iím not in bad shape. Itís a strange feeling as I make my way to my ball, the course does have a links feel to it and with that taste of salt water in the crisp clean air all the attributes are there. But itís the palm trees and different grass textures that are the tell-tale signs youíre not playing a links course in Great Britain or Ireland. Well, that and a howling wind and piercing rain that hits you like pellets from a 12-bore shotgun!
Oitavos Dunes has a tough start. Not only is the opening hole 415 yards with some very tricky green complexes, the third is a par-3 of over 220 yards with a very narrow entrance protected by bunkers either side. If you manage to get through those three holes without dropping too many shots Ė there is a birdie chance at the second Ė the 4th gives you another birdie chance to get your score back on track. The fifth is the start of a very open section of the course and this is the only criticism that I have. I do feel these holes could do with more definition Ė some added sand dunes between them would help add that much-needed definition. But this is my own personal preference and you may like the idea that you can smash away with not too many worries about losing your ball.
My favourite section of the course is from the 8th. It starts with a truly majestic par-5. The tee shot is slightly blind as you donít get to see the green Ė you are just aiming at the fairway. But once you get to your ball and see the green below from your elevated position surrounded by high dunes, it just looks so inviting and is a visually stunning hole. So is the par-3 that follows it from its elevated tee to the green below, with the sea and pines as its backdrop.
The back nine starts with another tough hole with high dunes to your left and out-of-bounds to your right. The hole slightly dog-legs to the right to a raised green that slopes back-to-front and is followed by a drivable par-4 for the longer hitters. Or you can use the 13th fairway to play onto and then go for the green from there. If ever there was a green you needed to be in the right position for, this is it. The green has a 3ft step right in the middle of it and if youíre in the wrong position you will be putting up or over this step. Good luck!
The next highlight comes at the back-to-back par-3s at the 14th and 15th holes forming part of a very tough finishing stretch of holes. The first plays across a ravine to a green that is open to the elements and is only protected by a couple of small pine trees on the right. If the wind is blowing like it is today from the sea, itís a tough little hole. This is followed by the second par-3 and is played from an elevated tee to a long thin green surrounded by dunes and pines. I have a little twinge of sympathy for the players who have just competed in the competition as I know a few of them would have walked away from these two with their tails between their legs. Two pars here and you have done very well. The 17th and 18th are both over 470 yards long and are a fitting finale to what is a great track.
The long par 3, 12th hole playing back towards the sea © James Mason photos taken on the day of play