Tree protecting the left of the 4thWater at the dogleg 12th hole More water protecting the 14th
I am in the car on our way to Royal Obidos and it suddenly feels like a bit of a pilgrimage as this was the last course that the great Severiano Ballesteros ever designed, and memories of the great man doing his fist-pumping salute on the 18th green at St Andrews while winning the 1984 Open Championship spring to mind.
Another thought that occurs is the saying: never meet your heroes as they will never live up to expectations. But as I stand on the first tee, that nagging doubt subsides. The course looks fantastic. The first is a tough opening hole, but the second just takes your breath away. Holiday golf should be fun and Seve has given us plenty of risk-and-reward shots here. Once you have played your drive from this lofty elevated tee over a lake to the fairway that sits at least 100ft below, you then have to play over the same lake if you want to go for the green in two. But be warned Ė there is water back and front of this green.
If you think you escaped there, youíll be mistaken. The 3rd is a long par-3 downhill to a green that is again protected by water front and back. This is followed by two well-designed par-4s and another par-3 over water. The first nine culminates in a long par-3 downhill and a par-5 that gives you a great birdie chance. As I make my way round some of the great practice facilities to the 10th I look back on the front nine and realise that there wasnít one weak hole.
The back nine has a slightly different feel to it and you can see the course is laid-out around a valley and is played around and along it. I crack my drive down the fairway and we are off again, but itís at the par-5, 11th holeís elevated tee that the fun begins again.
You can almost feel Seveís presence as you stand by your ball, having hit the fairway looking down at the green below; his chuckle as you look at a yardage you know you can hit but the doubt around the water that protects the green. Again risk-and-reward at its best. All I would say is bring plenty of golf balls. There are plenty of risk-and-reward shots on this course and youíre going to enjoy every one of them. You may lose a few on the way, but youíre not playing monthly medal golf Ė this is holiday golf and whether youíre with a group or just with your partner, itís fun golf. So go for it!!
Anyway Iím teeing up on the par-4 12th with a new orange ball! This time the water runs along the right with a hill to your right. This hole is all about strategy as itís a 35-degree dog-leg right, but you need to place your drive and then be in the right position to attack the flag.
The 18th is truly a stunning finishing hole from an elevated tee. Hopefully once the hotel is finished you will be staying here as I am sure youíll want to stand on this tee again. I know I want to come back. The green is out of reach unless youíre Bubba Watson, that is, but youíll still have to make the carry over water with your third to get to the flag.
What also makes this a great finishing hole for touring groups is the fact that it sits right below the clubhouse and you can watch as your friends finish. I am told the bar is filled with howls of laughter and boos for those who make the carry. No matter which way you finish this great track, you will be lifting a glass to the great legend that is Seve and thanking him for a wonderful dayís golf full of joyous and probably raucous memories.
The stunning views that awaits you on the 18th tee © James Mason photos taken on the day of play