Small tournament, great golf
Madeira Islands Open: best views and toughest wind conditions on the tour
With a prize purse of just € 675,000 the Madeira Islands Open (May 10 to 13) is the second smallest tournament of the European Tour. At the same time it may be one of the most exciting events on the golf calendar, thanks to the unique venue of the tournament. The Santo da Serra course on the island is no doubt one of the most picturesque courses on the Tour and many golfers have praised it for its aesthetic qualities and superb maintenance.
The editor of the yearbook of the European Tour is clear about the opinion of most golfers: "Santo da Serra is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular courses on the European Tour." The course is a true botanical garden, with four beautiful lakes and scenic views.
Tough nut to crack
At the same time, the Atlantic Ocean island location makes the course a tough nut to crack. The Madeira climate may be subtropical and sometimes hot, the winds from the ocean add an extra dimension to golf on the Madeira islands that is described by many as ‘tough’ and ‘risky’.
In these windy conditions, Michael Hoey’s achievement at the 2011 Madeira Islands Open
at Porto Santo Golf on the tiny neighbouring island of Porto Santo, was truly great. His impressive play – Hoey finished two shot ahead of Chris Gane and Jamie Elson – will be hard to match in the 2012 edition. Hoey seems to have a way to read the winds, because at his first Tour win in 2009 he conquered similar wind challenges in Estoril, Portugal.
Every hole has its story
At Santo da Serra
, built in 1937 and redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Snr in 1991, every hole has its story. It is one of the reasons why The Rolex Worlds Top 1000 Golf Courses ranked it the third best golf course in Portugal. With sheer rocky drops from the course to the sea, steep, undulating fairways and demanding greens, there may be trouble ahead at any shot. Players should not let the picturesque pine mimosa, eucalyptus trees and exotic flowers fool them – this Garden of Eden is both spectacular and risky terrain.
The par three fourth hole is the signature hole at Santo da Serra, offering a ravine at the front and a sheer drop down the mountain to the sea at the back of a very narrow green. Pro players have described this as the hardest hole on the front nine. Niclas Fasth, the champion in 2000, said “a par feels like a birdie” and a tiny mistake can result in scoring a double bogey or worse. Fasth is right: every hole at this course has to be conquered, as the Portuguese did with the Madeira island group. That makes the course location very fitting: Santo da Serra Golf Club overlooks the bay of Machico, where the Portuguese navigators first landed on Madeira Island.
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