Golf Travel expert Mary McDowall recently took a trip to Madeira. Here she explains why you want to add this destination to your golf holiday list

Madeira probably isn’t at the top of most golfer’s “must visit list”. But why not? It’s a beautiful island, has a great climate and is less than four hours from the UK? So when I was invited to go and try out the courses recently I was intrigued to see what I would find.  And guess what….it blew me away!  Both the island and its lovely golf courses.

The Island

Madeira and its three neighbours form a small archipelago of islands that lie off the west coast of Africa, to the north of the Canaries.  Its approximately a 3.5 hour flight from London. 

It’s a rugged, mountainous island with some breath-taking landscapes and its sub-tropical climate provides some fabulous flora and fauna. I could see where its nickname, the ‘Floating Garden’ comes from. Strolling around its cosmopolitan capital, Funchal, on my own felt very safe.

It’s a calm and friendly city perched on the side of a mountain. The views are great, and the chilled, laid-back vibe even better.   I enjoyed wandering around its lovely Old Town and gorgeous botanical gardens – either by day or by night, and not a lager lout in sight. 

*When to Visit*

To see the island in full bloom – late March to early May are the best months.  You should also get pleasant weather in the early 20’s then – perfect for golf.

The Golf Courses

There are two courses on Madeira itself, Palheiro and Santa de Serra, and one on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo.   

Santo de Serra Golf

Wow!  It's all about the views here.  I was blessed with a clear day and the views across the Bay of Machico were fab.  I struggled to take my eyes off them – perhaps this affected my score, but actually it is quite a long course for women so points had to be earned.

There are 27 holes here in three loops of 9. The course was immaculate when I played it. It was a pleasure to play, winding its way up and down some gorgeous botanical gardens – for a holiday golf venue it really is hard to beat.

Palheiro Golf

Another spectacular course, this time sitting high above Funchal.  The course runs through the Palheiro Estate which is famed for its magnificent centennial trees, beautiful shrubs and vegetation.  Apparently a visit in Spring is a must to see the course in full bloom.

It's shorter and tighter than Santo de Serra. Palheiro was in good condition when I visited, but many of the bunkers were under renovation.  It did not reach the highs of Santo de Serra, but is still definitely worth playing.


  • If you have a morning tee time, always take a couple of layers.  Although the sun maybe out, both courses are well over 1000ft above sea level, so can be distinctly chilly first thing.
  • Buggies are definitely recommended on both courses
  • If you are booking golf yourself, use the Madeira Golf Passport.  If offers great value packages for three or five rounds.

Porto Santo Golf

If you have the time, and fancy a trip, the neighbouring island of Porto Santo is worth a visit. Porto Santo Golf could not be more different to the courses on Madeira, being a relatively flat course, with wide open fairways.  It’s much easier to walk and there’s a lot more run on the ball – which is always appreciated 😊. 

Porto Santo

Porto Santo feels like Madeira’s little sister.  A sleepy, unspoilt island with some lovely sandy beaches.  To get there you can either take a short flight, or a longer ferry.  Or a combination of the two.  The flight is less than 30 minutes whereas the ferry takes 2.5 hours, but actually has a good restaurant on it  So one option is to fly out and return by ferry, enjoying a decent evening meal whilst watching the sun set as you head back to Funchal.

Where to Stay

The obvious choice is Funchal, where there are plenty of good quality hotels to choose from.  I was lucky enough to stay at the Savoy Palace Hotel in the centre of the city. Although not related to its London namesake, it had a very similar feel about it.  Beautiful rooms and décor with a glorious outdoor swimming pool and an even better Spa.  It's about 15 minutes to Palheiro Golf and half an hour from Santo de Serra.

Alternatively, if you fancy something a little out of the city I would recommend the Sentido Galosol perched on the cliffs in the resort of Canico on the island’s South coast.  It’s a really well-run hotel with gorgeous sea views from its rooms, bars and restaurant.  Its also closer to both the golf courses, and yet still only a 15 minute cab ride away from Funchal.  The hotel now offers great value golf packages.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a golf break, but want to stay somewhere which offers a bit more than sun/sangria/golf, Madeira really does offer a lovely alternative.  I can’t wait to return!

For more information specifically on Madeira you can contact Mary here.

About the Author - Mary McDowall

Mary McDowall

I have worked in the golf travel industry for over 20 years, previously Tour Leading golf holidays for Solos Holidays and then as a Product Manager responsible for putting the golf trips together. I have been lucky enough to travel extensively across the fairways of Europe & beyond.

I am a member of Mill Hill Golf Club in England, and Borth & Ynyslas Golf Club in Wales, currently playing off 13.1 but dreaming of returning to single figures one day!

Mary McDowall - LinkedIn

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