AZORES

AZORES

GOLFING IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN!

The Azores, a family of nine emerald green islands scattered like stepping stones in the middle of the Atlantic, 850 miles west of mainland Portugal and the western most extremity of Europe. At one time thought to be part of the legendary lost continent of Atlantis, the islands were formed as a result of volcanic activity and are the exposed tips of vast underwater mountains, which, if measured from the ocean floor, would be amongst the highest peaks in the world.

The islands purvey an old world charm, their beauty is both rare and timeless, time that slows down exuding an aura of 1950’s innocence.

Although there were traces of settlement before, the Azores were discovered by the Portuguese navigators in the 15th century. Sao Miguel, nicknamed the green island, is largest with a surface area of 293 square miles and accounts for over half of the Azores population. Boasting a sub tropical climate, the island’s economy prospered with the exportation of oranges, primarily to England. However, this industry was decimated by blight in 1860 and replaced by new crops of  pineapples, tobacco and tea. Yes, that’s right tea! The Gorrean tea plantation is the only commercial tea plantation in Europe, established in 1883 and to this day it remains unspoilt by progress. Today tourism is a major source of revenue along with farming and fishing, but surprisingly 55% of the Azorean workforce is employed in government departments.

Whaling has always been a precious part of Azores folk law and still is to this day. Fortunately the colossal creatures are now pursued by people clasping cameras rather than hurling harpoons!

Sao Miguel is a haven of natural tranquility, teeming with an abundance of flora and fauna. The island is pitted with vast craters; a remnant of its volcanic past. Many have now filled with water forming glistening gargantuan lakes. The savagely beautiful coastline is dominated by sheer cliffs that fall into the ocean. Everywhere is a photo opportunity.

The aptly named town of Furnas illustrates mother nature at her best! The islands volcanic topography literally rises to the surface in the guise of Caldeiras-hot springs and geysers of boiling hot water and Furnas is one of the largest thermal water sources in the world. No visit to Furnas would be complete without sampling the unique local delicacy, Cozido. Whilst most countries in the world have become accustomed to fast food and cooking by microwaves, Furnas is having none of it. Cozido, a form of stew, takes six to seven hours to cook, but there again it is cooked in a hole in the ground heated only by the volcanic bio-thermal steam!

Most people know little or nothing about this far flung archipelago, seemingly isolated at the end of the earth…they know even less of their golfing treasures!

Golf made its first appearance in the Azores in 1936 with the opening of the 9 hole MacKenzie Ross designed Furnas course. The US airforce built a course adjacent to their base on Taceira island, then in the true Azorean fashion of not rushing, it was another 32 years before the much acclaimed Batalha course opened in 1986, designed by Cameron and Powell who were also commissioned to extend the Furnas course to a full 18 holes thus propelling the Azores into a serious golfing destination. With a temperate climate, controlled courtesy of the Gulf Stream, the thermometer rarely rises above 26 degrees even at the height of summer.

Golfing holidays in the Azores are a unique experience not to be missed. What could be more exhilarating than playing on almost empty course in the morning, then in the afternoon, a spot of whale watching, swimming with dolphins or if you are really brave diving with Manta Rays?

This really is….

GOLFING IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN!