Success story of golf in Portugal and future trends

By: Jose Villa Cardoso August 31, 2017

Portugal is one of the top golf destinations in the world. Most of the golf courses are located in Algarve, in Southern Portugal, but there is a significant number of amazing golf courses in all continental areas, including Madeira, and the Azores.  The number of people playing on those courses is growing each year.

Golf and tourism are in perfect synergy. Nature, weather, people, food mixed with hospitality and many different services in golf courses is the winning combination and the main reason why players choose Portugal. Most of the tourist come from the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.

Golf tourism and tradition in Portugal

Portugal has got 149 golf clubs and 75 golf courses (Source: FPG – Portuguese Golf Federation) in 2016.  The distribution of golf courses:

  • North of Portugal13 golf courses,
  • Center region 6,
  • Lisbon region 21,
  • Algarve 29,
  • and in Madeira and Azores 6 Golf Courses.

The total number of golf players in 2016 was 14.659 and it’s increasing.

The players are from:

  • Algarve region: 5128 players,
  • Lisbon region: 4883 players,
  • North of Portugal: 2049 players,
  • Central region: 2996,
  • and in Madeira and Azores 900 golf players.

The clubs with the highest number of golf players are:

  • Oporto Golf Clube with 365 golf players,
  • Clube de Golf de Miramar with 358,
  • Clube de Golfe de Vilamoura with 766,
  • Clube de Golfe da Quinta do Lago with 559,
  • Clube de Campo da Aroeira with 354,
  • Boavista Clube de Golfe with 446,
  • ACP Golfe with 439, and
  • Clube de Golfe de Vale de Janelas with 479 golf players.

Portugal golf industry and trends

The first golf club was founded in Portugal more than 120 years ago and it was the Oporto Golf Club, located in Porto. Today, Oporto is the second oldest golf club in the continental Europe. In the North of Portugal is also located Vidago Palace Golf Course, which was founded in the beginning of the 20th century. As a part of the course, you can find a wonderful palace, which was renovated at the beginning of the 21st century and now represents the 5-star hotel. As you can see, we have a long golf tradition that people recognize and want to be a part of it.

Now, there are several major players in Portugal golf industry. Andre Jordan Group is “Ahead of the game”, as the name of the book by Andre Jordan says. As part of this group is the Victoria Golf Course, which is one of the most ambitious golf projects in Portugal.  The Par-72 Championship layout was designed by Arnold Palmer, true golfing legend. It’s so exceptional that it has a driving range and a putting green of 2.500 m2.

This course is a host of the Portugal Masters since 2007 and it hosted the World Cup championship in 2005. Another big player in Golf industry in Portugal is Praia D’El Rey Golf & Beach Resort. On the course, designed by golf architect Cabell B.Robinson, in 2016 were played 38000 rounds.

The key to their success is providing high-quality full experience with the focus on players and dedication to the details. They include, besides golf course, hotel, spa, restaurants, local activities, health clubs, other sports activities. All those activities attract more than golf players, even the national football team always spends few days in Praia D’El Rey Golf Course before winning championships.

New wave in Portuguese golf

Portugal is a golf country, but not a golfing country. In a long golf tradition, we didn’t have many players, unfortunately. In the past few years, that started to change. One of the goals of the new president of FPG – Portuguese Golf Federation, Miguel Franco De Sousa, is to bring more locals closer to golf. His work has a lot of success.

The golf development strategy of FPG includes promotion and support of planning and development of sports equipment that encourages the continued practice of golf in an accessible and integrated manner. Also, FPG is promoting innovations in solving environmental issues and good Golf Course Management national and international practices. FPG supports golf clubs and managers in planning new projects, including expansion projects, through the OnCourse™ program and the Golf Environment Organization (GEO) Legacy™ program.

In that way, FPG tends to create a sustainable development of golf. According to that Portuguese Golf Federation is organizing more national and international competitions, developing professional Portuguese players at Jamor training facilities, developing golf for young people at schools with “Drive Project” and “Go Golf Europe” and increase the visibility of golf by organizing different events and workshops.

Portugal golf courses

Federation is not the only one that is turned to the development of golf. Portugal has a lot of public entities which are developing new facilities to practice, driving ranges and Pitch&Putt courses. We are developing golf, starting small. The number of Pitch&Putt courses is increasing because they are smaller, easier to build and faster to play.

One aspect that FPG is paying a lot of attention to is the promotion of golf to young people. They are the future of the country and the inheritors of golf tradition. In cooperation with schools, government and golf clubs, FPG is implementing a new project which will make playing golf regular activity for kids. Also, there are some clubs that are organizing academies for young people, where they can learn golf at low prices. Every year, more and more kids are being a part of something like this and making great results in tournaments.

We can see that golf has a great future in Portugal by the example of Pedro Lencart. He has won the 91st British Boys Amateur Championship, which some of the best professional players have won before, like Sergio Garcia, Ronan Rafferty, and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Challenges for the Portuguese golf industry

Portuguese golf courses provide to customers golfing all year long, training all year long, workshops and practice for locals and foreigners. They also offer spa, health centers, other physical activities, and tournaments. This led to new challenges for course managers, which have to improve segmentation, offers, marketing, sustainability, technology, innovations.

The majority of the clubs target all of the markets with the same offer. So sometimes, for example, it’s possible to have professional and beginner on the same course at the same.  Now, the market includes foreigners, locals, professional players, amateur players, beginners and people who are more interested in additional activities. With this market expansion and expansion of services, they should make offers for different groups based on their needs and wants.

One of the most common problems which course managers have is optimization of the recourses. Course managers should create a sustainable system which will provide top experience to customers and increase revenue to the course, with lowering the costs. This is possible by the introduction of new technology systems for online reservations, the time management, loyalty systems and online sales strategy. New technology speeds up the process and provides a better experience for customers.

One aspect that most of the golf courses neglect is social media marketing and communication. Social media take big roles in everyday life of people and it is a great channel of communication. By creating engagement in social media, golf courses can make sure that their clients keep up to date with offers and happenings in golf course and course managers can get feedback for their work.

Recommendations for Portuguese golf clubs
  1. Golf courses and clubs should implement segmentation of the market, environmental and marketing practices.
  2. They should adopt new technologies which will improve online reservation systems, tee time management, and sales strategy.
  3. Golf course managers should improve direct communication with clients through social media and applications, with publishing all information, updates, and videos of the course and facilitate dialogue with them.
  4. Golf courses should think of the new ways to improve the game and experience to clients. Also, they should continue to provide excellent service.