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Cabell Robinson and the Art of Golf: Portugal’s Master Designer

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For the last forty years or so those looking for the perfect trip abroad to play a round or two have been drawn to the beautiful links courses of Portugal. But be warned: while the country does have some wonderful greens and fairways, not all the golf Portugal has to offer is of a high standard. One way of making sure that you and your group get the Portuguese experience you’re hoping for is to check which architect was responsible for designing and landscaping your chosen course.

Cabell B Robinson

One name worth looking out for is the legendary designer Cabell Robinson. Although responsible for a number of courses across Europe and North Africa, the American Robinson actually learnt his skill at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. It was here, in 1963, that he met the son of famous course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. He was drawn to the family and started to work for Trent Jones when he graduated.

In 1970, Robinson was sent to Spain by Trent Jones to open a European arm of the design business, creating some impressive courses in countries including France, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. By 1987 Robinson was ready to go it alone and set up his own consultancy. He became well known for being very selective about the projects he worked on, only working on a course if he felt the natural landscape would create something new and interesting for the players.

Today there are numerous Cabell Robinson courses across Europe and North Africa, stretching from Switzerland to Morocco, and each one is guaranteed to offer a rewarding challenge to keen players of golf. Portugal is fortunate enough to be home to two of his best courses which highlight Robinson’s unique eye for creating the perfect landscape.

Troia Golf Course

Designed during his time working with Trent Jones, the Troia is set across a sand dune landscape with an exposed aspect that makes it a serious challenge to most players. Laid out across a narrow peninsular with a road on one side and the ocean on the other, the greens cut their way through pine trees in a series of unforgiving short holes. With particularly short greens on the 4th, 11th and 17th, accuracy is a must here.

Praia d’El Rey Golf & Country Club

Robinson has said of the site of the Praia d’El Rey course, just an hour north of Lisbon on the Silver Coast, “This is the kind of landscape we architects try to create, but at Praia D’El Rey it’s all here naturally”. What caught his imagination when creating the design was the rolling hills, overlooking the dramatic swells of the Atlantic Ocean on the cliffs below. So taken was he by this landscape that he routed three holes along the cliff tops themselves, while others work their way through beautiful pine forest and exposed sand dunes, making for a thrilling range of play.

So next time you and your group are looking for a holiday destination that will offer the chance for some excellent rounds of golf, Portugal should be at the top of your list. But make sure that you seek out the work of Cabell Robinson if you are looking for a really unique golfing experience.
About author: Desiree Michels

Steve Frewin is the Managing Director of A Golfing Experience, a company with more than 29 years experience organising bespoke golf holidays and escapes throughout Europe for individuals, societies and groups. If you're looking for truly great destination to play golf, Portugal is one of our top destinations. We also operate in all the other major European destinations and, if you'd like to explore options further afield, we can arrange holidays to the world's greatest courses in The Caribbean, Mauritius, Bermuda and USA.

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