Madeira: Golf courses key to green tourism ambitions

Club de Golf Santo de Serra, Madeira

Golf courses on Madeira are backing a Portuguese government campaign to establish the island archipelago as a world-leading sustainable tourism destination.

Eduardo Jesus, Regional Secretary for Tourism and Culture and President of the Madeira Promotion Bureau, says that ‘golf is at the heart’ of Madeira’s tourism appeal and crucial to earning global recognition as a sustainable destination.

Earth Check, a global benchmarking and sustainable tourism certification body, awarded Madeira a Silver award in 2023. Jesus is targeting Earth Check’s highest accolade, Gold certification, by 2030. 

The regional government has prioritised improvements to sustainability practices at the island’s three golf courses and is funding the development of a new 18-hole layout at Ponta do Prago, which is expected to open in 2026. 

Club de Golfe Santo da Serra, 18-time host venue of the Madeira Island Open on the DP World Tour, has committed to installing a new irrigation system that will reduce water consumption by 66 per cent. 

It will enable greenkeepers to limit water usage to just 750m³ daily. The 27-hole facility is also renovating four on-course lakes used to store around 40,000m³ of irrigation water. 

The works will connect the lakes, improving access to water and increasing water storage capacity in the Lagoa de Santo system.

Club de Golf Santo de Serra, Madeira

On the smaller northern isle of Porto Santo, Porto Santo Golfe has earned UNESCO biosphere reserve status, becoming one of 25 new locations in the world network of biosphere reserves.

The course is located across a clifftop setting and is dotted with natural habitats supporting a variety of bird, wildlife and marine species. Loggerhead sea turtles and the rarest seal in the world, the Mediterranean monk seal, both reside nearby.

Palheiro Golf sits 500m above sea level, in the Palheiro Nature Estate, overlooking the town of Funchal and the Atlantic Ocean. 

The club is registered with the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) and has reduced its carbon footprint by using black sand, native to Madeira, in all bunkers. 

The island’s fourth course, Ponta do Pargo, is being master planned by Faldo Design and guided by Madeira’s 2030 sustainability action plan.

“We are now going to move forward with one of the most beautiful courses in Europe – I am not afraid to say it – which will be located in a parish in the west of the island, next to a promontory over the sea,” Miguel Albuquerque, President of the Regional Government of Madeira, told Golf Course Architecture.

“It will be one of the iconic courses at European level and be an anchor project for the whole area.” 

Work on Ponta do Pargo originally started in 2009 and was halted three years later. Construction restarted in 2023 at the 120-acre clifftop site, which will include a par 72 course, nine-hole short course, driving range, chipping and putting green, clubhouse, restaurant and hotel. 

According to the Madeira Promotion Bureau, more than 50,000 visitor rounds are played annually, mainly by British, German and Scandinavian golfers; generating more than €3.1 million in green fee revenue.