UK golfers finally got the news they have been waiting for after the government announced that Portugal, including the award-winning islands of Madeira and Porto Santo, were added to the ‘green list’, meaning travellers will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
Holidaymakers from the UK were advised against all non-essential travel to both islands almost five months ago, with a mandatory quarantine imposed on June 8. The UK government then controversially left them off its list of air bridges, which were announced on July 10, where dozens of countries were declared as exempt from quarantine.
But the stunning golfing hotspot, which is home to three magnificent golf courses, has now been deemed safe by the UK authorities and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and is fully prepared after it began welcoming back international visitors safely from July 1.
The islands were last year hailed as the ‘world’s best emerging golf destination’ at the World Golf Awards, and as Europe’s ‘leading island destination’ for the fourth successive year, as well as the world’s ‘leading island destination’ for a staggering fifth year running in the 2019 World Travel Awards – meaning the decision will be welcome news to golfers, who can now enjoy their annual golfing holiday at some of the best golf courses in the world, without needing to stay at home for two weeks when they are back.
Prior to arrival, all passengers must complete the Regional Health Authority’s (IASAÚDE) epidemiological survey and will need to submit a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure, although, if they have not performed a test in advance, they will be required to take one upon arrival at Madeira Airport – with costs covered by the local authorities.
Incoming visitors will also be subject to thermal screening, even if they carry a negative test for COVID-19.
Discover Madeira, the consumer-facing brand of the Madeira Promotion Bureau, has been working with the local and Portuguese authorities to put plans in place for holidaymakers to visit safely, with the “Madeira Safe to Discover” guidelines being stringently followed across the islands to control and prevent the spread of coronavirus and other possible infections.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, golf clubs and other tourist activities across the islands are also adopting the “Clean and Safe” stamp, created by VisitPortugal, which distinguishes tourist activities which are compliant with certain hygiene and cleaning requirements.
Madeira’s three golf courses include two on the mainland – Santo da Serra and Palheiro Golf, as well as Porto Santo Golf, which is located on the nearby island of Porto Santo.
The par-72, 6,656-yard (6,086m) course at Palheiro Golf – designed by Cabell Robinson – is situated within the magnificent Palheiro Estate, which is more than 200 years old. At nearly 1,640ft above sea level, the location enjoys dramatic views of Madeira’s mountainous skyline and the ocean, as well as – nestling below, just 10 minutes away – the island’s capital, Funchal.
The original course at Santo da Serra, dating from 1937, was redesigned in 1991 by Robert Trent Jones Snr, who created a new and spectacular 27-hole complex. The third and fourth holes of the Machico course are regarded as the signature holes, sitting atop cliffs more than 2,200ft above sea level, providing views of the bay of Machico, where Portuguese navigators first landed in 1419.
The 27-hole, Severiano Ballesteros-designed Porto Santo Golf is a short plane hop or ferry ride away. The par-72, 7,036-yard (6,434m) course, which opened in 2004, comprises two distinct nines. The southern route – a US-style layout – is dotted with lakes, requiring a long and precise game; while the northern route is atop fantastic cliffs, near the stunning beach of the same name.
A spokesman from Discover Madeira said: “We have been prepared for this moment for a very long time now – our islands are as safe as they can be, with a number of strict measures in place to control the virus. We are extremely proud to be able to offer a safe destination for tourists to enjoy their holiday at ease and finally relax after a difficult year so far.
“Madeira is a short-haul destination from the UK with a flight time of just three-and-a-half hours and our sub-tropical climate, meaning it is warm all year round, has made us popular for centuries with UK travellers, so this decision is obviously huge for us and our tourism industry and finally reflects the reality of the situation.”
Located approximately 1,000km from the European mainland – and just 500km from the African continent – Madeira enjoys an amazingly mild climate, ranging from 25°C in the summer to 17°C in the winter, with very mild average temperatures and moderate humidity, making it the perfect year-round destination for a golf break.
The best way to enjoy the archipelago’s golf is with a Madeira Golf Passport – available from most hotels and the golf clubs – which entitles the bearer to five rounds of golf across the two ‘mainland’ tracks: Santo da Serra and Palheiro Golf.