Your guide to: The Algarve
Central Algarve is home to some of the most famous names in European golf. One could safely suggest that the Vilamoura area is to golf on Continental Europe what St Andrews is to the game in Britain. There are superpower courses wherever you look, led by Oceanico’s Old Course – a Pennink design that opened in 1969 and is often described as the ‘Grande Dame’ of Algarve courses. Also within the vast Oceanico stable is Victoria, which burst onto the scene when it hosted the World Cup in 2005 just a year after opening. It is now the regular host of the Portuguese Masters.
Two more ‘big’ Oceanico courses, the Faldo and the O’Connor at Amendoeira are set a little away from the busy hub and are everything you would expect of designs by Ryder Cup players.Three more Oceanico courses are: Pennink’s Pinhal (the second-oldest course in Vilamoura), the Martin Hawtree-designed Millennium, and the interesting Laguna, laid out over low-lying coastal terrain. Hawtree also worked on the bright orange coastline of Pine Cliffs – one of the best-known sights in European golf. Its pinewood setting and Atlantic views make for a lovely evening experience.Another Englishman, Donald Steel, created a similar pine heaven at Vila Sol and the three loops of nine that finish in front of the stylish clubhouse are highly underrated.
There are yet still more big names: Vale do Lobo is a quality complex with two top courses, Cotton’s original being split to provide the basis of both Rocky Roquemore designs, the Ocean and Royal.There is also San Lorenzo, which offers lovely views of the Ria Formosa nature reserve and has often been recognised as the finest course in Portugal.
Finally, to the Woburn of the Algarve, a 54-hole venue where it is difficult to identify the running order of No.1 to No.3. Historic Quinta do Lago boasts the North, South and Laranjal, plus a vast array of holiday facilities and accommodation – so you could easily be based here for a week and never be tempted to leave the complex.Head west and you’ll find plenty of terrific golf too – because the western Algarve is also low-hassle off the course and is generally much better value. It’s also not as if you will be playing totally unknown tracks; one started the Algarve revolution and another is one of the highest-ranked courses in Europe.
It was Englishman Sir Henry Cotton who designed Penina in 1966 and the former Open champion’s work was so well received that he was asked to lay out three more. Algarve golf was duly born.The Penina complex oozes class: the course is an essential rather than extraordinary experience but the resort is a tremendous base for groups of golfers and especially well-equipped for families. The biggest attraction in Western Algarve is however now new-look Palmares. Owners Onyria totally revamped their popular Frank Pennink design four years ago by engaging celebrated American Robert Trent Jones Jnr and have been rewarded with 27 holes of outstanding quality. It is a European top 25 course and includes a linksy stretch.
Boavista, located between Lagos and Praia da Luz, is an excellent resort. Just a couple of minutes away from the motorway but suitably secluded, it is the perfect antidote to the suggestion Algarve golf breaks are out of reach to all but the well-heeled. You could stay and play here and savour a golf break of real quality without breaking the bank. Other good options that won’t stretch your budget include three in the Pestana group, Portugal’s largest hotel chain: Vale da Pinta has hosted European Seniors Tour qualifying eight times and was designed by Ron Fream in 1992; Gramacho was also laid out by Fream, in association with Major champion Nick Price; while Silves is in a tranquil spot at the foot of the Monchique mountain.
There’s also another Cotton design at Pestana Alto in addition to CH Hotels’ Morgado – set in a valley between Portimão and Monchique. Finally, there’s Pepe Gancedo's Parque da Floresta, the Algarve's most westerly course. The Eastern Algarve undoubtedly still lags behind the Centre and West – in fairness, which area of Europe wouldn’t? – but the introduction of Monte Rei has given it impetus and status. This muscular Jack Nicklaus layout is now regarded by some as the finest in the Algarve and everything here is top drawer; the conditioning, the design and the service. It is an explosive venue in an otherwise tranquil area, and the East is where to head if you are seeking a peaceful experience away from the big names and the bright lights; there is surely little to dislike about excellent courses, a less crowded start-sheet and sub-four-hour rounds?
Alongside Monte Rei, you can play Benamor, a construction-free resort just a few kilometres from the ancient city of Tavira, or three loops of nine – Atlantic, Guadiana and the Grouse at Castro Marim. Or you might fancy enjoying the legacy of the late Seve at Quinto do Vale, an 18-hole championship layout with six par 5s, six par 4s and six par 3s. Two more 18-hole courses at the Quintas of da Ria and de Cima demonstrate there is more than enough to satisfy even the most enthusiastic travelling golfer in the east.
Climate: It’s almost a year-round destination with over 300 days of sunshine. May and September are lovely times to visit.
Getting there: Cheap flights from all over Britain to Faro and then the super-fast A22 motorway takes you to your resort within an hour.
Time difference: Same as GMT
Contact details: Visit www.algarvepromotion.pt/golf, telephone 00 351 289 800 403 or email email@example.com for further details on the area in general, the courses and golf-friendly hotels.
A hole you would relish...
Boavista: 6th: par 3, 213 yards
This is the beauty of the Algarve; Boavista is one of the lower-profile courses, yet is capable of producing a magnificent hole like this. The 6th is one of the finest short holes in the Algarve, a proper test off the backs – with views to die for.
For non golfers
From east to west there’s a stretch of coastline – over 200km of it – to suit everybody, from sheltered dunes to rocky coves, from tiny bays to vast stretches of open sands, from shallow lagoons to the crashing surf of the wild Atlantic.
The Algarve is renowned for offering a chilled-out holiday but if you want to step up the pace, there’s plenty of options with a selection of entertainment and nightlife, from cabaret shows at casinos to lively discos and quiet welcoming bars. Vilamoura harbour is the HQ for trendy bars and first-class restaurants.
From river canoeing to water parks, racing tracks to ocean safaris and 4D cinemas to nature trails, the Algarve can cater for family with wide-ranging tastes!
Savour the seafood
From fish stews to local cockles, razor clams, oysters, squid and cuttlefish, this is seafood paradise.
You can relax and cast off in lakes, reservoirs, rivers and the sea.
Snorkelers, sailors and surfers will love the Atlantic Ocean waters.
IDYLLIC ALGARVE VENUE
Dona Filipa Hotel
Timeless refurbishment sees a five-star Algarve Tour de Force return better than ever. With the ever-increasing growth of the luxury Portuguese holiday market and the vast numbers of five-star properties being built in the Algarve, the standards of grandeur, guest amenities and opulence have been rising exponentially throughout the region.
Customers and guests expect and demand the best… and now, thanks to a multi-million pound renovation, the five-star Dona Filipa is leading the way in luxury throughout the Algarve. First opened back in 1968, the Dona Filipa Hotel quickly became regarded as the smart choice for a luxury European vacation. For the past 46 years the hotel has been delivering the highest standards of service to a steady stream of guests… and pushing the boundaries of guest satisfaction with every passing year.
Located alongside one of the Algarve’s finest courses, Vale do Lobo, Dona Filipa has one of the most desirable locations in the region and this year it is staking a claim to become its finest hotel. Traditional style meets contemporary luxury following an extensive refurbishment that has seen the complete redevelopment of all public areas along with all of the luxury rooms and suites. Clean lines and contemporary furnishings are balanced with a stunning range of delicate traditional touches to give the hotel an elegant and airy feel combining space, intimacy and Portuguese style.
The hotel is positioned just 200m away from the stunning Vale do Lobo beach – just a short drive from Faro airport – and is surrounded by lush golf courses, pinewoods and breathtaking vistas of the Atlantic.
Catering for families and golfers alike, Dona Filipa has a range of leisure facilities: from the fun-filled children’s Kangaroo Club, tennis courts to three bars and restaurants, outdoor swimming pool and numerous massage and beauty therapies.There is even a dedicated private area on Vale do Lobo Beach for hotel guests.
Contact details: Telephone 00 351 289 357 233 or visit www.donafilipahotel.com
New-look hotel, same great golf at San Lorenzo
One of the main draws of Dona Filipa has always been the opportunity to play at award-winning San Lorenzo. Designed by Joseph Lee and Rocky Roquemore the course has been consistently voted one of the best in Europe for over 25 years. Located within the stunning Ria Formosa nature reserve, it contains two nine-hole loops, located in a figure of eight with the clubhouse at the centre. The unique nature of each hole coupled with idyllic surroundings sees plenty of discussion between golfers as to their favourite hole. All agree that the course delivers great golf and even greater memories. The refurbishment of Dona Filipa is a renovation done the correct way… and one that the golfing public are sure to really savour.