Algarve Golf Courses
Golf in Portugal
Golf in the spectacular scenic Algarve has really only taken off in the last 30 years. Portugal's southernmost province had its first course in the 1920s, but it closed after only a few years. The rise of golf in the region began thanks to the legendary 'gentleman golfer', Henry Cotton, who designed the first course, Penina, in the sixties. He ended up designing several courses in the area and making it his home for 30 years.
There are many interesting stories about the years Cotton spent in residence at Penina. Perhaps the best known concerns the donkey called 'Pacifico' which he trained as a caddie to carry two golf bags around the course.
The animal was bought impulsively after a chicken barbecue meal in the nearby Monchique hills.
Most of the courses are west of the provincial capital Faro (Fah-roo), and almost all are close to the sea. You can find as wide a variety of settings as anywhere in the world, from the links of Palmares to the steep hillsides at Parque da Floresta. The most typical terrain is gently sloping hills, with rough made more hazardous by intimidating pine trees. The Algarve is generally quite dry, but water features are common at the more commercial golf complexes.
Here is a selection of some of the most worthwhile courses:
At the last count Vilamoura had five courses, of which the Old Course (Par 72, 6254m) is probably the most prestigious. This wooded inland course benefited greatly from extensive alterations in 1996/7.
The Arnold Palmer designed Vilamoura Victoria (Par 72, 6506m) will host the Golf World Cup in November 2005. Its huge slippery greens and cavernous bunkers make it distinctly different in style from the other Vilamoura courses.
Part of the same complex are three further Vilamoura courses, Vilamoura Millennium, (Par 72, 6200m), Vilamoura Pinhal (Par 72 6300m) and Vilamoura Laguna (Par 72, 6133m).
Vila Sol is a near, and by no means lesser neighbour of the Vilamoura courses, and hosted the Portuguese Open several times. It features three loops of 9 holes each, so the length depends on which combination of holes you play.
The Quinta do Lago estate hosts four courses, including Quinta do Lago North (Par 72 6205m) and Quinta do Lago South (Par 72 6488). The North course, formerly known as Rio Formosa, is a challenging course where precision is key. The South Course hosted the Portuguese Open eight times, and is always in excellent condition.
Also at Quinta do Lago is San Lorenzo, (par 72, 6238m) arguably one of the best courses in Europe and a must-play-course for all Algarve visitors. Set in a nature reserve, its estuary holes will stay with you forever.
Quinta do Lago's fourth course is Pinheiros Altos (Par 72, 5766m) a course with two distinctly different nines, the first tree lined, the second featuring ball-hungry lakes.
Quinto do Lago is also home to one of the world's rarest birds, the purple gallinule, also know as the sultan chicken. It's a violet blue colour with a big red bill and red legs, and its only known nesting place in Portugal is in wetlands created to help irrigate the San Lorenzo course. You'll need a very early tee time to spot one.
There are two Vale de Lobo courses, the Royal Course (Par 72, 6059m), designed by Henry Cotton, and the Ocean Course (Par 72, 5815m), partially designed by Robert Trent Jones. Both courses have stunning views of the ocean. The Royal Course's seventh hole, a par three with a shot over the cliffs and sea, is one of the most photographed holes in Europe.
Henry Cotton's original Algarve course, Penina (Par 73, 6343m), will always be a firm favourite. It is a flat parkland course which has been altered to keep it up to the demands of the modern day golfer.
Parque da Floresta (Par 72, 5670m) has retained the natural contours of the hills it was carved onto, and you will definitely want to go back once you've been there.
Salgados (Par 72, 6080m) is a flat lowland course by the sea where water hazards abound. The course looks and feels like a Scottish links, but without the biting winds and soaking rain.
Palmares (Par 71, 5961m) also has some links holes, while others roll over gentle hills covered with almond and fig trees.
Alto Golf near Penina, was Henry Cotton's last course and includes one of the longest holes in Europe, the 604m par 5 sixteenth.
Remember, it always makes sense to book ahead, and the above course list is not exhaustive:
Telephone Details for Featured Courses
Vilamoura Old Course: 289 310 341
Vilamoura Victoria: 289 320 100
Vilamoura Millennium: 289 310 188
Vilamoura Pinhal: 289 310 390
Vilamoura Laguna: 289 310 180
Vila Sol: 289 316 499
Quinta do Lago North: 289 390 700
Quinta do Lago South: 289 390 700
San Lorenzo: 289 396 522
Pinheiros Altos: 289 359 910
Vale do Lobo Royal Course: 289 353 465
Vale do Lobo Ocean Course: 289 353 465
Penina: 282 420 223
Parque da Floresta: 282 690 054
Salgados: 289 583 030
Palmares: 282 790 500
Alto Golf: 282 460 870
Accommodation Near Golf Resorts in the Algarve
Accommodation in and around Vilamoura is plentiful with over 300 hotels, villas and homes to rent in the area.