Elegant Golf Resorts Insider ... Portugal
As a golfer, I’ve heard so much about Portugal from our clients but had never actually been, so this was my first trip. first impressions were how friendly the Portuguese people are, it’s very easy for Brits to come here as everyone speaks fluent English. I hired a car and found it very easy to get about. No issue parking and the toll roads which aren’t expensive are really quiet making it a pleasurable drive.
The Lisbon area especially Cascais is much lusher than I thought with the golf courses similar to the ones I play back home. They get a bit more rain here than the Algarve especially in the winter months so they actually have rough here unlike the courses in the Algarve. They have many top golf courses here and similar to the UK I would recommend playing between April and October.
The Algarve has everything for the golf enthusiast. Excellent courses with a range of difficulties to suit the low or high handicapper. It’s home to the #1 golf course in Monte Rei and soon they will have another course onsite making it one of the best golfing facilities in Europe.
If you are looking for quiet and relaxing you have many options in Quinta do Lago and then stay by the marina in Vilamoura if you prefer a livelier night life. Whichever area you pick you can count on great food, high quality accommodation and excellent golf courses.
Here are some of the places I visited……
Monte Rei is about a 45 min drive east from the airport to quite a secluded part of the algarve. The villas here are massive with distant sea views. I could even make out Morocco from my balcony! The villas are spread out over a large area with the 1, 2, and 3-bedroom villas surrounding the veranda restaurant where breakfast is served. There is also an outdoor pool, tennis courts and gym facilities.
If your accommodation is away from the main area there are free shuttles can be ordered from 7 am to midnight to get around this massive area.
The Golf course is the main attraction here and no wonder it’s the number one course. It’s awesome and a real best of golf. So much so that every hole on the back 9 has a water hazard. It can also get a bit windy here making it feel like playing golf at home but certainly much warmer and drier! I would recommend this course to anyone that appreciates a challenge! Really looking forward to when the new course opens next year. Future Ryder Cup venue maybe?
Quinta Do Lago
Probably the prettiest part of the Algarve and membership at some of these courses are well into five figures. They have three excellent, well maintained golf courses all offering a slightly different challenge. The South is the preferred course as it’s more strategic and offers more variation than the North which is wider and slightly longer off the tee. They were building a brand-new clubhouse which is likely to be finished before their main season kicks in for 2020. The Vale do Lobo courses are similar if not slightly wider and ocean has some nice views but not quite as refined as South.
If you are playing these courses, I would recommend either Hotel Quinta do Lago or the Conrad Algarve. Quinta do Lago hotel is very much traditional luxury and has many repeat customers. It’s the only hotel in Quinta do Lago which can offer a full sea view room. Rooms are a good size and you can walk to the beach. The Conrad has a more contemporary feel and every one of their 154 rooms has a standalone shower and bath. They can also boast about having a Michelin star restaurant! Both hotels are only a few minutes drive away from the golf courses.
In Vale do Lobo which is right next to Quinta do Lago I visited the very popular Dona Filipa hotel. A choice of standard, superior and premium rooms and I was able to enjoy a few games of pool in their impressive billiards room. The main pull of this hotel is getting access to play the fantastic San Lorenzo golf course. This was easily my favourite golf course in the area and suitable for all abilities. It starts off short but tight and then opens up a bit. It makes you play a number of different shots off the tee which in my opinion is the sign of a great golf course.
Vilamoura turned out to be very different to Quinta do Lago. The hotels are much bigger and mostly located by the sea and their marina. In the main season you will find a lot more groups here as the golfing facilities and fun nightlife cater for them perfectly.
I visited many hotels here including Dom Pedro, Vila Gale, Tivoli and Crowne Plaza which are all very similar and I would highly recommend the Tivoli Marina which is perfectly located on the marina and nice area to go out walking. Further out you have the Hilton Vilamoura which has the largest spa in Portugal.
However, for me the Anantara is fabulous! Overlooking the famous Victoria course this the most expensive hotel that’s been built in the Algarve. Perfect for couples wanting a great hotel away from the nightlife and attached to a very good golf course. Rooms are a good size and from the top floor you can see most of Vilamoura. They also offer free private transfer to any Victoria course rather than the free shared shuttle.
There are five very good golf courses which are owned by Dom Pedro hotel group. The Pinhal, Victoria and Old course are standalone course and the Millennium and Laguna courses are both on the same site but you are never more than 5minutes drive from either of the courses. Victoria and Old stand out as the best of the three and even though Victoria hosts the Portugal Masters, I would recommend the Old as the must course to play here.
Onto Lisbon …….
I had around two and a half hours drive to Lisbon with the pleasure of having the toll road pretty much all to myself. I guess the locals know the back roads but I enjoyed the novelty of it.
I really like this area even if it was end of November and a bit wet. I would like to come back here in the summer season as there are many great golf courses within an hour’s drive. Prai Del Ray and West Cliffs should especially be top of the golfing list.
I was staying at the Ritz Carlton Penha Longa Resort and as expected the rooms were huge and very luxurious. I loved the Ritz Carlton Abama in Tenerife so I had high expectations but it certainly didn’t disappoint. The food and drink quality is truly excellent and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the bars and restaurants even un low season.
Penha Longa has 27 holes (first 18 holes called Atlantic and then the other 9 is the North Course). The golf course was obviously very soft for end of November but I enjoyed the layout especially the back 9 on Atlantic which as the best views. Away from golf it is worth visiting the town of Sintra which has a variety of historical buildings and very popular with tourists.
After the drive back from Lisbon I had one last place to see before coming home. The Penina resort located near Alvor and about 40 minutes West of Faro is probably the best value golf resort in the Algarve. It is the oldest golf resort in the area so it is quite rightly very traditional. It certainly had a very British feel, after all it was designed by British golfing legend Sir Henry Cotton. You really have to be playing golf if you are staying here as everything is focused around golf.
At Penina they have one championship course, a 9-hole resort course and a 9-hole academy course. The Championship Course offers quite narrow fairways however you can miss it on both sides most of the time and be fine due to all the pine trees being cut right down. It’s very flat so you could easily walk as most do here when it’s cooler. If you are not too fussed about nightlife or fine dining but improving your golf is high on the agenda then Penina certainly a great option.