Algarve – the best golfing destination
Repeatedly considered to be the best golfing destination in the world by magazines devoted to the sport and by international associations of specialist tour operators, the Algarve lives up to this distinction by maintaining an unrelenting quality.
With an ideal climate that lets you play throughout the year and a wide variety of almost four dozen courses, the region is a golfers’ paradise. Most courses are located in protected areas, with stunning views. They are internationally recognised for the quality of their facilities, and they have been designed by prestigious players and legendary champions such as Sir Henry Cotton, Rocky Roquemore, Arnold Palmer and Ronald Fream. On top of all this, there are excellent golf pros, a varied network of hotels and good accessibility, ranging from direct air links with many destinations in the world to easy transfers between Faro airport and the various resorts.
The courses are spread from one extreme of the region to the other. By the beach or further inland, flat or hilly, the choice is varied, but any of them can offer you the chance of birdies and eagles, and maybe even a hole in one. Between Lagos, Sagres and Serra de Monchique there are courses with varying degrees of difficulty, where the greens and fairways are framed by beautiful natural scenery. It is in this area, near Portimão, that the first course opened in Algarve is to be found, Penina Hotel & Golf Resort, which has been awarded on several occasions as one of the best in Europe.
The most central area, between Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo is one of the most luxurious in the Algarve and also one of the best equipped for playing golf. These courses combine links and fairways with cliffs, lakes and bunkers, providing a high standard of holes. Take, for example, hole 16 at the Royal Golf Course in Vale de Lobo, the most photographed in Europe: a demanding Par 3 in which three spectacular sea cliffs stand between the tee and the green. Or hole 6 at Pine Cliffs, that is on the edge of a ravine and requires a shot over the beach.
In Sotavento, the courses are more level, but their imaginative designs provide challenges that require the use of various clubs. Many are peppered with the indigenous species of the region, such as fig, olive, carob and oak trees, so a round of golf is like taking a walk in nature. Additionally, the panoramic views over the River Guadiana, the Atlantic, the mountains and the Ria Formosa Natural Park are so beautiful that the golfers’ concentration can be broken, jeopardising their tee shots.
True tests to the technical capabilities of even the most accomplished players, who have to put their strategies to the test, many of these courses are host to important international tournaments, such as the Algarve World Cup or the Cup of Nations. The Portugal Masters is part of the PGA European Tour and has been held at the Oceânico Victoria in Vilamoura since 2007.
But the Algarve is also for beginners. There is a wide range of Golf Academies with an international reputation spread across the region, where you can take your first steps or improve your golf technique. They are provided with sophisticated equipment, use innovative teaching methods and are supported by pros certified by the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) who are competent in several languages. Most courses also offer training programmes, and for those who want to practice their short game on their own, there are practice areas and several pitch and put courses spread across the region. A wide choice for golfers of all levels!