If you’re living in the UK, or any other country which deals with freezing cold and wet winters, then there’s a good chance that you are looking for a place to escape and play some warm weather golf during those winter months. The Algarve, on the Southern coast of Portugal, is my favorite destination for those trips!
The climate in the Algarve is the stuff dreams are made of. Every time I go there I am gleefully reminded of just how few clouds I see and the perfect temperatures that you experience during that spell between November and March.
The middle of the summer can be a bit much in terms of heat, but during those winter months the temperatures hover around the high-teens to twenty degree mark and it is golfing bliss.
When it comes to deciding where to play your golf out there, you are spoiled for choice. I have by no means played all of the options available to you, but I will provide some information here on some of the more renowned areas that you can play at and a couple of potential trips that you could plan in for your next warm-weather getaway to get your game sharp for the new season back home!
The Algarve has such a multitude of golf courses and different areas that I have broken them down into the Faro area, the Portimão area, and the Lagos area.
You could certainly travel between them all during a trip if you wanted to pick and choose your favorite courses, but if you want to keep domestic travel to a minimum then you will probably decide to stick with one of these areas and plan your trip around that.
Map of The Algarve
If you are flying to the Algarve then you’re most likely to fly into Faro airport. This will have you well and truly surrounded by fantastic golf courses with sizable resorts like Quinta do Lago and the Dom Pedro resort which provide three and five high-quality options respectively.
The number of courses in this area means that you can comfortably make your entire trip by staying within a 45-minute drive either side of the airport.
Quinta do Lago
There are three golf courses available to you at Quinta do Lago; the North Course, the South Course, and Laranjal. Laranjal is a little bit off site, a 15-minute drive or so, but it’s a beautiful new course with a fantastic driving range and tranquil feel to the whole place. The other two courses wind their way through a more built up area with many properties lining the holes. Laranjal, therefore, feels like a breath of fresh air as you play with seemingly no one else around and, in contrast to the others, only some orange trees (“Laranjal” translates to orange grove) lining the course.
The North and South courses are more like your traditional Portuguese pine tree lined courses, the South course in particular winds itself around the properties in an interesting manner. The first time that you play the South it will be pretty tough because you do need to know your way around a bit with some of the doglegs and blind shots. Having said that, if you’re using the buggies here then you will have the GPS system to help you along with that!
Personally, I prefer the North course to the South course, despite what I have perceived as the popular opinion being otherwise. The North course went through a total renovation a few years back and I think it is slightly more polished and fair than the South course. If you were to play a few rounds at this resort, then I would choose North, Laranjal, and South in that order. I think that people come to love the South over time, particularly the holes that play out along the lake (Lago) with some stunning views and challenging shots.
Quinta do Lago also provides multiple restaurants, bars and shops so that you can simply remain on-site if that works for you!
- Website: https://www.quintadolago.com/en/
Dom Pedro Golf resort
The Dom Pedro golf resort comprises the Victoria, Old, Millenium, Pinhal and Laguna golf courses. This makes it a bit of a golfing Mecca quite frankly! The courses provide substantial variety in their styles and difficulty, so you could theoretically play solely on this resort and have an abundantly busy golf trip!
The Victoria course at Dom Pedro has hosted the Portugal Masters on the European tour since 2007, so it may well be familiar to some of you. Personally, I have not played it but I have been to spectate during the event and it stacks up as one of the best on offer in the Algarve.
It would be the championship course that you would play on a trip to Dom Pedro, so probably save it for somewhere in the middle of your trip, that way you’ve had a bit of time to get ready but you’re also not knackered by that point!
I wouldn’t consider it to be the most enjoyable course that you will play on your trip because there are some more beautiful or interesting layouts available, but playing on a course which the pros play on can have its own excitement and give you something to talk about the next time you see it on TV!
The Old course certainly comes with a strong reputation of its own and is more of a classical tree lined course. In fact, many people consider this to be the best course on offer at Dom Pedro, so you absolutely need to include this layout in your trip. The Millenium course offers up a more open layout which might come as a welcome relief to the more common tree lined courses around this area.
The facilities at the Dom Pedro courses are fantastic, particularly the main area so if you are looking for a more golf-centric trip and genuinely want to practice a bit as well, then this would be a great destination for you. Having said that, it is also very close to the town of Vilamoura which has a plethora of drinking and dining spots to choose from, so it provides that temptation as well
You can book many different golf packages at the Dom Pedro resort, including packages for 3, 4 or 5 rounds within which you can choose the courses that you play.
- Website: https://www.dompedrogolf.com/en
Vale do Lobo
This resort consists of two courses, the Ocean course and the Royal course. The Royal course will require some more accuracy from the tee, whereas the Ocean course lives up to the name and plays towards and around the ocean and beach. It is certainly one of the more picturesque resorts on the Algarve.
Vale do Lobo provides one of the archetypal picture opportunities in the Algarve. The 15th hole on the Ocean course is a stunning par-3 which plays directly adjacent to the beach and ocean as you hit over the breathtaking cliffs and hope that you make solid contact with your ball!
Staying in the resort will give you plenty of access to a variety of events and experiences, along with the dining options that you would expect.
Monte Rei Golf & Country Club is one of the premier golfing destinations in the entirety of Europe. It is a breathtakingly beautiful golf course which will be certain to remind you that you are not playing golf on a wintery British golf course. It is a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course and is frequently ranked as the #1 course in Portugal.
Being that this is such a high-end destination, the prices are not cheap, but if that is not too much of a consideration for you then I would put this down as a ‘must play’ on a golf trip to the Algarve. From all accounts it tends to be the highlight of people’s trip when they play at this course.
The course itself plays out on wide fairways with some impressive valleys to play over and around. There are memorable shots throughout the round and the course conditions are second-to-none in the Algarve.
Morgado Golf Resort
If you are in the Portimão area then you are particularly close to Morgado Golf resort which has two courses of its own. The Morgado course and the Alamos course. Morgado is a nice, if not spectacular, golf course which does tend to be in lovely condition, as does the Alamos course. Morgado is completely in front of you and unfolds in a relaxing setting so it is absolutely worth a game if you are in this area. The facilities and club house both add to the appeal that Morgado provides for a group trip.
The Alamos course is rather quirky. There are some extremely tight holes, some wildly undulating greens and also very open holes! In fairness it is a fun golf course to play and especially if you are just out there to have a good time, then I would recommend it because it can bring some excitement to your matches!
- Website: https://www.morgadogolfhotel.com/en/
Amendoeira Golf Resort
You won’t have to drive far to reach Amendoeira Golf resort, which also offers two courses for your golfing pleasure. The O’Connor course is more of the ‘Championship’ course with a good mix of wide fairways and tough greens to keep you on your toes. There are many tee options (as you will find with most courses out in the Algarve) but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew on this one because it can be unnecessarily long from the back tees! It is also a bit more fun to have to hit a few different clubs from the tees, rather than just pulling out the driver on every hole.
The Faldo course is dramatic, but I won’t pretend that it is my favourite in the area. The elevation changes are extreme to the point of silliness and it is an absolute must to use a buggy at this course. The back nine is particularly remarkable with the elevation changes and if you catch it on a windy day then it becomes slightly ridiculous.
I think that the main appeal at Amendoeira might well be the facilities, which is not a bad thing when you experience them! There is a brilliant par-3 “Academy” course at the bottom of the property which provides unending enjoyment. Each hole has three different tees so you could play on this course for hours, and I have done just that! You also play from mats which may not seem ideal, but it means you can get loads of spin which we all look forward to!
- Website: https://www.amendoeiraresort.com/en/
Driving one hour to the west of Faro will bring you to the town of Lagos. From this town you could play at Palmares (27 holes), Boavista, Penina and Espiche, among others. If you are looking for a slightly more authentically Portuguese experience, then I would certainly choose Lagos over Faro. I’m probably biased as I have spent more time there, but it has a wonderfully relaxed pace and less busy feel to it. Combine that with less crowded beaches and I think you’re on to a winner.
You don’t have the depth of high quality golf courses in this area, but the best of the bunch is Palmares and that is one of the best courses for holiday golf that I have ever experienced. The views are simply sensational as you play looking out on the ocean, as well as the towns of Alvor and Lagos. There are 27 holes so you won’t get bored any time soon as you can play three separate loops.
All of the holes are very playable and you can pick and choose which tees to play if you fancy a tougher challenge or a nice relaxing day. The clubhouse was recently renovated and now looks like something out of a Bond film, and in fairness they do offer improved food and even a Michelin star restaurant if you want to book a fancier dining experience!
Boavista and Penina are two courses which unfortunately do not have the funds to keep their courses in good enough condition. Boavista very much has a resort course feel about it and isn’t my favourite layout (I’d certainly recommend a buggy for this course!), whereas Penina is a genuinely good golf course with a fun and interesting layout, but the condition of the course has deteriorated over the years so that it leaves you wanting something more. Another option is Espiche which is a challenging and narrow course which has a lovely restaurant in the club house.
- Palmares website: https://palmaresliving.com/golf-course/
- Penina website: https://www.penina.com/
- Boavista website: https://www.boavistaresort.pt/en/Homepage.aspx
- Espiche website: https://www.espichegolf.pt/en
So as you can see from this article, there are a few specific spots which would best suit a trip to the Algarve and it probably makes sense to stick to one region, for example heading to Lagos for a week long trip, or sticking around the Faro area. If this sounds good to you, then here are my recommendations for the courses to play.
- Monte Rei
- Dom Pedro Victoria
- Quinta do Lago (North)
- Quinta do Lago (Laranjal)
- Amendoeira (O’Connor)
- Palmares (play a couple of loops with the 27 holes)
I hope you can glean from this article what an exceptional golfing destination the Algarve is. The highlights for me are the weather and the course conditions during winter and spring months.
I would recommend planning a trip between February and April, it will be around this time that you’re looking to play some more golf as the season approaches.
It is also worth noting that many restaurants and bars tend to be closed during December and January. This takes away from your dining options, but it does go hand in hand with quieter golf courses and towns to enjoy!
Faro, particularly Vilamoura, will certainly be the busier area to visit but that will give you more entertainment and I would say the depth of high-quality golf courses is stronger here as well. If you head over to Lagos then you will be able to enjoy the wonderful beaches on the southern and western coasts to go along with your golf.
Another beauty of the Algarve is that you could be going there for years with these different locations and golf courses all within an hour or so of each other. Finally, the cheap and frequent flights to Faro from the UK make this one of the more time efficient trips to your golfing bliss!