Monte Rei


Over 50 years after the first golf ball was struck – and probably lost – British golfers are still flocking to Portugal’s Algarve coast to enjoy relaxed rounds under blue Iberian skies, while kicking back in some of Europe’s most luxurious resorts. Here’s our pick of the pack

Widely regarded as the grandfather of golf in the Algarve, Penina’s 18-hole Championship course that forms the centrepiece of this most enduringly popular resort that first opened just over 50 years ago. During its heyday, Penina set the benchmark for golf in the region, with generations of British golfers flocking here in search of a bit of sun on their backs while indulging in their favourite pastime. Designed by three-time Open champion Sir Henry Cotton, the Championship course was transformed from a former rice field into a parkland gem that features a thrilling mix of doglegs, short par-fives, tree-lined fairways and tricky water hazards that demand accurate hitting from tee to green. Penina’s five-star hotel offers 188 rooms and suites overlooking the golf course or the mountains, as well as six restaurants and bars, a large outdoor pool and a private beach club.
Green Fees: €115,

Quinta do Lago resort

If Penina is the grandfather of golf in the Algarve, then Quinta do Lago is the godfather, not just in Portugal, but arguably the whole of Europe. The 2,000-acre golf and residential estate was launched in the early 1970s, and has changed hands several times in the intervening years, with the current owner being Irish telecoms billionaire Denis O’Brien, who forked out €30m for the resort in 1998.
O’Brien has spent at least that sum again on developing the five-star venue, which features three 18-hole courses – North, South and Laranjal. At least €10m went on revamping the North in 2014, with O’Brien bringing in fellow countryman Paul McGinley to carry out a major overhaul of the showcase layout.
The 2014 Ryder Cup-winning captain wisely kept to the original routing of the 6,776-yard course, but upgraded all the greens, tees, bunkers, and drainage systems to take it into the modern era. The 10-month project resulted in a course that is playable for all levels of golfer, while placing a new emphasis on precision and strategy. Just like, it offers an experience you can never forget.
The South Course, which itself is an eight-time host of the Portuguese Open, and Laranjal, which was voted Portugal’s best in 2011, offer a strong supporting cast, while additional golf facilities include Europe’s first Paul McGinley Golf Academy and a TaylorMade Performance Centre.
While there are countless private apartments and villas to rent within the estate, 2012 saw the opening of the five-star, six-storey Conrad Hilton. Modelled on an 18th-century Moorish palace, its 154 rooms feature marble bathrooms, rainfall showers, Nespresso machines and private balconies. Other amenities include an outdoor infinity pool, fitness centre and tennis courts, and a spa.
Guests are spoilt for food choices, with seafood on offer at Casa Do Lago, which overlooks the eponymous lake; lazy lunches can be enjoyed at the fabulous Gigi’s on the beach, while a new steak house, Bovino, serves up New York Strips, bone-in Porterhouse and Wagyu fillets cooked to perfection.
Green Fees: North: €144/€116 (high/low). South & Laranjal: €127/€97,

Vale do Lobo is the Algarve’s oldest residential golf resort, pre-dating Quinta do Lago by some 10 years. With half of the 2,000 or so properties owned by Brits, it can feel a little like Surrey-on-Sea at times, but that’s not a criticism, just a statement of fact.
The resort’s Royal and Ocean course are timeless classics that take a lifetime to master, although only a few minutes to lose a large supply of golf balls. The former, designed by Sir Henry Cotton and later expanded by Rocky Roquemore, includes the most photographed hole in Europe, the par-three 16th, which requires a brave carry across cliffs – with unsuspecting bathers on the beach below – while the Ocean’s short 15th is equally memorable for its cliff-top location.
Almost a small town in its own right – is has its own fire brigade – amenities include a 14-court tennis centre, a supermarket, 15 restaurants and bars, and The Praça beach complex, a party zone which boasts a further 10 restaurants, shops, a nightclub and beachside pools. As with Quinta, self-catering guests can choose to rent a variety of private apartments, townhouses and villas on the estate, while the iconic Dona Felipe Hotel, which is also home to San Lorenzo Golf Club, is the obvious choice for those looking for five-star services on tap.
Green Fees: Royal €190, Ocean €180,

Amendoeira’s Faldo Course

More golf chain than single resort, Oceanico operates no fewer than seven golf courses in the Algarve, providing enough holes to last the summer. Differing in style and difficulty, the portfolio is made up of Vilamoura’s ‘famous five’: the Old, Victoria, Pinhal, Laguna and Millennium courses, plus two courses at Amendoeira Golf Resort designed by Nick Faldo and Christy O’Connor Jnr.
The Old Course, as the name suggests, is the most established in Vilamoura, having opened in 1969, while the Arnold Palmer-designed Victoria, current host venue for the Portuguese Masters, opened in 2004.
Oceanico doesn’t own its own hotel in Vilamoura, so guests can take their pick – Tivoli Victoria is a solid bet – but Amendoeira – which is set back in the central Algarve countryside near Silves – offers a range luxury two-bedroom apartments with private pools overlooking the Faldo and O’Connor courses. Resort amenities include a clubhouse restaurant and bar, two five-a-side football pitches, six tennis courts and a gym.,

Located in the previously barren golfing lands east of Faro, Monte Rei raised the bar up a few notches when it opened in 2007. Jack Nicklaus’s first Portuguese design is laid out over 400 acres of hugely undulating land between the Atlantic and the Serra do Caldeiro Mountains.  Always presented in pristine condition, it’s a breathtaking rollercoaster of a course – buggies are essential due to its extreme elevations – with stunning views from elevated tees, carpet-like greens, countless water hazards, and bunkering like you’ve never seen. There really are no weak holes here. Although the hotel that was planned to support the golf course failed to materialise following the property collapse, there are a number of luxury villas dotted around the estate that are available to rent, while the impressive clubhouse boasts its own fine dining restaurant, Vistas, which is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Albano Lourenço.
Green Fees: €150 (winter), €190 (summer),