The Wyndham Grand Algarve is located at the heart of the Quinta do Lago estate
RESORT REVIEW: Wyndham Grand Algarve, Quinta do Lago, Portugal
Golf News editor Nick Bayly pays a flying visit to the always sunny south of Portugal to check out the Wyndham Grand Algarve, a five-star venue in the heart of the legendary Quinta do Lago estate that offers all the facilities and services of a luxury hotel combined with the flexibility offered by self-catering apartments, and is right on the doorstep of some of Europe’s finest golf courses
As someone who has spent the last 15 years or so going on holiday with a wife and two boys in tow – or me rather unwillingly in tow with them – I am fully conversant with the needs of parents with young families when it comes to your traditional two weeks away.
Hopefully it will be somewhere warm and where it is significantly different from home for it to be classed as a break from the norm, but first and foremost it must, absolutely must, involve some level of self-catering. If you’re away for two weeks, or even a week, with young kids, the idea of sitting down to breakfast, lunch and dinner in a restaurant – even it is a different Michelin-starred one every night – fills me with total horror. Excluding the joy that is the bottomless breakfast buffet, the interminable wait for menus, the separate ordering of drinks – ‘Still or sparkling?’ Tap, please – the battles over who can’t eat what, the ordering, the waiting, the eating, the waiting, the ordering, the eating, getting the bill, and paying the bill 30 minutes later, is enough to drive any reasonably sane person to the mad house.
So, I think I’ve made myself clear that self-catering is an absolute must when you are on holiday with a young family. Yes, it’s a pain having to occasionally venture to the supermarket, but the upsides of dining in the privacy of your own accommodation are too many to mention, especially when your kids are too young – or too busy scrolling through their phones – to hold a conversation, let alone cut up their food. Everything else – access to a private or shared swimming pool, decent wi-fi, air con (if you’re going somewhere hot, and a hire car (for early morning escapes to a decent café) is secondary, but nevertheless always on the ‘must-have’ boxes to tick on the holiday requirement checklist.
THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS
So, it was perhaps not surprising that envy was the over-riding emotion that I felt during my recent and all-too-brief stay at the Wyndham Grand Resort in Quinta do Lago, a five-star property whose premise is offering self-catering apartments within the confines of what is essentially a luxury hotel. Here, you literally have the best of all worlds. My spacious two-bedroom apartment, which was located just a 75-yard pitch from the main reception area, was kitted out with two bathrooms, three toilets, a large sitting room, separate dining area, outside terrace and a fully fitted kitchen.
I italicised ‘fully’ because while some apartments that that I have stayed in that class themselves as self-catering have offered little more than an electric two-ring hob and a kettle, the Wyndham’s apartments provide a kitchen that most Gen Zers would take several years before they had come close to exhausting the different methods there are for creating a meal from scratch. It’s my way long-winded way of saying that it is properly tooled up for those who are willing and able to prepare a meal, should they feel like doing more than shoving a cellophane-topped tray in the microwave – although yes, they have a rather snazzy one of those too – and waiting for the ‘ting’.
HOME FROM HOME
Designed to offer a veritable home from home, the Wyndham Grand Algarve’s apartments were fully refurbished in 2021, and are split into one-, two- and three-bedroom set ups. Most have already been sold to private buyers – often those with young families, but also a growing number of older couples who are looking to escape from harsh northern European winters, but there some on offer for resale. For longer stays, the self-catering option is a huge attraction, as eating out every day for two months would put pressure on the conservational abilities – never mind the wallets – of even the most in-tune partners.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
But if you do fancy eating out, but don’t want to leave the building, then the Wyndham has that covered too, with no fewer than four dining options on site, from the daily breakfasts on offer at the Caravela Restaurant, which has indoor and outdoor seating; to lights snacks and drinks at the poolside Oasis Café; lunches; and from the light bites and cocktails at the Grand Bar & Lounge, to gastronomic dinners at the wonderful XXL by Olivier Restaurant, whose concept has been overseen by renowned chef Olivier da Costa – the Gordon Ramsay of Portugal’s high-end culinary scene.
Our group enjoyed meals at three of the four outlets – the poolside café was out of operation in late November – and I can report that they are all excellent, with the breakfasts dangerously good, especially the pastry section, where the pile of pasteis de nata took a big hit from this writer, while the omelette and pancake station also came under heavy fire from our four-ball.
HEAVYWEIGHT DINING AT XXL
While ‘XXL’ is no reflection on the size of its current clientele, it could easily become the case if you ate there every night for a week, with the generously-portioned dishes, moreish bread, and calorie-laden desserts offering the potential to do some serious damage to your waistline. Among some of the show-stopping dishes we tasted was a starter of truffled mushrooms served on a bed of buttery mash topped with a fried egg. Baby food for adults it may be, but it had this kidult scraping out the bowl and asking for seconds. Another must-order, if the budget allows, is a stunning entrecôte steak cooked medium rare served with a kicking chimichurri sauce. Paired with a couple of bowls of frites and a few glasses of Rioja, our party were very happy campers after enjoying a hard day on the golf course.
TRIO OF TOP TRACKS
Ah yes, the golf course. Our two-night trip was sadly somewhat light on golf – the itinerary also included a wine tasting at a local vineyard, a spa experience in the hotel, and a cancelled boat trip on the nearby Ria Formosa nature reserve – but we did manage to squeeze in a round on the 18 fabulous holes that are on offer at Quinta do Lago’s North Course, which, even at the end of a long golfing season, was presented in excellent condition.
Our golfing experience was considerably elevated by the presence of the Portuguese golfing legend that is Ricardo Santos, a charming locally born former European Tour player, who at 42, is still knocking around on the Challenge Tour and whose claim to fame is being the first Portuguese player to win the Madeira Islands Open, which he did so in 2012 with a stunning closing round of 63. Ricardo, who is a golfing ambassador for the Wyndham Grand Resort, joined are two groups for nine holes and he not only proved great company and a pretty decent player, but also a talented coach and a much-needed guide given that none of us had played the course before.
Part of a triumvirate of courses on offer on the Quinta do Lago estate – the others being the South Course and Laranjal – the North Course was completely redesigned by American architect Beau Welling and former European Ryder Cup captain and frequent Quinta Do Lago visitor Paul McGinley back in 2014. The resulting €10m facelift – although now a decade old – served to elevate what was already a superb test, while also enabling some vital improvements to be made to the irrigation and drainage systems and some more drought-resistant grasses to be sown in.
The course itself is a relatively narrow and winding, with a combination of four par 5s, five par 3s and 9 par 4s. Wayward drives are, as I discovered to my cost, severely punished, so a long iron or hybrid off the tee is often the safest – and wisest – choice if you’re looking to avoid running up a cricket score.
The terrain is very undulating, while umbrella pines line most fairways, along with strings of large and well-placed bunkers. The greens were fast and true, and possessed plenty of plateaus, slopes and double breaks to keep you honest and ensure that putts from above the hole had to be dead centre to avoid leaving something much longer back.
For me, the standout holes were 12 and 18. The former is a beautiful dogleg par 4 with water all down the left side and right in front of the green that demands two career shots to have even a slim chance at making birdie, while the 18th is dogleg par five that provides a suitably strong finish to what is already memorable experience.
HOMES IN THE SUN
If your golf game isn’t up to scratch, and even it is, you can raise you envy levels even higher by checking out the dozens of massive private mansions that sit safely far enough back from the fairways but high enough to enjoy commanding views over the area.
The variation in architectural styles, from traditional Spanish haciendas to contemporary, glass-framed, minimalist masterpieces is jaw dropping. With massive swimming pools, rows of sunbeds, shady verandas and spacious barbeque areas, it’s all very Sexy Beast – without the constant threat of violence, of course.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
As well as the two other great courses to play on site, Quinta Do Lago is also home to the Paul McGinley Academy, a state-of-the-art practice facility which includes a huge driving range, short game area, bunker practice zone (where each trap has a different type of sand) and a variety of putting greens. ~He academy also includes the TaylorMade Performance Centre which is kitted out with the latest technology for coaching and club fitting.
FANATICAL ABOUT FITNESS
Quinta do Lago is not just for golfers, with miles of cycling and hiking trails attracting a wide variety of active types, while The Campus, a state-of-the-art performance centre is filled with Lycra-clad gym bunnies working out to pumping beats. Outside, there are tennis and padel courts, a swimming pool and a full-size AstroTurf football pitch which is popular with international football and hockey teams.
The Campus is a veritable hive of activity, which is distinctly not my style, and it was a welcome relief when were shuttled off to the nearby Caso do Lago, a beachside fish restaurant where bowls of fresh prawns and bottles of crisp white wine went down a treat as the sun began to drop into the Atlantic Ocean’s distant horizon.
All told, Quinta do Lago is an ideal destination for anyone looking to jump on a two-hour flight from the UK and grab a bit of sunshine at any time of the year, whether it be for golf, sailing, cycling or simply sitting around the pool and enjoying a glass of something cold.
While you could splash out €10m and buy yourself a plot of prime real estate and build yourself a plush mansion, you could also save yourself a few quid and buy or rent an apartment at the Wyndham Grand Resort and spend the rest on wine and Pro V1s. I know which I’d rather do, given the choice.
For more details on the Wyndham Grand Algarve, where apartments start from €550,000, with a range of ownership packages available, and for details rental bookings, visit wyndhamgrandalgarve.com.
For details about the other great golf courses to play in the Algarve region, click here,