It’s hard to imagine the Algarve without thinking of golf, yet golf wasn’t born in this sun-drenched area until 1966, when Sir Henry Cotton first laid out the Championship course at Penina.
Cotton was the father of golf course development in the Algarve. The multiple Open champion and respected designer saw the amazing potential for golf in the region and pioneered the Algarve’s first course at Penina, near the historic fishing port of Alvor, in the west of the region.
Fast-forward half a century and the alluring region has not only become one of Europe’s premier holiday spots, but also an award-winning golf destination.
Today, the Algarve boasts more than 40 stunning nine or 18-hole layouts that can be played all-year round, and the picturesque region draws in hundreds of thousands of golfers to play more than one million rounds of golf each year.
The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal, with more than half of its courses dotting its 100-mile coastline and, while it also boasts spectacular sandy beaches, picturesque rocky coves, and a rich cultural heritage, there’s no better way to enjoy a holiday in the region than with a round of golf.
On the western Algarve, in Lagos, lies the stunning layout at Onyria Palmares, which is the work of Robert Trent Jones Jr – son of the legendary course designer and an eminent architect himself.
The Algarve continues to attract the world’s best designers, all eager to leave a legacy on Europe’s biggest golf success story; former Open champion Nick Price, for instance, designed the new nine holes at Pestana’s Gramacho course and Nick Faldo designed Oceânico Amendoeira.
By journeying inland just a few miles from the coastal town of Portimão – toward Monchique and Silves – golfers can discover Morgado and Álamos, two delightful parkland courses, with stunning views of mountains to the north.
For a break away from golf, visitors can make the most of their stay by discovering another side of the Algarve in the verdant Monchique Mountains, where they can visit the spa town of Caldas de Monchique, which dates from Roman times, and the hillside market town of Monchique, renowned for its locally made handicrafts.
Venturing towards the central Algarve, golfers will discover a region that has long been home to a wealth of Europe’s finest golf courses.
The six championship layouts at Vilamoura include two of Europe’s top-ranked courses: Oceânico Victoria and Oceânico Old Course.
Already a host to the WGC World Cup and now the regular venue for the European Tour’s Portugal Masters, the Arnold Palmer-designed Oceânico Victoria is considered to be one of his best ever.
Just a few minutes away lie the three championship layouts at Quinta do Lago, with another pair of eye-catching gems at Vale do Lobo, and even more at San Lorenzo.
With a plethora of exquisite courses in the central Algarve, the only hardship a keen golfer might encounter is deciding which courses not to play.
During off-course hours, there’s an endless array of fascinating sightseeing opportunities, a vibrant nightlife – complete with Vilamoura’s lively casino – and a wonderful selection of eateries to be enjoyed.
The region’s historic capital, Faro, and international airport are only 20 minutes away, and invite at least a half-day’s exploration further east to the charming waterfront town of Tavira, often touted as the most beautiful on the coast.
Boasting some 30 churches, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, Tavira is an endearing town, which also offers the opportunity to sample some of the freshest seafood in the area at one of its many picturesque, riverfront restaurants.
And, although the eastern Algarve might not have been known for its golf in the past, the situation is rapidly changing, with the careful development of some excellent courses taking place, including the region’s extraordinary flagship course, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Monte Rei, which is currently viewed as one of the finest in Europe.
Golfers should take full advantage of the Algarve’s mild climate, which provides the perfect conditions for playing all-year round, to discover one of the most interesting circuits in Europe.
Each of the Algarve’s breathtaking courses builds upon the beauty of its natural landscape, enhanced even further by intelligent design – which is testament to the region hosting more and more international tournaments, while also remaining a genuine paradise for golf lovers.
Proven organisational capacity has brought many internationally famous tournaments to the Algarve, including the Portuguese Open, the Ladies Open, the Seniors Open, the World Cup and the Portugal Masters.
Celebrated all over the world, the Algarve’s courses are prized for their beauty and the quality of their layouts.
Much like its golden beaches, the Algarve’s fairways and greens stretch endlessly into the distance, and its Mediterranean-like climate and quaint natural beauty combine to make the region a perfect golfing destination.
Catering for all budgets and all standards of player, Portugal’s most popular region is the perfect destination for golfers of all ages and abilities.
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