Portugal is one of the very best places for a holiday in Europe.
As one of the most ancient destinations on the Continent, it is famed for its historic old towns, laid back lifestyle and sprawling coastline. For some years now, it has been hailed as a primary hotspot for golfers.
Despite the golfing powerhouse of Spain and the growing popularity of Belek in Turkey constantly competing for the attentions of sun-seeking golfers, Portugal has always fought its corner with ease - and that’s because it ticks every box the holiday golfer requires.
The one aspect this corner of Europe never seems to fall short on is quality of product, and nowhere better is that exemplified than in Vilamoura and its surrounding area. Seemingly endless options - with prices to suit all budgets and requirements - makes this area seriously hard to ignore.
Just a relatively short drive west along the N125 from Faro airport (you can take the A22 for a quicker route, but this requires a toll, plus the N125 is the more scenic option) you will come across the quite brilliant Oceanico Amendoeira Golf Resort, which is home to two first-class championship golf courses. It is, without doubt, one of the best new golf resorts in Europe.
Oceanico, incidentally, has five excellent courses in Vilamoura, including the famed Victoria course, home of the Portugal Masters on the European Tour.
The Amendoeira resort, though - just a two-minute hop off the main road - nestles in 600 hectares of outstanding natural beauty on undulating land relatively close to the ancient city of Silves. Oceanico started work on the resort towards the end of 2005 after securing the services of well-respected golf course designers Sir Nick Faldo and Christy O’Connor Jnr.
Faldo described the work at Amendoeira as an “exciting project” that allowed the six-time major winner to “exploit my passion for design”. Ryder Cup hero O’Connor, meanwhile, described his layout at the resort as his “baby”.The resort boasts two oppulent statues in their honour, both of which overlook the golf courses.
The Faldo offering is set out in two distinct nines, with the opening hole running through the valley floor, skirting areas of wetland and incorporating some desert scrub bunkering before you reach the large contoured green.
Fescue fringes the Bermuda fairways, many of which are lined with ancient olive trees, cacti and wild herbs. There are a number of excellent holes, including the fifth, with its elevated tee, and the run from six though to nine, all of which require accuracy from the tee. A number of approaches into greens on the front nine see you attack large, sloping surfaces often protected by huge, deep bunkers.
The back nine is probably the better of the two nines, as it takes you over the road and up into the hills. There are some brilliant holes on this section of the layout, notably some excellent driving holes.
O’Connor primarily took most of the flatter land, which contrasts nicely with the hillier option given to Faldo. On the O’Connor course, you can expect to see more water come into play, whilst the course is definitely the easier walking of the two. It offers a slightly more traditional test, but one that’s lot of fun to play.
The clubhouse was inspired by the nearby Silves Castle - a Moorish fortification built between the eighth and 13th centuries - and commands a dominating position on the grounds, overlooking the golf course and surrounding area. The staff are friendly, the club shop is heavily stocked and, best of all, the food is superb.
These days, holiday golfers demand more bang for their buck and there’s no doubt you get that at Amendoeira. It has one of the best high-end practice facilities on the Algarve, with three levels of range to play from - including both ends - plus numerous short game areas and putting surfaces open to visitors. There’s also an on-site gym, plus outside tennis courts, five-a-side football pitch, 1km jogging path and dedicated kids' zone to keep the little ones entertained.
There is a superb mix of accommodation on offer, too, the vast majority of which lies away from the golf course. Take your pick from two-bedroom apartments and three-, four- and five-bedroom villas, each with their own large screen TVs and private swimming pools. With hillside elevated settings for all accommodation at the resort, you can enjoy a quiet, secluded holiday.
The golf courses are kept in immaculate condition throughout the season, whilst the service in the clubhouse is excellent.
Add in the opportunity to play any of the other five courses closer to Vilamoura under the Oceanico Golf banner and you have all the ingredients for the perfect golf holiday.
Proof of the quality of Amendoeira Golf Resort is the level of repeat business it gets on an annual basis. Your next golf holiday, without question, should be right here.