Golf in Portugal

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It has just been redesigned by a Ryder Cup captain and voted the best new course in Europe, so Director needed no second invitation to step up to the tee at Quinta do Lago in Portugal

Back in 2009, with Portugal firmly entrenched in recession, the management team at the golf and leisure resort of Quinta do Lago in the Algarve decided to think long term. It embarked on a substantial investment plan to not only improve one of its golf courses but also to attract holidaymakers of all ages.

The best part of £8m has been spent completely overhauling the North Course. A further £24m has already been spent on improving facilities, and that investment will double over the next five years. The objective: to make Quinta do Lago a more family-friendly resort. The redesign of the North Course was carried out under the watchful eye of Paul McGinley, last year’s winning Ryder Cup captain.

McGinley is clearly on a hot streak as this project was voted the best new course in Europe at the inaugural World Golf Awards in November. He has been a regular visitor to this part of the world for over 20 years and wanted to create a venue that is kind to both the golfer and the environment – 2,000 trees are being planted over the next five years and less water is now needed to keep the course in its immaculate condition.

McGinley was on hand during our visit to explain what he is trying to achieve. “It’s important that everything – from the moment you park your car, meet the staff, go on the driving range, play the course, eat a meal and have a drink – is all part of the golfing experience.

There is a golf course in Ireland I love to play called Baltray and I thought to myself ‘why does everyone love to play there?’. “You know you have the chances to score as good as your handicap, if not better. You’re excited about playing it again. That, for me, is the acid test of any golf course. Our objective is repeat business.”

Our advice would be to play the North Course first before tackling the slightly tougher and longer South Course, the signature hole of which is the 15th – a 210-yard par three with virtually nothing but water between the tee and the green. Another feature of Quinta do Lago is the range of futuristic properties that line both courses. You could call it Multimillionaires’ Row.

Director stayed at the five-star Conrad Algarve, which opened in 2012 and quickly established itself as the best hotel in the region, if not all of Portugal. Even the smallest suite is seriously well proportioned. Needless to say, it’s not cheap – but there are deals to be had in the off-season when the temperatures can still hover slightly above 20ºC, and it comes with all the amenities you would expect including a spa and gym.

Whereas some hotels in this price bracket tend to trade on their name rather than their service, the Conrad Algarve delivers on all fronts. And, finally, you cannot visit this region without dining at Casa do Lago. Don’t miss the jumbo prawns – a description that actually manages to undersell their majestic size. If you’re looking to mix a great golfing experience with a touch of luxury, Quinta do Lago should certainly be on your shortlist.

FACT FILE
Getting there – Quinta do Lago is situated in the Algarve in southern Portugal and is a 15-minute drive from Faro airport. Monarch flies to Faro from Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester with fares, including taxes, starting from £49.99 one way (£116.98 return). www.monarch.co.uk
Or book through WEXAS Travel (www.iod.com/ traveloffers or call 020 7838 5976).

Accommodation – Package includes three nights at The Conrad Algarve, daily buffet breakfast and two rounds of golf (one at the North Course, one at the South Course). Prices range €582pp in October to €946pp in July and August for a Double Deluxe Room. www.conradalgarve.com/en/golf
Green Fees North Course: high season, €144; mid-season, €131; low season, €116. South Course: high season, €122; mid-season, €110; low season, €97.
www.quintadolago.com

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