It’s hard to believe that just 50 years ago, the golfing scene in the Algarve was virtually non-existent. That all changed in 1966, when three-times British Open Champion Sir Henry Cotton opened his Championship course at Penina, near Portimão. The first 18-hole course to built in the Algarve, Penina has been expanded and developed over the years, and has hosted many prestigious tournaments.
Golf in the Algarve has developed rapidly, and the region has become synonymous with the sport, with a total of 43 courses now spread across its sun-soaked south coast. The Algarve’s natural beauty provides the perfect backdrop for a round of golf, and it’s no surprise the Algarve continues to attract both professional and amateur players from all over the world. In 2015, the region celebrated a record year, with more than 1.2 million rounds being played – and this year looks set to be even better.
Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa is ideally located for a golfing break, with easy access to many world-class golf courses, including Penina. Also close, in Lagos Bay, is the stunning Onyria Palmares course, where you can play three 9-hole loops while enjoying breathtaking ocean views. And back towards Portimão is Pestana Vale da Pinta, designed by acclaimed course architect Ron Fream and featuring ornamental lakes and fig and almond trees.
One of the best-known names in the Algarve golfing world has to be Oceanico, which now has seven championship courses in and around Vilamoura. Its Oceanico Old course was one of the first golf courses to be built in the Algarve, back in 1969, and is often described as the Grande Dame of the Algarve. Others include Oceanico Laguna by American designer Joe Lee, which was joined in 2000 by the sophisticated Oceanico Millennium and, in 2004, by Arnold Palmer’s Oceanico Victoria, which has hosted the Portugal Masters since 2007.
Travelling east along the coast, you’ll find Henry Cotton’s Vale do Lobo Ocean course, with fairways that run alongside a nature reserve and several holes with unbeatable sea views. Close by is one of the Algarve’s most renowned courses, Quinta do Lago, which opened in 1972 and hosted many Portugal Open championships during the 1980s, bringing some of the biggest names in golf – such as Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie – to the region. In 2014, Quinta do Lago North reopened following a €9.6m revamp that earned it the accolade of Best New Course in Europe at the World Golf Awards.
Just 15 minutes from Faro airport is Ron Fream’s prestigious Pinheiros Altos, a 25-hole championship course that borders the Ria Formosa National Park, a vast haven for rare and endangered birds. And further east, set in the hills close to the Spanish border, is another relative newcomer to the Algarve golf industry, Jack Nicklaus’s Monte Rei North, which took the number one spot in Golf Digest’s list of top golf courses in Portugal earlier this year.
As Algarve golf celebrates its golden anniversary, there’s never been a better time to play some of these legendary courses, which are as breathtakingly beautiful as they are diverse and challenging. Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa has teamed up with some of the region’s best courses to offer a range of indulgent golf packages, which are available all year round and are designed to give you the perfect combination of fairway action and post-golf relaxation.
This October, the Algarve welcomes some of Europe’s biggest names in golf to the 10th edition of the Portugal Masters at Oceanico Victoria, and Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa will be holding a series of golf-related events throughout the month. Activities include an event with celebrity golfer and Macdonald Hotels golf brand ambassador Stephen Gallacher on 17 October, as well as exclusive golf clinics and a chance to perfect your swing at the temporary driving range. There’ll also be a pop-up golf shop at the resort.