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Mark Pearce

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The Algarve
« on: November 03, 2015, 05:32:27 AM »
We're going to be spending a few days in the Algarve as a family in December.  The boys and I will have clubs and want to play some golf but I have never played out there before.  Without wanting to break the bank, which courses are worth considering?

Adam Lawrence

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Re: The Algarve
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2015, 05:57:09 AM »
You should play the nine holer at Pine Cliffs, which is really nice and visually spectacular. I personally think the best course on the coast is now Palmares, after the recent RTJ2 rebuild -- they've used some extra land to create three really nice loops of nine, and the holes down by the water still have the linksy feel they had in the original Pennink design.


Monte Rei is good in a big scale, tough Nicklaus kinda way, not really a course to walk though. I hear there are good deals to be had there, and frankly that probably applies most of the way across the Algarve. Don't be scared to ask for a discount.


Finally the very recently completed Beau Welling redesign of Quinta do Lago North is very good. Part of a long-established villa estate, so no way the routing could be changed, but I thought they did a very solid job.


Also, if you can -- and if it's still open -- try to eat dinner at the restaurant Vila Lisa in Mexilhoeira Grande, a little bit inland from Palmares, close to Penina (of which I'm not a great fan). I have never been but everything I have ever read paints it as the most authentic food experience to be had in the area -- the owner and chef is an artist who opens restricted hours to allow him time to paint, you eat what he cooks etc etc. Will need some research -- I am not even sure if it still exists, though it's a place I have wanted to go for ages. But food in the Algarve, and Portugal generally, is always good. I think Portugal has the best _ordinary_ food of anywhere I have ever been. It is quite hard to get a bad meal. I vividly remember the last lunch of a week with my wife and my parents spent in Alvor a few weeks after my brain surgery. It was October, and we sat at a beach bar eating grilled baby squid. They were superb, but we headed back to the airport covered in squid ink!




[edited to add] If you have a car, think about getting away from the coast for a day. Silves and Monchique are both worth a visit and if you don't mind a bit more driving, the Atlantic coast is beautiful. The village of Aljezur has a wonderful ruined Moorish castle, the Atlantic beaches are spectacular, though I guess it could be wild at this time of year, and there won't be many tourists around.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2015, 06:02:25 AM by Adam Lawrence »
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Rich Goodale

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2015, 07:26:39 AM »
Where are you staying, Mark?  I've been to the Algarve 3 times in 3 different places over the past 8 years, twice with family (once at Pine Cliffs once in Lagos) and once (last year in Villamoura) with golfing buddies.  Probably going back in March same place with same golfing buddies.  There is no great golf in the Algarve in my experience, but some interesting tracks.  If you pay the rackl rate you won't be getting value for money, but all prices are negotiable (maybe not in December).  As Adam says, the food is the highlight of any Algarve holiday--for quality and variety it knocks the socks off anything I've seen in Spain.  If you are going to be near Villamoura and your kids like Nando's, go to the Chicken Shack and you will be amazed!

Cheers

Rich
Life is good.

Any afterlife is unlikely and/or dodgy.

Jean-Paul Parodi

Niall C

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Re: The Algarve
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2015, 08:31:17 AM »
Mark


Agree with Adam on Palmares although from what I recall it's not a walking course. I'd agree with Rich's Portugal/Spain comparison. Not only is the food better in Portugal compared to Spain (in my limited holiday experience) but also the courses in the Algarve are generally better than what you get in the Costa del Sol, which admittedly isn't a high bar.


I've played maybe about a dozen courses over there and none that I would recommend you against even if they weren't particularly great. Quite a few have changed names etc but I recall really enjoying Villamoura Old (Pennink from memory) as well as San Lorenzo. SL is one of those strange courses where the architecture is not particularly brilliant but tends to be a favourite of many. Whatever the trick is I fell for it.


One thing you might want to try if you are not booking the golf ahead of time, is asking locally at bars and restuarants. I seem to recall on one trip I had to Villamoura with regular visitors that one of the local restuaranteurs fixed up the golf and managed to get us on at local rates, including on Victoria.


Niall

Mark Pearce

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Re: The Algarve
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2015, 08:46:19 AM »
THanks for all these comments.  We're not looking to be blown away by the architecture, just to get a game in that we can all enjoy on a course that doesn't do my head in.  We'll be staying in Carvoeiro.

And yes, Rich, the kids are fans of Nandos, so the Chicken Shack goes on the list!

Adam Lawrence

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2015, 08:52:23 AM »
If you're in Carvoeiro the nearest golf is the Pestana resort with two courses, Vale do Pinta and Quinta do Gramacho. I can't really recommend them. They're OK but for God's sake don't try to walk if it's warm.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Author, 'More Enduring Than Brass: a biography of Harry Colt' (forthcoming).

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2015, 09:07:27 AM »
If you're in Carvoeiro the nearest golf is the Pestana resort with two courses, Vale do Pinta and Quinta do Gramacho. I can't really recommend them. They're OK but for God's sake don't try to walk if it's warm.
On the back of that there are two to avoid!

Marty Bonnar

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2015, 12:49:28 PM »
You're also pretty near Alto Golf which was Sir Henry's last design. Hohum, but with a very long 600m? Hole...
I have to disagree with Adam re Penina. I love the atmosphere around the place (I'm sure we actually saw Sir Henry's Ghost once!) and it has some decent (for the area!) holes.
Agreed with all re the grub. Awesome sardines especially with an ice cold vinho verde... Yum!

Cheers,
F.
The White River runs dark through the heart of the Town,
Washed the people coal-black from the hole in the ground.

Sam Krume

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2015, 04:32:14 PM »
I would also recommend Laranjal. Nice track but the best thing there is no housing surrounding the course which in the algarve is quite a novelty..


Rich Goodale

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2015, 05:43:42 PM »
Mark

Just to let you know that the "Chicken Shack" is not called The Chicken Shack, but rather "Marufo 1"....

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g580249-d739862-Reviews-Marufo_1-Quarteira_Faro_District_Algarve.html#REVIEWS

It is to chicken as Durgin Park in Boston is to roast beef....

Rich
Life is good.

Any afterlife is unlikely and/or dodgy.

Jean-Paul Parodi

Jaeger Kovich

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2015, 07:17:03 PM »
I really the golf on the coast further north if you end up closer to Lisbon.

David Jones

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Re: The Algarve
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2015, 07:18:34 PM »
I would agree with San Lorenzo and Vilamoura Old as being well worth a knock.  Both are nice courses.  The Old is straightforward - everything in front of you and not too long - lots of canopy trees though so if you are off the fairway there's lots of punching out required.  San Lorenzo is a bit more of a challenge.  The front 9 goes down to a nice lagoon - quite a lot of carry required with approach shots to get over water.  The back 9 is a bit tamer but good fun.


Monte Rei is the top ranked in Portugal I think, about 45 minutes to an hour away.  Typical Nicklaus - elevated tees, need a buggy, sweeping left to right holes with ridiculously penal if you miss.  As you can tell I wasn't in love with it! 


I've heard good things of the Quinta da Lago redesign as well.  Enjoy!

Rich Goodale

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2015, 07:35:29 PM »
IMO the Old at Villamoura was probably a good course 20+ years ago, but now it is a tree infested crazy golf course, which is fun but a Doak 2 (architecture wise).  To me, the Millenium Course is the best of the bunch (architecture wise) of the Oceania complex.
Life is good.

Any afterlife is unlikely and/or dodgy.

Jean-Paul Parodi

Ruediger Meyer

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2015, 11:32:32 AM »
There's not a lot of great golf in the Algarve. Whatever you do, avoid the Oceanico Victoria, home of the Portugal Masters. It's not worth the money they want for it. If you want one Oceanico course, maybe go for the the O'Connor which is a bit away from the others.


Apart from the Pince Cliffs 9 holer (which is a hard tee time to get) from the courses I played over there I liked the Boavista Golf Course the most. It won't set the world on fire but is better than Gramacho and Pinta. Silves has in my opinion only 5 good holes and oddly it always seems to rain when one's playing there.

Matt Dawson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2015, 12:18:45 PM »
"...has in my opinion only 5 good holes and oddly it always seems to rain when one's playing there."

That made me chuckle...lovely quote!

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2015, 01:08:35 PM »
Thanks all for these recommendations.  We ended up playing three courses: Palmares, Pine Cliffs and Gramacho, which I would rate in that order.  We really liked Palmares.  Whilst I expected to enjoy the links style holes (the Praia nine), and did, I was really impressed with the first nine (the Alvor nine) in the hills.  On whatever deal I had negotiated (we were two adults and two juniors) we had one buggy between four, so I walked with one of the twins.  Given a lift between the nines this was quite manageable, though I wouldn't fancy it much in really warm weather (we had shorts and T-shirt weather but it was pleasant, rather than hot).  All in all rather better than I had perhaps expected.

Pine Cliffs was fun and I really liked the long par 4 and long par 3 on the cliff edge.

Gramacho was also enjoyable, again exceeding my somewhat limited expectations (we only played there because it was 10 minutes from where we were staying.  We all walked.  Again, that was manageable but I wouldn't fancy it in hot weather.  A flattering course, in that it was relatively easy without looking like it and the boys all enjoyed it.

Interestingly, all four of us ranked the courses in the same order of enjoyment.

Sadly The Chicken Shack was closed for the winter.......

Marty Bonnar

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Re: The Algarve
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2015, 01:45:54 PM »
If I remember correctly, I saw my first ever Hoopoe at Gramacho, which was very cool as it's the course's logo!
Nice...

F.
The White River runs dark through the heart of the Town,
Washed the people coal-black from the hole in the ground.

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2017, 02:55:23 PM »
So just back from another week in Portugal and three more rounds down there.  The first of those was at Pinta, which did absolutely nothing for me.  Lots of weird, short, dogleg par 4s, no real flow, no charm.  Less good than its sister, Gramacho.  The other two were repeat plays.  Pine Cliffs really is lovely, perhaps three of the four par 3s are a bit similar (certainly in length, one of my twins hit the same club on each par 3 both times round (the back tees on 6 weren't in play)) but they aren't bad par 3s, the 5th is an excellent long par 4 and the 8th is actually a pretty good short par 4, though would really benefit from firmer conditions.  A really enjoyable set up, though.  Yesterday we went back to Palmares (where we played the Lagos and Alvor 9s).  Despite not playing the Praia 9, right by the coast, we agreed again that it is excellent.  Lots of memorable holes, requiring real though and shot-making.


Just less than a year ago I had the luck to play the Old Course at the National GC in Australia, also an RTJ 2 design.  I think there are some stylistic themes you can see and both are on hilly property.  I assume Palmares came later, because it's just a bit more refined, a little less showy and much more playable as a result.  A really good set of par 5s, by the way.  By some distance it remains the best of what I have played in the Algarve.


Marufos (the Chicken Shack) was as good as ever but we really noticed that Portugal seemed far, far more expensive than on previous visits, more so than can solely be attributed to the collapse of the pound.

Rich Goodale

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2017, 03:52:34 PM »
Good to hear you finally found the Chicken Shack, Mark.  Sorry it is so dear today. but that's what you Brits get for sticking with the Pound.  Just think how cheap it would be if you had taken the leap of faith towards the Euro.
Life is good.

Any afterlife is unlikely and/or dodgy.

Jean-Paul Parodi

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2017, 06:28:39 PM »
Good to hear you finally found the Chicken Shack, Mark.  Sorry it is so dear today. but that's what you Brits get for sticking with the Pound.  Just think how cheap it would be if you had taken the leap of faith towards the Euro.
Or if we'd just not voted for Brexit.....

Rich Goodale

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Re: The Algarve
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2017, 06:01:43 AM »
Good to hear you finally found the Chicken Shack, Mark.  Sorry it is so dear today. but that's what you Brits get for sticking with the Pound.  Just think how cheap it would be if you had taken the leap of faith towards the Euro.
Or if we'd just not voted for Brexit.....


Oh yes, that pesky thing called "democracy"...


King John I must be rolling in his grave......
Life is good.

Any afterlife is unlikely and/or dodgy.

Jean-Paul Parodi

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2017, 06:13:42 AM »
The worst method of government other than all the others.


Democratic decisions aren't always right, of course.  As a father of daughters I guess you've seen the X Factor?  That has voting, too.

Ulrich Mayring

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2017, 06:04:54 PM »
The Brexit is good for democracy, as are Trump and Erdogan. These three catastrophic results show what happens if you don't bother to vote: fanatics will take over.

I am somewhat hopeful about the Brexit, though. A lot of people are working so hard at completely botching the exit negotiations that it could actually be a cunning strategy to stay in the EU due to "unfortunate technicalities". Or maybe they're just bumbling idiots.

Ulrich
Golf Course Exposť (300+ courses reviewed), Golf CV (how I keep track of 'em)

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2017, 06:44:01 PM »
Sadly, Ulrich, my money is on them being bumbling idiots.  But hey, they're British bumbling idiots, so that's something to be happy about, eh?

Duncan Cheslett

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The Algarve
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2017, 12:49:06 AM »

I am somewhat hopeful about the Brexit, though. A lot of people are working so hard at completely botching the exit negotiations that it could actually be a cunning strategy to stay in the EU due to "unfortunate technicalities".



The "Hotel California" scenario...




... You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.


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