Jamie Kennedy
By Jamie Kennedy

Golf in the Algarve has exploded since the legendary Henry Cotton, twice winner of the Open Championship, came to Portugal's south coast in the 1960s and built Penina, the Algarve's first grass golf course.

With great travel links and a wonderful climate the area is a premier golfing destination and a glance at this Algarve golf course guide reveals the courses to justify that reputation.

Golf in the Algarve can broadly be split into three geographical areas, each home to a number of excellent golf courses, offering visiting players a wide range of golfing options to match

The Eastern Algarve, situated between Faro and the Spanish border, is the lowest key area of the Algarve but the standard of golf available is a match for any and to a lot of observers it now boasts the regions best course. The Jack Nicklaus designed Monte Rei Golf and Country Club is set in the foothills of the Eastern Algarve with fine views of the Atlantic. Boasting two signature layouts, it is Monte Rei North that takes the plaudits, laid out amid a rugged landscape with water in play on eleven holes.

Also found the near the town of Tavira are the excellent courses of Quinta da Ria and Quinta de Cima that overlook the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve hard on the Atlantic coastline.

The Central Algarve, centred on the resort of Vilamoura, is the most well known base for Algarve golf and is home to some of the Algarve's most recognisable names. Dominated by the courses of the Oceanico group visitors can play a number of top courses without leaving town.

The classic layout of the Old Course Vilamoura with its tricky doglegs and umbrella pines is truly representative of golf in the Algarve and is rightly regarded as a must play. The Old is complemented by Pinhal, Laguna, Millenium and Victoria, the other Vilamoura resort courses.

The Oceanico group also boast the Faldo and O’Conner layouts, north of the town of Alcantarilha, demanding layouts that are well worth a visit. The Faldo is a great test of course management, set on either side of the valley, with accuracy at a premium.

Four iconic Algarve resorts can be found in the central region. Inland is Vila Sol that has three excellent loops of nine set amongst mature woodland. Quinta do Lago is set amounts 2000 acres of the coastland Ria Formosa Natioal Park and boast three exceptional 18 hole courses.

Another resort benefitting from the natural splendour of the Ria Formosa is San Lorenzo, a test that has long been regarded as the regions finest and is a spectacular test of golf. Vale do Lobo is perched along the Algarve’s distinctive bright orange cliffs, where the par 3 16th on the Royal Course is the areas signature hole and one of the most photographed in the whole country.

The Western Algarve, centred on the town of Lagos, has been increasing in popularity and is rightly seen as a great base for a golf break. The highest profile course in the area following a remodel by Robert Trent Junior is Palmares that has three very different loops of nine. The Praia course is particularly notable as it boasts a distinctly linksy feel with four seaside holes stretching between the sea and the railway line.

Boavista is located on the coast between Lagos and Luz and offers great value for visiting golfers with a challenging test of their game. Penina is a classy complex set amongst 360 acres and as well as the renowned Sir Henry Cotton Championship course, host of ten Portuguese Opens, a the Resort Course and Academy Course cater for all visitors wishing to enjoy the links.