As we move towards spring in the northern hemisphere we can expand our search for some winter sun a little further. Portugal is one of the southern most countries in Europe, a mere 300km north-west of the African coastline. This gives temperatures in March around often around the mid-60s which is easily warm enough for a round of golf.
Portugal doesn’t just boast a nice climate but also other impressive stats such as being the 3rd most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index, and the most impressive road network in the world. So this makes it a perfect option for a late winter/ spring golf road trip.
In terms of golf and quality of courses, Portugal has won the prestigious title of best golf destination in Europe as recently as 2012 and 2013. Although there are courses dotted across the whole of this golf loving nation a fair percentage are concentrated in the Algarve region, which is at the southern end of the country. In this popular holiday region you will find no shortage of great hotels, beaches and other activities to fill an extended vacation!
Top Golf Courses in Portugal
Best Course: Oitavos Dunes
Oitavos Dunes golf course is located in the beautiful coastal region, about 25km outside of Portugal’s capital Lisbon.
The course is designed by Arthur Hills in a Links style. You will have to be careful not to delay the game of the following group as the temptation to take countless photos is hard to resist, with scenery ranging from a forest setting to rolling dunes. Particularly if your round rolls into the golden hours of the early evening where you will hopefully see the sun setting over the Atlantic ocean.
The course itself is definitely a challenging one with some long par 4s to contend with. If you can hit the ball long and straight you should be ok, but for senior players or shorter hitters prepare to be patient in reaching the greens.
Unless you are ready to splash the cash on this holiday I would recommend walking the course as the cost to rent a buggy is an eye-watering €70 (around $86!). As is the case with some European courses the amenities aren’t quite at the standard of some of the top US courses but it is still a lovely place to play.
Most Challenging: Santo Antonio Golf Course
Heading down south to the Algarve region we find one most spectacular but also most challenging courses in Portugal, Santo Antonio Golf Course.
As with many of the courses in the Algarve, the course is complemented with spectacular mountain and sea views as you navigate the 18 holes. The course architect Pepe Gancedo prides himself on building courses that work with the existing landscape, attempting not to alter the terrain and let the landscape tell it’s natural story. This leads to a meandering and undulating course which is unsurprisingly very challenging too. The challenges lead to many people visiting this course time after time as they attempt to conquer it.
To go alongside the ups and downs of the fairways are plenty of water features and greens surrounded by white sand bunkers. The best is saved till last in my opinion with the 18th hole which is set in an amphitheater setting, beautiful!
Most Memorable: Vale do Lobo Royal
I have put the Vale do Lobo Royal as the most memorable course for the fact that I (and many others) believe it to be the most stunning and picturesque in the entire country.
Pictures of hole 16 a found all over the internet as one of the most photogenic scenes in European golf. The striking clay cliffs lie just beyond the tee whilst the (usually) turquoise ocean glistens to the players left.
Courses in Portugal can vary considerably in quality of the fairways and greens but Vale de Lobo Royal is right up there with the best in terms of quality. The greens are immaculate and so are the fairways.
Cheap Round: Penina resort golf course
Maybe it is just true of all courses in Portugal but the Penina resort courses are also very nice to look at. Also located in the Algarve region, approximately a 50-minute drive to the west of Faro a much more affordable round can be found here compared to the other courses.
The Sir Henry Cotton championship course holds the title of being the first course constructed in the Algarve area, paving the way for many world-class courses to follow. Penina has 2 more courses too with the resort course and academy course offering different challenges at the same place. So this makes Penina a great option if you want to just stay at a resort and relax and have multiple courses right on your doorstep!
Where to stay
Portugal has no shortage of great hotels all over the country, from big resorts in the Algarve to smaller boutique guest houses in the hills. Here are a few options to whet your appetite. Some in the Lisbon area and some in the Algarve.
Budget Option – Villa dos Teixos (Cascais)
It may be the budget option but the Villa dos Teixos is really in the list for being a great option nice and close to the Oitavos Dunes course, just a 6 -minute drive to be precise.
This is a beautiful area of the country, just outside the town of Cascais. Cascais is a traditional Portuguese fishing town with some of the best beaches in the Lisbon region. There’s enough to keep you entertained just here with museums, restaurants, and parks that you may forget you are just 20 miles west of the capital.
Villa dos Teixos is actually a guest house so book in advance to avoid dissapointment. You will be treated to a pool, sun terrace and even a hot tub to relax after tackling Oitavos.
Mid-Range Option – Vila Gale Collection (Palácio dos Arcos)
Slightly up in the price range is the Vila Gale Collection in Palacio dos Arcos. This location is slightly closer to Lisbon about half way between Lisbon and Cascais and just 12 miles from the international airport.
The beach is just a 400-yard stroll away and if that is too far the hotel itself has a spa, Turkish baths, hot tub, sauna, indoor and outdoor pools. The theme is traditional Portuguese with views over gardens and the Tagus River.
Top-End Option – Hotel Fortaleza do Guincho (Cascais)
There is a lot of choice at the top end of the market around Lisbon but the Hotel Fortaleza do Guincho is my pick of the bunch. It is again located in the town of Cascais so you are nice and convenient for the stunning Oitavos Dunes course.
You are just a short stroll from the Guincho Beach, a notorious surfers paradise (if that’s your thing). Everything about this hotel feels special with chandeliers, velvet sofas everywhere and other grand features throughout.
If the hotel isn’t enough to tempt you maybe the fact that there is a Michelin stared restaurant on site will help. The restaurant is known for it’s wine selection and award-winning sommelier. You can even enjoy the fine cuisine in the comfort of your room if you are feeling really extravagant.
Budget Option – The Prime Energize
Located 450 yards from the beach in Monte Gordo, the 4-star Prime Energize offers guests a balance between high comfort accommodation and optimal environment for the practice of sports. The rooftop swimming pool offers stunning views and is served by a bar.
Inspired in the dunes and cliffs of the Algarve coast, decorated with strong and soft colours. each room or suite of the hotel is equipped with air conditioning, free WiFi, flat-screen cable TV, minibar, safety deposit box and telephone. Bathrooms include free Rituals™ toiletries.
The on-site FUEL restaurant serves a variety of healthy dishes featuring local and fresh produce as well as fresh fish from the Portuguese coast and top grade meats. In addition, the lobby bar includes an outdoor terrace. The main street of Monte Gordo is a 2-minute walk away and features various bars, a casino and restaurants.
The Prime Energize offers a 24-hour reception with concierge and guests are welcome to request car and bicycle rental. Most active guests may also book a variety of sports activities and excursions. During 2018 a Spa & Wellness Centre will be available.
Monte Gordo is the perfect starting point to discover the warm beaches of Algarve’s Sotavento region. Praia Verde and Cabeço Beach are within a 10-minute drive while the beaches of Manta Rota and Alagoa are a 20-minute drive. Vila Real de Santo António is 1.9 miles away and Faro International Airport is 37.3 miles away.
Mid-Range Option – Hotel da Rocha
This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. Hotelprovides immediate access to . It features suites with a contemporary design offering beach or land . The hotel provides free WiFi throughout and 24-hour reception services.
The, bright suites of the Rocha Hotel feature air conditioning, king-size beds and a sofa bed. There is a living area fitted with flat-screen cable TV, private bathroom with bathtub and a hairdryer. The rooms open out onto a balcony and are equipped with air conditioning.
Facilities of the property include an outdoor swimming pool, a bar serving drinks and tapas, fitness room with cardio equipment, massage room and underground parking, as well. Guests may enjoy a buffet dinner, upon previous request and at an extra fee.
Hotel da Rocha is within walking distance from the Portimão marina and the bars and restaurants of lively Rocha Beach. Vau Beach is located within a 5-minute drive away. Golf courses and the Algarve Internacional Autodrome are within a 20-minute drive away.
This is our guests’ favourite part of Portimão, according to independent reviews.
Top-End Option – The Lake Resort
This property is 2 minutes walk from the beach. Located just 350 yards from Falésia Beach, this luxurious resort offers a natural, sandy beach pool and a floating restaurant. The rooms have balconies with stunning views of the surroundings.
Guests of the Lake Resort can reach their accommodations through the lobby, which is covered by a 14-metre, Moorish-style dome. The rooms are spacious and have sliding doors that lead to the private bathrooms.
Lake Resort offers 3 restaurants, 2 bars and a library full of books and magazines. While guests relax in the spa area, children will be entertained for hours with the activities of the Koala Kids Club.
After a dip in one of the 3 pools, guests can enjoy Oriental cuisine at the Fusion restaurant or have fresh fish in the garden setting of the Marenostrum restaurant. The Pool Bar and ZanziBar provide refreshing beverages.
The Lake Resort Hotel is situated a 20-minute drive from Albufeira. A shuttle service to the Vilamoura golf courses within 1.2 miles is available upon request.