PORTUGAL burst on to the holiday golfing scene in the early 1990s when the number of courses in the Algarve seemed to double overnight.
Fast-forward 10 years and it’s a £200 million industry that represents 14% of Portugal’s tourism income.
Only Spain attracts more golfers than the 300,000 who travel to Lisbon and Faro every year, and with more courses in the pipeline, Portugal may soon be challenging its neighbour.
Not only does the Algarve have an array of excellent courses to choose from but hoteliers and course owners have teamed up to provide value-for-money packages that attract players for 10 months of the year.
“In the past, hoteliers, faced with a shrinking main holiday season and increased competition have had some awkward commercial issues based on low occupancy outside July and August – a problem that golf tourism has eased,” said Driveline Golf director Paul Cowgill.
Golf Escapes managing director Jon Ruben added: “It’s an easy way for hotels to fill their rooms during the quiet season, when most golfers tend to travel.”
And while they fill empty beds, we fill the holes in your knowledge.
Victoria Clube de Golfe, Vilamoura
A good choice for a classy stag outing, the Victoria Clube de Golfe is the only Arnold Palmer-designed course in the Algarve and a stone’s throw from the bars and nightlife of Vilamoura. It has an excellent clubhouse, which is the perfect place to follow in the footsteps of the pros, play some top-class golf and relive on-course antics over a drink or two.
During a round clients can enjoy the panoramic views across the Bay of Lagos or Monchique Hills and the five holes that play along coastal sand dunes. Afterwards clients can gather in the dramatic hilltop clubhouse to take in a few drinks at sunset before moving onto the many bars and restaurants of nearby Lagos.
Sample product: A Golfing Experience offers three nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation at the four-star Vila Gale Marina from £320 per person including car hire and two rounds of golf, excluding flights, in October.
Villa Sol, Vilamoura
Twice host of the Portuguese Open and with a Green Flag award for its contribution to the environment, the 150-hectare site comes into its own away from the course where a range of well-being treatments are offered in a beautiful, modern setting.
If your client’s swing is causing grief, they can ease their tension through a range of massage techniques, or opt for a facial or manicure.
Penha Longa Golf and Spa Resort, Sintra
With a £14 million makeover now complete, the Six Senses Spa blends eastern and western techniques to offer a variety of pampering products in a leafy, secluded area. There’s a jacuzzi, plunge pool, wading pool, three-metre-high waterfall, water cascade and several gazebos for meditation, yoga or treatments in the garden.
Sample product: Golf Planet offers four nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation at the five-star Villa Sol from £819 per person, including flights, group C car hire and three rounds of golf from June to September.
Oitavos, Quinta da Marinha
Oitavos is one of the hidden gems in Portugal. The course winds its way through a sea of pines and sand dunes in the Sintra-Cascais National Park near Estoril, to offer a test of your all-round game. This beauty is matched by the innovative, contemporary clubhouse that features outdoor decks and large glazed areas so guests can take in as much of the surrounding woods, sea and sun as possible.
Morgado is one of the newest courses in the Algarve so it’s free from the housing developments that crowd the more established courses. This allows visitors to sit on the terrace of its traditional-style clubhouse and enjoy panoramic views of a sweeping valley to the north of Portimao.
Sample product: Longshot Golf offers three nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation at the four-star Vila Gale Village Cascais Hotel from £411 per person including flights and car hire during October. Golf at Oitavos costs from £67 per round.
Vale de Lobo Royal and Ocean courses, Faro
These twinned courses run along the edge of a craggy coastline 12 miles west of Faro and offer some of the most incredible views in the Algarve. Further inland, the gently undulating fairways are flanked by wild flowers, pine trees, eucalyptus, olives and orange groves.
Praia D’el Ray Golf and Beach Resort, Obidos
This is a course of contrasts, with the front nine holes running through beautiful pines and the back nine twisting along sand dunes, providing spectacular views of the Atlantic and the Berlenga islands.
Sample product: Golf Escapes offers seven nights at the four-star Formosa Park Hotel this June from £325 per person including car hire and two rounds of golf, excluding flights.
Casa Velha do Palheiro, Madeira
Centred on a pretty 19th century hunting lodge that is set high in the hills east of Funchal, both the course and the hotel’s extensive gardens bulge with colour. The first-class restaurant, hotel and surrounding views of the Atlantic all combine to provide a sense of relaxed luxury.
Le Meridien Dona Filipa
San Lorenzo and the five-star Le Meridien Dona Filipa offer the unbeatable combination of luxury accommodation and the finest course in Portugal. As San Lorenzo’s fairways in the Algarve weave through the Ria Formosa nature reserve, a high degree of natural beauty and wildlife is also on hand.
Sample product: Exclusive Golf offers seven nights’ full-board accommodation at the Casa Velha do Palheiro from £849 per person, twin-share, including car hire and unlimited golf between June and September.