Quinta do Lago resort in Algarve is top of the beautiful golf courses the country has to offer
The Algarve — it even sounds alluring. Blessed with miles of rugged coastline, sandy beaches and an enviable climate, this rustic region on Portugal’s southern tip is bursting with character, not to mention record-breaking numbers of visitors.
Last year, about 18m tourists flocked to the Algarve — and more than 1.3m rounds of golf were played there. Those numbers are expected to be eclipsed this year, with sun-seekers from Britain to the fore.
If you happen to live in Scotland, the jewel in Portugal’s crown is closer than you might think. With regular flights from Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, you can land in Faro within four hours and be on a sun-kissed beach or golf course within five.
The region is enjoying unprecedented growth and there’s no shortage of well-established resorts where peace, calm and gold-standard service are the order of the day. Take, for example, the five-star Quinta do Lago resort.
Much like Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams, the 1989 flick in which a farmer creates a full-size baseball pitch in a cornfield, one suspects that the Brazilian entrepreneur André Jordan had a similar epiphany when he clapped eyes on this pristine, pine-clad corner of the Algarve: build it and they will come.
Fast-forward almost 50 years and the word on the orange grove is that Quinta, a golf resort Jordan created from scratch, might just be the best of the bunch.
Sprawled across 1,600 acres in the Algarve’s fabled Golden Triangle, Quinta is a mere 20-minute drive from Faro airport and occupies an enviable position on the edge of the stunning Ria Formosa lagoon, a natural wonder of coastal barrier islands where flora and fauna thrive under 300 days of sunshine a year.
Perhaps it’s all that sun, but Quinta is so highly polished that everything, even the road, seems to gleam and sparkle. It almost feels too perfect, which might be a problem for those who want a more rugged taste of the Algarve, but once inside the gates Quinta has a charm that is hard to resist.
Rory McIlroy, the Northern Irish golfer, recently spent a fortnight at Quinta recovering from a rib injury, and gushed about its “first-class” facilities and service. The rental villas and townhouses are spacious, immaculate and well-appointed. The food at Quinta’s restaurants and bars is uncomplicated, fresh and delicious, and the overall service is indeed top notch. The little things — like being handed mosquito spray by a waiter who sees that you’re eating with one hand and fighting off the little blighters with the other — go a long way.
And, of course, there’s the golf.
The North and South courses are championship venues — the latter has hosted the Portuguese Open eight times — and boast some exquisite holes. The South’s 15th, a par 3 protected by a lake and bunkers, is said to be the most photographed of the Algarve but, in truth, all three of the resort’s courses are blessed with holes that often deserve a few extra seconds on the tee to absorb the views.
Laranjal, named after the orange groves that populate the course, is the most recent addition to the QDL stable. It’s also the most forgiving, with fewer trees plus fairways that make finding an errant shot more likely. The courses are regarded as among the finest in the region, so playing them isn’t cheap, but you’re unlikely to feel short-changed. Green fees range from about £80 to £135, depending on the season (quintadolagogolf.com).
A golf academy endorsed by the Irish golfer Paul McGinley can iron out the flaws in your game with technology. It’s also home to Europe’s only TaylorMade performance centre. (I’m pining for a set of M2 clubs after using them at Quinta — I’m sure I played better.) A 50-minute session with the head pro costs £90.
Away from the undulating fairways and manicured greens, there’s much to keep the entire family entertained. Aside from watersports, the finishing touches are being put on the Campus, a sports arena consisting of a professional full-size hybrid sports pitch, 10 tennis courts (six hard court and four clay) and four padel tennis courts — padel is a cross between squash and tennis. New gymnasiums, a pool and cycling amenities are also in the pipeline.
And if all that sounds like too much hard work, you can lounge around your private pool — most rental properties have one — browse the resort’s boutique shops or go property hunting; a new collection of plush residential homes have just gone on the market from about £2.2m.
Where to stay: Quinta do Lago has plenty of villas and townhouses to rent but, as you might expect, prices vary greatly and it’s wise to shop around on the internet. At the time of publication, two-bedroom villas for one week were available from £1,300. quintadolago.com
Where to eat: Koko Lane is a popular lunch venue where anyone can hit a few golf balls from a practice area. Try the Bovino Steakhouse for a mouth-watering selection of meats. Fresh seafood is served up daily at Casa do Lago (try the turbot for two), then relax outside with a cocktail and get in some chipping practice to a floating platform on the lake.
How to get there: Ryanair flies direct to Faro five times weekly from Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick, and twice weekly from Aberdeen. Lead fare is £21.99 (one way in July). ryanair.com