João dos Reis reflects on golf in the Algarve.
Despite rain and bad weather having hampered last year’s Portugal Masters at the Victoria Oceânico course in Vilamoura, the Algarve continues to lead as one of the top golf destination in the world. It is a pity that rain spoiled the Portugal Masters as it was expected to be yet another major success. However, Mother Nature certainly played a cruel joke on us. It was not supposed to rain as it did during the ‘Masters and Christopher Stilwell was understandably disappointed. Having managed to keep the Portugal Masters, at least until 2016 at the beautiful Oceânico Victoria course, he surely did not deserve such misfortune. Despite this setback though, it is undeniable that the Algarve continues to provide great quality golf at reasonable prices. It is also a fact that the Algarve still attracts foreign players in great numbers despite the global economic crisis. Algarve golf is still a very attractive proposition. The Algarve continues to be a sought after destination for top foreign golfers many of whom use the region their point of reference for European golf. The good health of Algarve golf is also reflected in the great number of players who love to practise their game in the region. The Algarve cannot turn its back on the future just because it rained. That is now simply water under the bridge… The Golf School at Vilamoura continues in full swing and is attracting more and more pupils, many of whom are still children. This school has produced numerous national and international champions including local heroes Ricardo Santos and his brother Hugo.
On Saturday mornings at the Oceânico Laguna course it is a pleasure to observe youngsters between the ages of 7 and 18, train with golf pros like Abilio Coelho, Manuel Pardal, Ricardo Lopes, Hugo Santos, Francisco Pontes and Joaquim Sequeira. It is a delight to see them make some great shots bringing gasps of admiration from their parents and others many of whom have been playing golf for rather longer than the youthful pupils … I must also praise the excellent work that has been done by green-keepers who work on various courses across the Algarve. These are often young people who have dedicated their professional life to the maintenance and care of golf courses and are constantly striving to achieve the best possible conditions. It is no coincidence that the Algarve’s greens are considered to be among the very the best in the world …
The continuity of golf tournaments on the Casinos Solverde Circuits, competitions which have been played for more than a decade is also worth highlighting. These tournaments demand great organisation and take place over all over Portugal from regions high in the north to the very south of the country. The consistent success of Solverde tournaments is due in no small part to the great work carried out many years ago by Manuel Violas. Algarve golf is greatly indebted to figures like Manuel and also Joel Pais who is managing director of the Algarve Casinos – Solverde. Joel Pais is also the main architect behind the notable successes frequently enjoyed by Solverde Casinos Circuit in the Algarve. The XII Solverde Casinos Circuit recently staged its national final at the Oceânico Faldo course in Alcantarilha. Predictably, it was a very memorable occasion and once again highlighted the kind of great golfing spectacles regularly provided by the Solverde Group. It is also to the Solverde Group’s tremendous credit that it is strongly committed to combining leisure, entertainment, culture, investment and employment as a dimension of national tourism and golf development in Portugal. Finally, it is very gratifying to learn that golf courses in the eastern Algarve are also recovering well from the general crisis. This is well-deserved progress and attributable to the investments they have made and continue to make. Clearly, golf in the beautiful Algarve from the west to east is very much alive and well.