Explore the Algarve region from East to West, with a golf and food road trip to remember

A seven-day road trip around the finest golf courses in the Algarve, as well as award-winning Michelin-starred restaurants

– August 24, 2023
Dom Pedro Old Course Hole 6
Dom Pedro Old Course Hole 6

The Algarve is blessed in so many ways. Year-round sunshine and so many golf courses, all within easy reach.

In fact, it only takes one and a half hours to travel between the most easterly and westerly golf courses in the region. With that in mind, I thought, what better way to spend a week than taking a leisurely road trip, playing some of the Algarve’s best golf courses, staying at the finest hotels and sampling the delights of the best restaurants the Algarve has to offer. So, strap yourselves in for a golfing road trip to remember.

Day One

I start the morning at the most easterly golf course in the Algarve, Santo Antonio. Opened in 1987 and designed by Pepe Gancedo, the course offers a blend of undulating fairways, deep ravines, and carefully placed water hazards. While it’s not the hardest course that will feature, there are wonderful views and a couple of holes where you can make a score.

The signature hole is undoubtedly the 5th, a 112-metre par 3, where hitting the green is imperative, as sharp slopes on all sides make par difficult if you miss it.

After finishing the early morning round, I head west for 20 minutes until we reach Espiche, a firm favourite at Getaway Golfer. Lunch is booked at the architecturally awarded winning clubhouse restaurant, Gecko (view the menu), before heading out for a twilight tee time. At just €40, it’s possibly the best value round of golf in all of Portugal.

Espiche can be a tricky course if you’re not accurate off the tee. The club has a commitment to ecological preservation, meaning the rough is left to grow wild and there’s no use of aggressive fertilizers and pesticides. My advice to post a respectable score is to take something off your shots – accuracy over power is key.

After two wonderful rounds, I spend the night at at Iberostar Selection Lagos, one of the finest all-inclusive hotels in the Algarve. It’s a perfect opportunity to eat and drink to my heart’s content, grab a massage and relax before day two.

Dom Pedro Victoria Hole 1 11 12
Dom Pedro Victoria Hole 1, 11 12

Day Two

It’s another early start as I head to Palmares. There are 27 holes here, broken down into three loops of nine holes, The Praia, Lagos and Alvor. Of the three loops, I opt to play Praia and Alvor as it offers a great blend of parkland and links golf and stretches all aspects of my game.

Palmares has another clubhouse that deserves a mention. The Pritzker Architecture Award-winning RCR Architects designed it and boasts a breathtaking panoramic view of the Alvor Estuary, Meia Praia Beach, and Ponta da Piedade.

I finish the round with a delightful lunch at the clubhouse restaurant, El-Sud (view the menu) sampling a thoroughly delightful dish of turbot with celery and coriander.

The afternoon takes me to Penina Golf Resort to take on the Algarve’s oldest course, the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course, host of the Portugal Open no less than 10 times. The signature hole here is the rather tricky 13th par-3 that plays 200 yards over water. Legend has it that when the lake was dredged, 20,000 balls were retrieved. Thankfully today my ball didn’t add to that number.

After two glorious rounds of golf, I travel to Pestana Carvoeiro Golfe for an early night, ready for my next couple of rounds tomorrow.

Espiche Golf Course
Espiche Golf Course

Day Three

Day Three starts with an early morning round at Vale da Pinta. Designed by Ronald Fream and opened in 1992, the Monchique Hills provide a stunning backdrop. There are a couple of excellent holes here, but the tenth stands out. It features a formidable bunker guarding the green, meaning any short approach shot is going to be punished and indeed I was. The wind was tricky on this particular day, which meant club selection was off on several occasions.

There was no time for a leisurely lunch as I had to drive onward for my afternoon round at the Amendoeira Golf Resort, taking on the trickiest course of the entire trip.

Amendoeira hosts two championship courses, the Faldo and the O’Connor Junior. Of the two, Faldo is the toughest and, feeling confident, I decided to take it on. There are five tee positions to choose from, and while my golf game was feeling good, I’m not the biggest of hitters, so I opt for the yellow tees. Choosing the correct tees is crucial to enjoying your round here. Play too far back for your ability and you’ll have a miserable round and lose a lot of golf balls.

The course was tough, and I failed to make a score of note, but the course offered plenty of interesting holes and the views from a number of the tee boxes were superb.

The evening was spent at Vila Vita Parcone of the finest luxury hotels in the Algarve. Given that I missed my lunch, it seemed only right that I dined at the resort’s two Michelin Star restaurant, Ocean (view the menu) and I was not disappointed. The tuna belly was divine and unlike anything I’d ever eaten before.

Monte Rei North Hole 13, 14
Monte Rei North Hole 13, 14

Day Four

I start the day with an early morning round at Salgados Golf Course. Set in the middle of a nature reserve, it provided the added bonus of being able to spot a number of rare birds during my round. Whilst the birdwatching is lovely, these particular birds like water and, as you can imagine, there is a lot of it at Salgados. My advice, if you decide to play here, is to pack a fair few spare balls. I lost four during my round and considered that to be an epic result.

The afternoon saw me travel to Vilamoura, the spiritual home of golf in the Algarve. Not wanting to waste any time, I jump on an afternoon tee time at Dom Pedro’s Victoria Golf Course, designed by none other than Arnold Palmer. Home to the Portugal Masters every year since 2007, Victoria is well suited to championship golf, there are plenty of opportunities to let rip with the driver, given that there are plenty of wide-open fairways.

My favourite hole (and Arnold’s too) is the 17th. Be careful here, as water lurks all the way down the right-hand side, with a few splendid waterfalls for dramatic effect.

The evening is spent at Hilton Vilamoura, spending an hour or so enjoying the spa, before heading out for a bite to eat at Restaurant Retinto for a delicious steak and a glass of a fine Portuguese red.

Salgados Golf Course
Salgados Golf Course

Day Five

I wake up particularly excited about Day Five. I’m looking forward to playing one of the most exciting holes in all of Portugal, but more on that later. I start with a round at The Old Course, my favourite of all the Dom Pedro-owned courses in Vilamoura.

Designed by Frank Pennink, it’s the oldest golf course in Vilamoura and full of nostalgic charm. My favourite hole has to be the eighth. From the Medal tee, it plays over 400 metres and features a gradual decline to a fairway bunker, a gentle dogleg right, and a rise to a narrow green that is well protected by trees on all sides. It’s a testing hole but glorious, nonetheless.

The afternoon sees me visit the Royal Course at Vale do Lobo. There are two courses to play here and, if I’m honest, The Ocean Course is probably my favourite of the two. However, playing The Royal means you get to play the most photographed hole in Portugal. The 16th plays over 200 metres off the white tees, over a giant ravine, with the Atlantic Ocean out to your left. It’s as beautiful as it is terrifying. I won’t mention my score; instead, let’s focus on just how stunning the views are.

The evening sees me travel on to Quinta do Lago, in the Algarve’s golden triangle. I’m spending the night at Conrad Algarve, indulging in another Michelin-star meal at Gusto by Heinz Beck. The scarlet prawn zucchini “scapece” and smoked buttermilk with lemon leaves sauce was exceptional and a dish that leaves me wanting to visit again just so I can savour it one more time.

Dom Pedro Old Course Hole 6
Dom Pedro Old Course Hole 6

Day Six

The morning is spent playing Quinta do Lago’s Laranjal Course. I’m excited to play here, as it’s not one I’ve visited previously. It’s the newest of the three Quinta courses and I wasn’t disappointed. Laranjal is sublime, the greens look like they’ve been ironed, and the fairways look as though someone’s been out with scissors. It’s as perfect a golf course as you’ll find anywhere in Portugal.

Its signature hole is the long par 3 16th, which is sure to test even the most experienced of golfers. With a stroke average that’s closer to a 4, this hole is a true test of skill, especially when played from the gold tees, which measure 200 yards plus. There’s out-of-bounds on the left and the undulating green. It’s clear that even reaching the putting surface in regulation won’t guarantee a par.

The afternoon sees me take on Quinta do Lago’s South CourseWinner of Portugal’s best golf course in 2022, The South Course is special, very special. It’s as immaculate as Laranjal in every way and a tad more challenging. It’s a course I love to visit every time I’m in the area. The 16th hole is my personal favourite as it plays right up to the waterfront, providing a delightful approach shot to the green.

The evening sees me take a drive east towards Tavira to begin the final day of my road trip. I’m staying at the rather stunning Monte Rei Resort, in Vila Nova de Cacela (Vila Real de Santo António), in a wonderful modern self-catering apartment. While Michelin star dining is an option at Vistas Rui Silvestre, I opt for the more relaxed environment and choose to dine at the Grill (view menu) and enjoy some chicken piri-piri on the terrace before getting another early night.

Day Seven

My final day of this epic road trip sees me take on Monte Rei Golf Course in the morning. Monte Rei has held the crown for the best golf course in Portugal on numerous occasions, last winning the accolade in 2020. Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2007, Monte Rei is an exquisite course with each hole set in its own ravine. It can feel at times like you’re playing millionaire’s golf. Given the price tag is upwards of €174 per round, you’ll likely be playing with a few. To be fair to Monte Rei, it’s worth the price to play at least once.

The final round of my epic Algarve road trip takes me to Quinta do Vale, on the border with Spain. Designed by the late Seve Ballesteros, Quinta do Vale offers some of the most secluded golf in the region. It’s not the best golf course I’ve visited but provides a welcome opportunity to attempt some birdies while taking in the beautiful views of River Guadiana.

As I putt out on the 18th, I sit back and marvel at my epic journey across the Algarve. Over 150 kilometres travelled, 14 golf courses played, two Michelin star meals eaten, and a lifetime of memories created and I can’t wait to do it all over again.


By Mark Hirst
|| features@portugalresident.com

Mark Hirst is the founder of Getaway Golfer, a site dedicated to helping people discover the best golf courses and hotels worldwide. His writing has been featured in National Club Golfer, Luxuria Lifestyle and many other publications.

Read more news: