Tourists and expats alike quickly fall in love with the pleasant buzz and the warm natives of Portugal. The warm climate, economical property prices and modest cost of living make it an attractive destination. A big advantage is that Portugal has a diverse and thriving expat community, which makes it easy for foreigners to adjust. Over the last few decades, Portugal has also served as a major golfing destination. There are a variety of courses to choose from, ranging from inland stadium style to sprawling countryside layouts. There are also clubs and luxury resorts located throughout the country. Whether you’re a golf enthusiast looking to practice your swings or a newbie who wants to explore the golfing culture in Portugal, here are some hotspots that are worth checking out:• Monte Rei
Nestled in the countryside between Portugal’s eastern Algarve and the Serra do Caldeirão mountains, Monte Rei is one of renowned American professional golfer Jack Nicklaus’ signature golf courses. It opened in September 2007, and ever since has maintained a remarkably high level of class and quality. Beautifully constructed, with self-contained holes, the layout and landscape are truly memorable. The club too is known to offer great service, which includes fine dining. All of this comes at a steep price, but the pristinely maintained course with its stunning surroundings of rolling hills and valleys may well be worth it.
• Praia D’El Rey
Designed by renowned golf architect Cabell B Robinson, Praia D’El Rey is located on the Silver Coast, where it overlooks the coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. 6,625 meters long and a par 73, the course makes efficient use of the natural terrain, causing the holes to blend well into the landscape. Much of the course rests along the rugged coastline, and the undulating fairways take you towards tricky greens. The rest of the course takes you among the pines, making for an attractive and unique contrast. Many golfers consider Praia D’El Rey to be among the more challenging courses in Portugal.
• San Lorenzo
The San Lorenzo golf course, designed by architects Joseph Lee and Rocky Roquermore, has the layout of a vibrant figure eight. Umbrella pines and the Ria Formosa marshland and bird sanctuary border the fairways. The course has many memorable holes, most notably the fifth, which gazes across at the sandy Atlantic beaches, and the seventh, in which the green stands almost in the middle of water. Golfers love this course for its striking but peaceful landscape. Since its opening in the late 1980s, San Lorenzo has remained a favorite, and is considered to be one of best-respected clubs in the country.
• Oceanico (Vilamoura Old)
Often called the Grande Dame of Algarve courses, this is one of Algarve’s oldest courses. It is also the most popular of the Vilamoura courses. Originally designed by Frank Pennink, with an update by Martin Hawtree in 1996, the course is located on gentle hill slopes. The undulating natural terrain and the fairways that move around pine trees pose a firm challenge that calls for great accuracy.
• Oceanico (Faldo)
Nick Faldo designed this course keeping in mind strategic play. The layout sits over sandy, gently sloping terrain, and travels past desert scrubs and water hazards, making it necessary to have a strategic approach to your game. The course is relatively new, having opened only in September 2008, but has already gained considerable reputation. You can be sure to encounter a different test at every hole. Here, keeping the ball in play will enable better scoring opportunities.
Apart from these, there are a few more that are recommended by the Portugal Tourism Office. These include:
• Parque da Floresta in the Algarve, next to Costa Vicentina Natural Park
• Quinta da Ria, inside the Ria Formosa Natural Park
• Penha Longa, near the town of Sintra in Lisbon
• Oitavos Dunes, in Estoril
• Palheiro Golf, in Madeira near the gardens of Quinta do Palheiro
• Ilha Terceira, in the Azores
• Troia Golf Championship Course, located on the Troia Peninsula
• Ponte de Lima, near Porto in the northern region
These golf courses score well against criteria such as test and design, aesthetics, course conditioning and facilities. But Portugal is teeming with excellent courses, and it is a good idea to explore and test the many remarkable layouts yourself.