It has been around now for over 30 years and it continues to hold a certain “Je ne Sai Quoi” amongst its loving clients. Quinta do Lago is one of those special places where you cannot put your finger on a specific reason as to why it is so special. It just is!
A huge part of the appeal stems from the wonderful golf courses nestled within the estate. Quinta do Lago South, Quinta do Lago North, San Lorenzo and Pinheiros Altos. Lets’ face it 81 holes of quality golf in a 500 acre estate takes today’s golfer on a huge pleasure ride, throwing in more than the occasional disaster along the way. We could talk all day about certain holes on each course but I would rather focus on the overall experience.
Starting down at the Ria Formosa, San Lorenzo offers you a very pleasant day out. For an established player it is not a long golf course, but you have to keep it straight off the tee or pine trees and plentiful water lie in wait. For sure playing Holes 5,6,7,8 early in the morning is “As good as it gets” and you may see an occasional local looking for Ameijoas (small clams) in the Ria Formosa but this just adds to the beauty of the early morning Algarve sunrise. Each hole flows along smoothly before culminating in a “Rubiks Cube” of an 18th hole. Should I hit long left off the tee? Or lay up right, short of the bunker? Do I cut off the corner? Oh heck! As John Daly says “Just grip it and rip it” and pick up the pieces along the way. As you sit in the rather understated clubhouse drinking a beer, overlooking the Driving Range, you realise that overall it has been a pretty satisfying day. A few golf balls lighter, but contented.
First Tee of Quinta South and the new club house
Jumping in your car, you pass a few roundabouts before arriving at the Quinta do Lago golf club. Denis O’Brien acquired the golf courses in 1998 and the following years have seen a gradual upgrading of the facilities; they are doing a splendid job. A new clubhouse is now finished and the Driving Range facilities have been upgraded with new greens, teeing area and other touches to give the golfer better harmony between the range and the actual on course experience.... New Chef in the restaurant, improved infrastructure.... With all of these facilities at your beck and call playing the golf course is the natural follow on. In high season March, April, October, November the golfers swarm like ants from the car park to the 1st tee but don’t be put off as things generally flow well. Visitors tee times mixed between Members tee times allow a smooth flowing golf course.
Quinta South has everything you would want in a “Championship layout”. Plentiful choice of teeing areas, wide manicured fairways and huge sloping greens. A complete package of enjoyment, even with Hole 15 lurking in wait. Only a Par 3; and a quick look through your viewfinder suggests a 141 metre carry over the water, but three balls later and comparisons to “The Sea of Galilee” drift through your shattered brain. To finish you off, the long Par 5 17th followed by the “Mother” of all dog-legs on 18,you crawl onto the green on your knees trying to understand how Colin Montgomerie was able to shoot 24 under par in winning the Portuguese Open all those years ago. “Oh, the impossible dream”. But seriously you must play it, it still ranks in my Algarve “Top Five” after more than 30 years of existence.
It would be wrong of me to neglect Quinta North because it does stand up on its own two feet. The layout does make for long walks between tee and green but hire a trolley or rent a buggy, stock up with drinks and head off to do battle on a super layout. Positional play is key around here and the fast sloping greens leave you a jibbering wreck, especially during the months of January and February when they are at their fastest. The overall Quinta do Lago golf course experience is a well rounded one and looks likely to improve further in the coming years.
Back in the car and you head off to Pinheiros Altos golf club situated directly opposite Quinta North. Opened in 1992/3 this is the baby of the courses and although a smaller overall package it boasts 27 holes after the opening of the newly designed Pines/Corks holes, designed by Jorge Santana de Silva. They blend in well to the old course and give you an option to play the flatter Olives nine with plentiful water, or take in the Pines or Corks nines which are much more undulating with very fast greens, particularly the new holes. The new holes are laden with pine trees and although small at the moment wait ten years and the overall look of the course will change dramatically.
Pinheiros Altos is known locally as the friendliest and most active social members club and you can instantly feel that if lucky enough to be invited there by a member to play in one of their many Competitions. The 8th Hole on Olives is the “Signature” hole. A Par 3 playing a mere 110 metres to an island green, not long but daunting. One day the Diver, (who regularly goes in to retrieve the many lost golf balls) actually found a 9 iron and Pitching Wedge from a set of Ping at the bottom of the lake. Golf can do that to you sometimes. As you trudge up the last hole, arrive at your ball and realise you need a 9 iron for your second shot you feel life cannot get worse, but on arrival at the green reality kicks in. A huge green; sloping like the Swiss Alps, a death defying rollercoaster of a putt, which breaks three different ways. Why Me? With just about enough energy to sign your card you head to the clubhouse to drink something cold. Sitting on the lovely terrace overlooking “That green” that has just caused you a nervous breakdown, you ponder a return to the Algarve to repeat it all over again with some friends invited to share the experience.
Today’s golfers are well travelled. New destinations are sprouting up all over the world; Vietnam, the emergence of China; but let me leave you with a small story to sum up Quinta do Lago. A few years ago I was driving home down a back road in Quinta and passed a middle-aged couple strolling hand in hand, enjoying the beautiful Summer’s evening with only the birds to keep them company. It was actually the then President of Portugal Jorge Sampaio and his wife. Enough said!
Hope to see you all soon down on the golf course, pay Quinta do Lago a visit you won’t regret it.
P.S. Don’t forget Laranjal, Quinta’s latest addition. Although it is not in the Estate, a short drive to the Ludo Valley brings you to this hidden gem. Play it, it’s well worth it.
Happy golfing and Best Wishes from a “Passionate Golfer”, living in the Algarve for many years.