The Monte da Quinta resort is at
the heart of one of the original
and indeed very best golfing
destinations in southern Europe.
Peter Swain checks out the
hotel, courses and cocktails
The concept of the Portuguese or Spanish
golf development, with a couple of great courses,
a large hotel, and some rather fabulous housing
round the fairways, is one we all now take for
granted. But it wasn’t always thus.
Legendary Algarve developer Andre Jordan
first clapped eyes on Quinta do Lago in 1970.
Over the next 20 years, he turned the 550-hectare
estate into the perfect model of a high-class golf
resort. It’s now owned by Irishman Denis O’Brien,
and the likes of Michael Owen, Alan Shearer,
Rubens Barrichello and Chris Evans like it so
much that they have luxury pads hereabouts.
Only 20 minutes from Faro airport, the Monte
da Quinta set-up, essentially a hotel surrounded
by a small village of townhouses and villas, sits in
between the Atlantic and Ria Formosa National
Park. Sometimes called ‘the Beverly Hills of the Algarve’,
the wider Quinta do Lago district is the
most aristocratic of the ‘golden triangle’ of luxury
golf developments, the others being Vale do Lobo
and Vilamoura. Planning is tightly controlled – the
whole place is spotless.
For golfers, the heart of the enterprise is four
great courses. From the mid 1970s onwards, the
South Course hosted eight Portuguese Open
Championships, the most recent in 2001. With
pleasing elevation changes, plenty of water and
fast greens, the 7,108-yard set-up meanders
through umbrella pines and requires both accuracy
and length for low scoring.
The North Course, also 36 years old, is every
bit as good. It has more undulating greens and aggressive
fairway bunkering but is kept in equally
perfect condition. Interestingly, both set-ups
favour players who draw the ball. As well as these
two, Monte da Quinta’s guests can also take advantage
of preferential rates at the aristocratic
Pinheiros Altos and the brand-new Laranjal
My first impression when I played the Lananjal
this summer, just after it opened, was that the
track is flatter and friendlier than its championship
neighbours. But with a couple of great par-5s, huge bunkers and even bigger greens, in time,
it could become a classic. On a golfing break, I’d
still play it first before taking on the sterner challenges
across the road.
Put the four together with all the academies
and palatial clubhouses and you arguably have
Portugal’s premier golf resort.With another
dozen good courses within a 20-minute drive, it’s
easy to see why the central Algarve has become
such a successful golfing destination.
The Monte da Quinta Resort itself is split into
two parts: the Suites, which is effectively a hotel,
and the Club surrounding it, which has 178 townhouses
and villas for rent.
The exterior of the hotel doesn’t really do justice
to the luxury of the 132 suites inside. Once past
the slightly surreal metal sea-life sculptures hanging
above you in reception, a proper five-star establishment
reveals itself. The décor is distinctly
avant-garde, the gourmet restaurants many and
varied, and, most importantly, the barman makes a
mean cocktail – I’d recommend the mojitos.
The one-, two- and three-bedroom luxury
suites have kitchenettes, separate sitting rooms,
wireless internet connections and fancy new bathrooms.
Unlike many similar establishments, it’s a
place in which you can really relax in style after a
tough day on the course.
It’s also well set up for golf widows. My wife
makes it a matter of principal to spend as much
in the spa as I do on a round. With a giddy array
of treatments and therapies to choose from,
that’s all too easy here. It’s also comforting to
know that a qualified physio can iron out any
kinks caused by 18 holes of sweaty combat.
Sporty types will enjoy the tennis courts, horse riding
and water sports along the two-mile beach.
The gym is well set up, and four pools – two inside
and two outside – cater for all family combinations
in all weathers.
Speaking of families, the Kids World Club is exceptional.
Some of these places can lead to a degree
of guilt as little Johnny/Mary is left wailing
while mum and dad go off to have fun. This one
is so well equipped, you may have to lever the
children out at the end of the day.
The other part of the resort is the 178 townhouses
and villas that make up the Monte da
Quinta Club.With access to the same facilities as
the hotel, these have more space for families or
golf groups. They’re a tad beige but very comfortable,
all with AC, private gardens and pools. If you
really like them, there are even a few for sale, although
you may have to raid the piggy bank to
find the €1million or so a reasonably-sized house
costs to buy.
For those who like retail therapy, Quinta Shopping
has the usual collection of ritzy boutiques,
plus a few good bars that stay open late. On the
waterfront, the Casa do Lago is one of several
restaurants serving excellent sea food.
A few miles west, the Marina at Vilamoura is another
favourite locale for celebrating famous golfing
victories, or drowning strokeplay sorrows. The recession-
busting yachts on display are good to gawp
at before taking in the serious business of bacalhou
(salt cod), caldeirada (fish stew) or carne de porco a
Alentejana (pork with clam and tomato sauce), all
washed down by a nicely chilled vinho verde, at one
of the excellent harbour-side hostelries.
If the current recession has an upside, it’s
maybe that destinations like Quinta do Lago, Vale
do Lobo and the seven Oceanico courses in the
Algarve are more affordable than they were a few
years ago. Deals are being done…
Over the summer months, the Monte da Quinta
is full of families, but from October to April, this
is principally a golfing destination with accessibility
a big plus. Using one of the cut-price airlines
that fly to Faro, like the excellent Monarch, you
can leave home at breakfast time, be teeing off by
3pm, and be glugging your first Caipirinha at the
Lobby Bar by eight o’clock. It makes a long weekend
of winter golf really quite do-able.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine