Kim Wild and her golfing friends know how to enjoy themsleves and as she discovered, the Algarve’s Quinta do Lago Resort has all the ingrediants for a great golfing getaway.
Never has take-off been more welcome. Behind us we (the WAGGS*) left a media frenzy forecasting (wrongly as it turned out) who was going to be walking into No 10 the following morning. Ahead of us was the glorious Algarve. Having done our duty by posting our votes, we were on our way to the golfing heaven of Quinta do Lago, located just fifteen minutes’ drive from Faro airport on the picturesque Ria Formosa National Park. As well as three fantastic golf courses, Quinta also has five restaurants to choose from serving, amongst other things, fresh, succulent fish from the local markets and delicious Portuguese wine. We couldn’t wait to get there.
Of course, nothing is more important than the golf. Well, almost - we aren’t known as the WAGGS for nothing! Our first round was on the beautiful Laranjal Course; reached by driving through the grounds of an orange grove in the Ludo Valley just 2km from the centre of Quinta do Lago. We knew instantly by the warm welcome from the charming duo of Claudio and Marco at the bag drop area that we were in for a good day! They insisted on taking our clubs from the car and loading them onto the waiting trolleys - no buggies for us, we were here to enjoy the walk and the weather - and some of us were still interested on the number of paces that would show up on our electronic gadgets at the end of the round! Buggies kitted out with the latest GPS software are available and they are probably a necessity in the extreme summer heat and when the course becomes busier.
The modern, boutique clubhouse and pro shop is smaller than you’d expect at a course of this stature and has a limited offering of women’s golfwear, but the free suntan lotion and aftersun cream in the well furbished but compact ladies’ locker room is a nice touch. At 4,808m (5,258 yards) from the forward tees, the course is extremely peaceful. Surrounded by orange trees and mature umbrella pines, it’s undulating rather than hilly with well-placed bunkers and immaculately maintained fairways and greens. Unlike some courses, the rough was not too punishing so even if you missed the wide, open fairways, it was easy to regroup and make your next shot. There are five lakes on the course but it’s only when you reach the challenging but really enjoyable par 5 16th
hole does the water pose a real problem. And look out for the Koi carp!
Another glorious day and filled with excited anticipation, we were very much looking forward to playing Quinta’s revamped and much talked about North Course. Once again we chose to walk the course but the fleet of buggies outside the pro shop should have rung a large bell! The 4,753m (5,001yds) course isn’t the longest or deemed to be the most difficult in the area, but it’s not really geared up for trollies with very few ramps to walk from paths to fairways and sometimes quite long walks from green to tee. Nevertheless, we weren’t disappointed. With wide, spotless fairways, well positioned bunkers, undulating greens and plenty of water features to manoeuvre around, Quinta North offers a good test of golf for the mid to high handicap golfer, but may not suit lower handicappers looking for a more serious challenge. We were also thankful for the regular visits of the buggy bar to replenish our empty water bottles and provide a sneaky bar of chocolate to keep us going. The best treat was the offer of cold towels, that we welcomed with open arms in the soaring heat. As we finished the lovely 18th hole over water, it left us wanting to repeat the whole experience.
A short drive away from the centre is Caso do Lago, one of the resort’s five restaurants, and it was here that we decided to mull over the highs, lows and ‘if onlys’ of the two rounds. Set on the side of a lake with fabulous views over the Ria Formosa, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch, sampling the fresh fish and fine Portuguese wine, and also caught up with Joana, a Quinta do Lago representative, who informed us of the plans to encourage more families to the resort. With picnic days on the practice ground and mini golf for children, and, of course, the beautiful beaches nearby, this resort really does have something for everyone. And for golfers, Quinta do Lago is definitaly a course to add to your bucket list of places to visit.
I wonder where the WAGGS will end up next?
(* WAGGS stands for Wine & Gin Golfing Society. Anyone who appreciates the taste of either and is happy to indulge in regular (but not frequent, of course) tasting sessions, can apply for membership. The only rule is - you HAVE to have fun!)
For more information visit www.quintadolago.com