Swapping the winter courses of Sussex for some Algarve sunshine
If you are fed up of mud-splattered rounds of golf while trudging around our rain-soaked British winter courses, why not hop on a plane and be transported to another world.
Within a couple of hours you could be playing in warm, bright sunshine on some of the best courses in Europe.I arrived as a guest of the Onyria Palmares Beach and Golf Resort on the outskirts of Lagos.Located between the coast and the gentle rising slopes of the area, the 27 holes of golf were designed by the celebrated designer Robert Trent Jones Junior.The three, nine hole courses offer heathland, parkland and links golf of the highest calibre.We arrived at midday and dined in the restaurant overlooking the courses which stretch down to the beautiful coast. After a delicious lunch, we started out on the Alvor course which is located on the north of the site. The majority of the holes ascend or descend through intimate parkland valleys but there are lots of opportunities to drive. The 200 yard downhill second hole was a particular favourite as I drove the green and two putted for the perfect par. There were a couple of tricky par fives but it was a welcome introduction to this wonderful complex. We returned to our impressive accommodation at the Belmar Spa and Beach Resort which was beautifully designed offering first class comfort.In the evening, we were the guests of the Campimar restaurant, situated two minutes walk from the hotel and on the beach front. The food and service was excellent. I had a Grouper fish steak which was light and very tasty. And the desserts were among the best I ever tasted. The next day we set off on the 20 minute drive to Espiche Golf Club. And what a golf complex, among the best I have ever visited. The multi-level, state-of the-art club house sits at the top of a hill with one side covered almost by native grasses, so it blends in with its surroundings. Its impressive exterior is matched by its internal design. The course is located in a nature reserve and designed to integrate the indigenous flora and fauna. The first tee sets up a round you will never forget as you look out into a magnificent Algarve vista. The course is a challenge but I threw caution to the wind. Having a break from competition golf, I opened up the driver on most holes. And as many fairways are long and narrow, this can be a fatal mistake and I lost half-a-dozen balls on the way round. Returning to the award-winning Gecko restaurant, players can relax on the balcony with a drink and look out across the course. One member of our party bagged an eagle on the par five fourth. And we all looked jealously out across at the hole in awe as he recounted his epic feat of holing his third shot straight out of a bunker.Upon returning to our hotel, we relaxed in the bar swapping the customary course notes before heading out for another memorable walk. As guests of the Algarve Tourist Board, we were treated to a food tour of Lagos. Organised by Eating Algarve Tours, we were treated to some wonderful samples of local cuisine including shavings of octopus egg and dogfish stew served with fried bread.After another relaxing night’s sleep, we set off back to the Onyria resort. We were looking forward to the challenge of the remaining two courses, the Lagos and the Praia. The Praia offers an equal measure of challenging sea side golf with four holes set between the beach and the railway line which runs between Lagos and Portimao. It is a links style course with long fairways and plenty of rough to catch out the wayward shots. After shooting a respectable 45, we headed to the clubhouse for another delicious lunch before the second challenge of the day.Blasting out on the first hole of the Lagos course with Portimao in the distance, I watched in eternal hope as my ball disappeared down the immaculate fairway from the elevated tee position. The Lagos course was my favourite as it offered long, par five challenges where golfers must also take on the might of the Atlantic winds. Once you rise up from the beach to the stunning vantage point of the last hole and finish just below the club house, you can take in the views while enjoying some refreshment. In the evening we visited Dom Sebastiao restaurant in the heart of Lagos. And after another wonderful meal, we had a look inside their special cellar and were treated to some of the finest ports in an impressive collection.
For more information please visit:www.onyriapalmares.comwww.espichegolf.ptwww.belmarresort.comwww.eatingalgarvetours.com