Our new Sales Manager (Darren Fryer) joined us in June and in mid July I took him down to The Algarve for a whistle stop tour of our number one golf holiday destination. This was Darren’s first visit to The Algarve and I had just 4 days to show him as much as I could, this was going to be a baptism of fire as the itinerary I planned left very little ‘spare’ time!
We arrived at 10.30 on Tuesday morning and after collecting our hire clubs and hire car we headed straight for our first appointment at 12.oo at the very popular Vila Gale Tavira, this 4 star hotel is great value for money and the town of Tavira is lovely with plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. Having visited the hotel we headed for the local golf courses and made brief visits to Benamor, Quinta da Ria & Quinta de Cima all of which are no more than 20 minutes from Tavira. Our next stop was the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course of Monte Rei where we were given a full course tour by David Shepherd (Director of Golf). I’ve been lucky enough to play Monte Rei on a number of occasions and although we didn’t get to play this time I can report that it’s as spectacular as ever! It’s not the cheapest course to play but if you’re budget allows then don’t miss out, there are also some great offers with lunch, buggy and range balls included which makes the £145.00 greenfee a bit easier to swallow!
Our next stop was a new property for Golf Escapes, Castro Marim Golf Resort. Having worked with the golf course for many years we were keen to see the newly finished townhouses and they certainly impressed being both well designed and beautifully furnished. This is well worth considering for your next Algarve golf holiday as they are very reasonably priced and you have some great golf on site.
Our final destination for the night was The Precise Resort El Rompido, but not before we had visited the Hotel Isla Canela Golf which are offering 3 night + 3 round packages with half board from just £195.00 per person, the ever popular Melia Atlantico Isla Canela (formerly Riu Atlantico) whose high standards ensure this will continue to be a Golf Escapes favourite and the beautiful Islantilla Golf Resort. It had been a while since I’d been to Islantilla and I’d forgottten just how good the hotel and golf courses were, there are some great deals on offer at Islantilla so don’t overlook it when you’re planning your next Costa de la Luz golf holiday. Finally we arrived at El Rompido, no time to check in as we were already late for our tee time, this was going to be hard work having been up since 5.00! Time was also against us but we managed to finish 16 holes in 2 hours (in a buggy!) before retiring for much needed ‘refreshments’!
We were up early the next day as we had a long drive ahead of us, we had 9.00 appointments back in Portugal in the town of Alvor which is a little over 160km away. Did I hear someone say bad planning? On the contrary, many people don’t realise that Spain is an hour ahead of Portugal so it meant we gained an hour back when we crossed the bridge into Portugal. So we left the hotel at 8.30, drove 160Km and arrived at 9.00!
The day was spent visiting some great golf courses and some of our favourite hotels. The first stop was the Pestana Delfim and Pestana Dom Joao II, probably two of our most popular golf hotels on The Algarve. The Delfim is one of the few golf hotels where you can stay on an all inclusive basis so for all inclusive golf holidays to Portugal you need look no further. We also had a chance to call into the Tivoli Carvoeiro & Pestana Palm Gardens as well as Morgado, Alamos, Pinta, Gramacho & Alto golf courses before heading to Le Meridien Penina for a well over due lunch with Cristina Gabriel (Director of Sales). Lunch was a long affair (we earned it!) but Darren was given the full Penina tour and got to see exactly why Le Meridien Penina is regarded as one of the finest golf resorts in Portugal. Sadly the time came to leave Penina (I could have stayed on that terrace all afternoon) and we headed for our last few appointments of the day in Lagos. We got to see both the Tivoli Lagos and the Vila Gale Lagos (where we were taught to make Caipirinhas by the hotel manager!), both of which offer guests a great chance to explore this beautiful town. This end of the The Algarve is often neglected and overlooked but it should be be high up the list for possible venues for your next Algarve golf holiday. You can eat and drink for half the price you would pay in Vilamoura and there are plenty of golf courses close by. And it was one of these courses we headed to next. Well what can you say about the newly designed Onyria Palmares Golf, its magnificent and if you haven’t played it already then you’re missing out on possibly one of the best/toughest courses in Europe.
Day 3 was spent in and around Albufeira, Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago & Vale do Lobo as most of you probably know these are the more famous resorts on The Algarve and we had plenty of hotels to see, having said that once you have visited one 4-star hotel in Vilamoura and Albufeira you’ve pretty much seen them all. Clean, comfortable and in great locations near lots of nightlife would be the easiest way to describe them. It was more important for Darren to see some of the nicer properties so I’d arranged lunch at Pestana Vila Sol with Paulo Vincente (Pestana Director of Sales). I can confirm that the quality of the clubhouse sandwich at Vila Sol remmains high and is arguably one of the finest I’ve tasted! Paulo showed Darren the hotel and I think it was safe to say Darren was very impressed, considering the quality of the hotel and golf course and the close proximity to Vilamoura (€8.00 in a taxi) its definately up there with the best golf resorts in The Algarve. The afternoon bought visits to Monte da Quinta da Suites (Quinta do Lago), Formosa Park Hotel (Quinta do Lago) and the famous Dona Filipa and San Lorenzo Golf Resort (Vale do Lobo). Although this traditional Portuguese hotel does come in for some criticism for not being a ‘true modern 5-star hotel’ you can’t deny the charm and tradition of the hotel, something that’s often missing from modern properties. You only need to look at the high number of repeat guests booked by Golf Escapes to confirm that the Dona Filipa & San Lorenzo Golf Resort is still one of the leading golf hotels in Portugal. We closed the day with a quick (2 hours) round at Quinta do Lago Laranjal, despite receiving mixed reports we both thoroughly enjoyed the course. It’s a little bit more open than the Quinta do Lago North & South courses but that was no bad thing considering some of my tee shots!
Our final morning had come and we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6.30 to go and play San Lorenzo, now that’s what you call commitment! Well Darren couldn’t come all this way and not play San Lorenzo, it’s one of the top ten golf courses in Europe. My golf hadn’t improved overnight and I did make an brief and unscheduled visit to the beach when my tee shot on the par 4 7th hole nearly killed someone, I also had to pay a young boy €2.00 for him to retrieve my golf ball from the sea. I tried to barter with him but he was very insistent.
So with San Lorenzo conquered (well almost) we had time to head back to Vilamoura to visit the Oceanico golf courses, these are so popular with our clients that it was important for Darren to get a feel for their locations and layouts, it was just a shame we didn’t have time to play some more golf, although that’s a good excuse to come back again. Our final visit was to the Tivoli Marina hotel in the heart of Vilamoura Marina, for those that have been to Vilamoura before you’ll know the hotel, as it provides an imposing back drop from almost any where in the marina. This 5-star hotel has everything you’ll need for a luxury golf holiday in Vilamoura, obviously it comes at a price but it’s not as expensive as you might imagine so should definately be considered if you want to treat yourself.
And then it was over, we arrived back to our hotel at 12.45 and checked out at 13.00! I didn’t even have time to get my trunks out! Thankfully our Easyjet flight to Gatwick was on time and we arrived back safe and sound, although a little tired we both had a great a few days and it gave Darren a great insight into exactly why The Algarve continues to be Golf Escapes most popular destination.