Monte Rei Golf Club was originally nominated by Steve for inclusion on the Top 100 website as a gem and was added to the site on 19th September 2007. These are Steve’s original comments: “Not sure if you’d like to include Monte Rei Golf Club within the Portuguese section of the site as it is a fantastic new course, only open six weeks when I played it in late Aug 2007. Incidentally, this is a Jack Nicklaus signature course and he has done a superb job.” Since Steve’s original nomination, Monte Rei has risen meteorically in the golf course rankings.
The Algarve has remained popular with visiting golfers for many years providing an array of golf courses to suit all tastes and abilities. Some of the courses, like anywhere, are better than others in terms of conditioning, degree of difficulty and their ability to create a desire to return after the first visit. At Monte Rei Golf Club things are very different.
The club is located away from the concentration of courses that are abundant around the Albufeira area – Monte Rei is set in the hills northeast of Tavira towards the Spanish border and the mountain setting is very special, which is evident on arrival where stunning views greet you, providing a taster as to what to expect during the round ahead.
This is one of only a few Jack Nicklaus ‘Signature’ courses in Europe and the first to reach Portugal. The layout provides an unforgettable experience and we can safely say that this is a quality golf course, which deserves its high rating in the Portuguese and Continental European rankings.
The course features an abundance of water hazards and some of the very best bunkering we’ve seen for some time. Additionally there are no weak holes and the opener is a par four played from an elevated tee to a fairway that doglegs to the right. Huge bunkers must be avoided both off the tee and at the green to ensure a strong start to your round. There are too many great holes to list here but our favourites come into play at a special corner of the course.
The 13th is a downhill par four with bunkers at the drive landing point and a lakeside green that undulates wickedly. Even though the approach to the green is likely to be less than 100 yards, a par is a great achievement. The 14th is probably the prettiest hole at Monte Rei – a medium length par three where the tee shot must carry a lake to find the green and anything pulled left will find a watery grave. The 18th is a cracking finishing hole, a par five that is in reach for the biggest of hitters but watch out for the lake that is in play for everyone’s second and third shots.
As well as having a highly respected golf course, Monte Rei pay attention to detail. The level of service in and around the sumptuous clubhouse is world-class, so expect to be treated well. Four more luxury courses are planned for the area in the coming years, which will be designed by Tom Weiskopf and Kyle Phillips. Construction on the second Jack Nicklaus Signature layout was due to begin in the summer of 2019, but one-year later ground had yet to be broken.
The Golden Bear commented as follows: “The South course will have many similar features to the North: great trees, wonderful topography, beautiful vistas, and has the potential to be another sensational course. Our mission will be to maximise the existing terrain and natural features, so we can create an experience that has its own distinct personality, with the same commitment to excellence that golfers expect when they visit Monte Rei.”
Once completed, these exciting developments will ensure that Monte Rei goes from strength to strength, cementing this relatively unknown golfing area on the map.
I had the great pleasure of a couple rounds at Monte Rei last week. Honestly, it had been a big gap on my resume of courses in Continental Europe, especially with the consistently high ranking it always seems to enjoy. My resume includes a growing number of Nicklaus Signature designed courses around the world and while some are better than others in my mind most of them are slightly over done in certain areas, sometimes that’s with rather extreme bunkering and other times with fairly radical shapes and greens. I went into Monte Rei expecting much of the same but couldn’t have been more wrong with that expectation.
The first thing that I noticed was that there was a lot of width which really does improve playability at all levels. On top of that the course isn’t over-bunkered by any means which is another pleasant surprise and finally the greens consist of quite a large mix of shapes and sizes making for a ton of interesting putts and recovery shots.
One criticism that has almost become a stereotype is that Nicklaus designs for his eye – imagine that eye being from the greatest player (arguably) to ever touch a club. I assure you he sees things differently to you or I. This stereotype would suggest that Nicklaus courses would stand to be played very well with a power fade, just as the Golden Bear himself played. However, is this true of Monte Rei. To my count 11 of the holes set up near perfectly for a power fade, however, given the width in this case that is not to say that a nice little draw doesn’t also set up perfectly. The great thing about this is that the pin position really does dictate the best place to hit your drive. For me this is an essential of a great routing. Sure, the course is still very playable if you don’t hit it in the best spot, but, if you want to score or have a chance at scoring then you will have to play smart.
Monte Rei enjoys a wide variety of elevation changes and sits on a very hilly site. Fairways and greens tie in quite well with the surroundings and the routing has quite a bit of variation and high memorability factor.
The only criticism I could come up with is that a couple holes, while different, had similar feeling tee shots. If you have played the course you might recall the 1st and the 10th being a bit similar in feeling with elevated tee shots doglegging right, though both are of greatly different lengths. So too do the par 4, 3rd and 12th holes have a similar look and feel.
My favorite hole, with admitted bias was 13. This hole plays downhill to a narrow well protected green with a lake surrounded by hills as the backdrop. My bias is that I holed out my approach for a 2 on my first play. That always helps.
Monte Rei is must play and a wonderful place to stay as well. In years to come this resort will keep developing into something really special with another course underway, a hotel and expanded facilities. I left feeling a strong temptation to adopt it as a second home and a place to run from Northern European winters. Yes, it may be just a pipe dream, but a better spot would be hard to find.
Portugal has many excellent golf courses. I am indeed fortunate to have played a good number of them and of those I have played Monte Rei is in my view the best and the ‘jewel in the crown’, and arguably one of the best layouts in mainland Europe.
From the moment you arrive, the service and attention to detail is of the highest order, the stylish clubhouse is delightful and the practice facility is simply outstanding. But it is the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course that emphatically delivers.
Every golf hole is in its own private arena, from which other holes or other golfers are rarely visible. The green fee is quite high, buggies are essential and with 12 minute intervals between tee times, it is ‘millionaires’ golf’. The stunning hillside terrain set up high a few miles back from the coast, and very near the Spanish border, adds to the feeling of a very special place.
Nicklaus courses are known for the way each hole and it’s challenges are clearly set out from the tee with generous fairways and large greens with only moderate slopes. They are fair, the only drawback in my opinion being the obsession with bunkers some of which are huge and can seem like an endless vista of sand as you approach the green. Water is present on a number of holes particularly on the back nine, and is strategically placed so as to offer a fair risk and reward dependant on the challenges undertaken with each golf shot.
All the holes are good and many quite exceptional. None of the five par3s is over 180 yards from the standard ‘Signature’ tees, there are also five par5s with uphill holes numbers 6 and 16 needing three meaty strikes to reach the putting surface. My favourite holes are the beautiful 3rd and 13th, both challenging and unusual downhill par4s, and the dogleg par5 18th. This is played around a lake and requires a steely-nerved finishing shot to make the narrow green over water.
I have now played the course seven times and still relish the challenge. Despite having only one course on site, it is called the North Course and opened in 2007, the creation of a second course, the South, has been planned since then. Indeed the Peugeot Golf Guide to Europe’s Top 1000 Courses of 2008/09 refers to the second course as being ‘under construction’, but nothing has yet appeared. I was however informed that Jack Nicklaus himself visited as recently as in 2019 to make final preparations.
The resort is remote and the route to it circuitous, so it probably needs a similarly mouth-watering second course, for as reported by the last reviewer the place is very quiet. A whole village of up-market villas has been built where we have stayed twice, there are some modern apartments constructed alongside the 18th in the last 3 years, and a hotel is planned, but one gets the feeling that for whatever reason the property take-up has been very slow. But day-tripping golfers who will make Monte Rei the highlight of their holiday won’t worry about this, and will surely want to come back to play golf here time and again.
Monte Rei is a weird one. I like it, but don't love it, and think it's overrated. The hospitality is great, but it's always dead so they have no one else to focus on. You have to take a buggy which I really don't like. The course is good, with lots of really good holes. My problem with it is every hole goes through a valley which makes it feel like you're playing the same hole over and over. Worth playing, but I wouldn't play it again.
Palmarès on the coast is a far better course in my opinion, and you'll be able to remember the holes weeks later, which can't be said for Monte Rei.
Although the very modest route to get to Monte Rei may not seem like much, you definitely know when you've arrived at the golf course. A long road with fine views over the course and spectacular villas makes sure you won't be leaving anytime soon.
You're made to feel like a honoured guest as soon as you pull up, taking your car and loading the golf bags straight onto the buggy. A short ride to the scenic driving range where free range balls await with a wonderful short game area and putting green. Overall the practice facilities were brilliant.
The starters reception at a course of this calibre is pretty similar, handing out tees and other bits and bobs before getting the round underway. The course itself is immaculate, the condition top notch and I loved how every hole was an adventure. It's a kind of layout you can go 6 holes without seeing another human, even on a fairly busy day.
Going through every single hole and what I liked is very repetitive so I'll leave you with just one. 13. What a golf hole! Proving a par 4 can be appreciated teeing off from up high to a fairway in between two dunes. Leaving a wonderful second shot downhill to a picturesque green with a sharp drop-off straight after to a lake.
It's a golf course you need a buggy on, in fact they won't even let you walk the course, buggies up to the usual hi tech standard with course map, yardages live scoring etc etc.
Members of the team were waiting for us after our round to collect the buggy, clean our clubs and hand us a special little memento. A Monte Rei bag tag with our names engraved on the bag. Little touches like that do really add to the experience for me.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Monte Rei (and the price tag that comes with it!) to anyone looking for a pristine round of golf in a luxurious place.
We spent 5 days at Monte Rei last spring and played the course 4 times. It has stuck in my mind ever since, not just for the quality of the course (amongst the best of the Jack Nicklaus fleet) but for the luxury of everything about the place. Excellent pro shop and caddymaster staff, 15 minute tee times so no one needs feel pressured, practice facilities with a snack bar (which serves as the halfway hut) and a quality hotel.
The facility is owned by a Portuguese family who are insisting on maintaining quality throughout and who do not want the course flooded with players (hence the 15 minute tee intervals and premium green fee price). A second 18 is being constructed, again designed by Jack Nicklaus.
This is a premium facility and any golfer appreciating quality should try and play it.
One of the most beautiful courses in Continental Europe.
Monte Rei Golf Club is located up in the hills near the Spanish Border, a little inland of most of the courses in Portugal's Algarve region. Designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2007, the North course is part of a high-end housing estate. A second course – The South Course – is now underway.
Monte Rei aspires to provide a very different experience to other resort courses in The Algarve, and from my experience they have been successful. Nicklaus & team have created a world-class course using the natural terrain to great affect.
The course has variety, and is beautifully finished. Water hazards are in play on eight holes, but it is the bunkering that dominates proceedings on the North Course. It will surprise no one that strategic placement of the many bunkers is spot on – we expect that of Nicklaus design! However the North Course bunkering is also both artistic and eye catching and I was most impressed!
I also found it interesting just how much course the design was dictated by the land – perhaps more than any Nicklaus design I have seen.
Wonderfully unique holes like the par 4 thirteenth hole are the result. Yet the previous hole (12) is largely fabricated with a driveable green protected by a nicely shaped lake. However, it is fun to play! So, all credit to the architects: they have used the land they were given to maximum affect, and then created interest when the cupboard was bare. That's a sign of good design work, I'd say!
Monte Rei is an outstanding, world-class golf course. The whole Monte Rei experience – golf, accommodation, dining is top notch, and the service levels are as good as anything in the world. All Travelling Golfers headed to Portugal should aspire to play Monte Rei.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
From arrival, this club oozes class. Impeccable service, incredible practice facilities and a truly outstanding golf course. Whilst it may be a bit of a drive from the usual hotspots of Algarve, it most certainly warrants any time spent getting there. It would easily have been getting 6 balls from me was it not for the fact it was ever so slightly recovering from maintenance work from the week prior. Special.
This an outstanding place. From arriving to tee off, practice area, breakfast immaculate. Stayed in one of the villas - again exceptional. Course was one of the best we had played although at the time the greens had a lot of dressing. Cant wait to play this course again.
Just played Monte Res. What a track!
The whole experience is first class. The service, greeting and organisation were better than anywhere I have played; friendly and welcoming as well as professional and appropriate.
The course is possibly the most enjoyable, and challenging track I've played (I haven't played any of the other big courses in the Algarve but many Open/Ryder courses and this is easily in that company).
There were some high handicappers out there and think they had a long day, but whilst very challenging the course is fair. The finish in particular, from 13 onwards is stunning although there isn't a bad hole on the course.