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.
The North course at Monte Rei is a little removed from the main Algarve golf scene - situated as it is to the east of Faro, near the Spanish border - but don’t let the relatively remote location put you off playing here as this is a layout of epic proportions which fully deserves to share the exalted company of the likes of Valderrama and the Stadium course at PGA Catalunya at the top of the course rankings for the Iberian peninsula.
Nicklaus designs are not everybody’s cup of tea but, wow, what a fantastic job Jack did here on such a wonderfully diverse property – this is golf on a grand scale as fairways pitch and roll around heaving foothills in a clever routing that only ever allows the layout of the following hole to be revealed on arrival at the next tee. Bunkers throughout may well be enormous but they’re proportionate to the magnitude of the expansive fairways and green complexes.
The elevated tee shots on holes 1 and 10 set the scene at the start of both nines, with plunging drives hanging in the air for ages before finally falling to ground. Lakes come into play to the right of the fairway at holes 2 and 3 then again on the back nine at 12, 14 and the final two holes. I’m not a big fan of risk/reward golf involving water and so the short par four 12th - where the fairway horseshoes around a lake - is easily my least favourite hole on the course.
Fortunately, it’s followed by the hole I liked best; a visually stunning downhill par four that swoops sharply downhill to a raised green perched on the side of a lake. All five short holes at Monte Rei are thrilling par threes requiring heroic carries across gullies (or water, as on the 14th) to well protected greens where a “3” marked on the card will feel like a birdie.
Buggies are an absolute must when playing such a vast layout so traditionalists just have to swallow their pride and enjoy the motorized ride. A generous slope rating of 136 from the 6030-metre Championship markers has been assigned to the North course and some may view that particular indicator of playing difficulty as rather understated for such an engaging track. It’s definitely a course that’s not to be missed when visiting Portugal.