Golfe do Morgado is one of the newer courses to be laid out in the Algarve and it’s also one of the region's tougher layouts. With the Monchique Mountains as a northerly backdrop, the course is routed among the valleys, lakes and vineyards creating a well-conceived 18-hole challenge.
Designed by Russell Talley of European Golf Design and opened for play in 2003, Mordago is still a relative youngster and requires time to mature but the layout is challenging, stretching out to 6,400 metres from the tips. The best holes appear at the end of each nine-hole loop interspersed with the excellent short par four 12th. Five par fives – at holes 3, 7, 10, 13 and 16 – contribute towards a course par of 73, with feature holes appearing at the short par four 9th and 12th.Operated by NAU Hotels, the Morgado course is one of three 18-hole layouts owned by the company. The Álamos course, opened in 2006, is situated adjacent to Morgado in the foothills of Monchique and it extends to 5,700 metres, playing to a par of 71. The Salgados course, unveiled in 1994, is located close to the coast at Albufeira, a 45-minute drive away.
In December 2016, the European Tour announced that the Open de Portugal was back on its schedule (after an absence of seven years, following Thomas Bjorn's victory at Penha Longa in 2010) with Morgado timetabled to host the competition in May 2017.
I like Morgado. I have played there 3 times, the last time in February 2017, in foul weather.
The first few holes are a bit flat and bland, though tightish, then the course opens up into a lovely undulating challenge, with some water thrown in for good measure. The greens were in excellent condition, as were most of the fairways. It is not that tough, so I was a bit surprised to see it used for the Portuguese Open this year. I would have thought that it was pretty straightforward for Tour pros.
However this a proper test for amateurs, and, probably as a result of the 2008 property crash, the course is not overlooked by housing, so it is a nice contrast to many of the other Algarve courses.
Alamos, the other course on the resort is also a proper test, and there are good deals to be had for booking a round at each, even on different days.
I really enjoyed my round at Morgado, despite initial reservations on the opening holes, which were a little on the bland side. You know you’re going to be playing a decent tract if it’s a European Golf Design production and there’s no doubting the quality of the layout on the front nine with raised tee boxes, wide fairways and gently contoured raised greens set out on the wide floor of a valley that’s located around seven miles inland from Portimao.
The 9th, in particular, is a very good hole to end the outward half, its fairway angling left and slightly uphill to a terrific two-tiered green. In fairness, this merely concludes the warm up for a round that really gets going from the 10th onwards as the back nine heads into the hills, with fairways routed across a far more undulating landscape.
Highlight holes include the short par four 12th, where the fairway veers right and up to a heavily sand-protected green, the right doglegged 14th, which plays downhill and right to a green that has water guarding its left flank, and the terrific closing 18th, a beautifully bunkered hole that heads downhill from the teebox before rising up to another of the heavily-contoured greens occupying the back nine.
The old cliché of “a game of two halves” certainly applies at Morgado so enjoy the relative ease of a vanilla front nine then make sure you have your “A-game” ready for the second half, when the challenge steps up several gears.