Palmares is billed as the golfing “jewel in the crown of the Algarve” and it’s certainly an eclectic Frank Pennink-designed course, which opened in 1975, with distinct flavours.
Sited above and along the Atlantic coast close to the Meia Praia beach, Palmares has a collection of links-like holes and park-like holes. Not only is the golf good and varied but also Palmares has some of the best views available from any Portuguese golf course.
“Palmares blends easily into its rural seaside environement, offering wonderful vistas of the coastline around the Bay of Lagos and, from the higher ground, the mountains of the Monchique inland.” Wrote Michael Gedye in his Golfer’s Guide Portugal. “The location presented Pennink with a unique situation – a hilltop dotted with flowering shrubs, almond and acacia trees, cascading down to a sandy stretch of linksland with dunes bordering the sea. He gasped at the challenge of combining links with parkland golf and produced a truly interesting course of wide variety that never ceases to charm and challenge. The spectacular views come as a natural bonus.”
Robert Trent Jones Jnr upgraded Palmares in 2010, dividing the property into three nines, “Lagos,” “Praia” and “Alvor”. Four holes on the Praia nine (two pretty par threes and two tough par fives) run along the shoreline and the second last greensite on this circuit is shared with the penultimate hole on the Lagos nine (where the only two water holes on the complex are featured).
The Alvor nine occupies the more hilly terrain at Palmares. The opening trio of holes on this loop sit on the least appealing part of the property, followed by three fairways that are laid out across a road in a lovely valley. After playing a fine par three near the water’s edge, the final two holes face directly uphill to the clubhouse.
Commenting on the Palmares project, Robert Trent Jones II: “Palmares Golf Course is special on so many levels. The expansive ocean vistas, dramatic elevation changes, quintessential Mediterranean intimate valleys, and expansive dunes land have blessed us with the environment to craft a golf course with an enormous depth of character and challenge.“
I last played Palmares in the late eighties, as a young kid whilst on holiday with my Mother and Father. It was just 18 holes in those days. The internet hadn’t been invited and it was in a time when word of mouth was how information was passed. In those days the clubhouse (it still exists) was just a shack and very few had heard of it, let alone had played it.
So over 30 years on and I tried to play the Praia and Lagos loops but was instead given the Praia & Alvor courses. This was the last course of our week here and took us an hour from our base in Vilamoura.
The old country track leading to the club was just how I recalled. Except once through the gates those familiarities come to an end. For this is no longer a golf course where a few Escudos got you on but a major establishment in the Algarve Golfing World. Plots of land on the resort now sell for around one million euros. The new clubhouse is an architectural masterpiece. The masses now flock, raking up every tee time and buggies to the point they’ve built an underground car park.
What hasn’t changed are the incredible views of Lagos and Portimao. I was fortunate to have been playing later on so back in the cathedral of a clubhouse I watched the sunset from the patio. For no matter what else you’ll need to pay for here, the romantic views and setting will be forever free.
We tees off on the 19th hole or tge 1st of the Praia. A gentle par 4 took us down before crossing over onto the iconic 4 holes of 2 par 5s and 2 par 3s. This is almost a classic links setting with Sandy lies and whispy grass lining the fairways. They are also the most amazing of golf holes. One tip I will provide is don’t go to the right of the 4th tee to look at the fairway. For to the right is a nudist beach that makes even the hardest of golfer cringe. These 2 par 5s run in opposite directions so inevitably one is down wind.
You then cross back over and play some pleasant and strategic par 4s before another par 3 and par 5 to finish giving you an equal split of three of each par.
I came off the loop totally in love again. It brought me back to my childhood. It truly is a fabulous set of holes. The greens are very tricky with humps and borrows an avid author would find difficult to write into a novel. I certainly found myself on the wrong part of a green a couple of times and it takes a talent to come away with pars.
This 9 holes is unique from most courses I’ve seen on the Algarve. It feels unspoilt and built naturally into the terrain. What I would also say is that it’s so unmanicured. The fairways are bare. The bunkers are not looked after. The tees don’t appear to be cut straight. It’s virtually perfect! For you couldn’t have this any other way. It simply wasn’t designed that way. Yes, for sure, at the side of the 3rd is a wall littered with graffiti, that somehow shouldn’t be on a golf course but the rest is spot on. It felt more like a Kiawah Island where the bunkers just happened to be there rather than having been created.
Once again coming off the 27th or 9th hole of Praia you’ll turn around and have one more look of the view. You’ll want to return to see it again.
I did then play holes 1 to 9 of the Alvor course. This again was a lovely course but totally different to the Praia loop. The views at times were equally good and the greens caused as much havoc as it’s sister. I’d certainly play it again. The bunkers in a way are similar in that they aren’t manicured and you’ll find yourself up and down the hill on which it is set on.
All in all I would really recommend playing Palmares. It’s not an easy course and playing with my elderly Father some of the carries off the tee proved a bit too far. They are developing this continually so I’m sure when I return they’ll have far more villas and hotels looking over the course. As long as they don’t try and build anything near the nudist beach, I’m sure it’ll stay just fine.
Played Palmares twice in May 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's unlike a lot of the other algarve courses and has a more links type feel to proceedings. There are some spectacular views on show and a lot of elevation changes which was great. We were able to play all 3 sets of 9 and I would say that the Alvor is slightly underwhelming so given the choice I'd definitely recommend the Praia & Lagos 9's. The condition of the course is holding it back from a slightly higher score, the greens weren't in the best shape and a bit on the slow side, as well as the bunkers looking a little bit tardy. I would choose a Quinta Do Lago or Dom Pedro course over this, however was most enjoyable nonetheless.
I just played Palmares for the first time during my post zombie apocalypse golf tour of the Algarve. What a contrast it has to the other courses up and down the coast. A definite mix of character between parkland and links. The Lagos 9, starts high up near the club house and works its way down the hill to sea level. The par 5, 2nd plays down the hill with the tee shot giving you the feeling you could hit it forever. You’ll need to land your approach well short of the green if going for this one in two as the firm conditioning will otherwise get you in trouble. The 3rd is a par 3 playing over one of the only small lakes on the property and is a challenging hole in the wind playing about 160 meters over water. The holes then work their way back up and over dunes providing some beautiful vistas.
The par 3 5th might require a driver at 226 meters to the middle but a short miss allows for a straightforward chip in case you were worried about going long ha ha.
The highlight of this 9 hole loop for me was the tee shot on the 8th hole (which actually if I’m not mistaken is #17 on their numbering which goes from 1 to 27 over the 3 different loops). This tee shot not only affords the best view on the course but also is a lovely strategic cut off what you can chew par 5. A perfect tee shot cuts the corner as much as possible on this dogleg right. I’m not sure if we had the prevailing wind but the tee shot was into a strong right to left wind and the approach was straight into the wind tunnel. It was a quite challenging to pick the right line and definitely a gettable par 5.
The second nine – hole 19 starts not too dissimilar to the front 9 with a downhill dogleg right. This one has more option to cut the corner however. I thought I might of overdone it but found my ball in the middle of the fairway about 40 yds shy of the green. From this point on the course really took on a links character. The holes on the seaside of the railroad tracks are all solid links holes completely open to the elements. The par 5 22nd hole was reachable on the day with the prevailing wind helping from left to right. However, the par 3 23rd played straight back into this 3 club wind from 200 meters out and was full carry to reach ¾ of the green.
Back over the tracks were two very short typical links like par 4’s both playing around 300 meters long and straight into the wind. The 2nd of these I found a much better hole as the first had some strange mounding in the middle full of grass that felt slightly weird upon my single visit there.
The par 3, 26th (or 17th depending on which numbering you choose to use) was an excellent little par 3 playing right into the teeth of the wind with a tricky raised green with a bunker/waste area short and right running right up to the front.
All in all, Palmares is a fun course with some exceptional golf holes. It’s tough to determine how much of it are remnants of Pennink’s original design but the current marketing suggests RTJ Jr has redone everything and no holes are the same as the original layout. There is a lot of variety here, beautiful views, contract between links and parkland holes and it requires a variety of shots on this windy site. What more could you ask for? Sunshine, but they have that covered as well.
Very fun golf course, some links type holes. If you are in the West Algarve you have to go.
Poor clubhouse. It seems provisional. Unfriendly and unhelpful staff. Only the starter was correct.
I played at Palmeres 2 years ago as part of a 5 day break to Lagos with my wife. The course has 2 distinct 9s (Parkland and Links) both are very well presented and offer great golf shot making opportunities. Well worth a visit.
Absolutely outstanding. The mixture of parkland and links golf really does leave you having to adapt your game to the conditions. The parkland stretch between 1 and 10 and 15 to 18 provides frequent elevation changes to make club selection tricky. The links portion completely opens up to the wind, with the breeze seemingly helping one way and then slowing everything down on the other. The beauty is that the links portion feels as though it elevates an already superb experience, rather than simply offering a good stretch of holes in an average course. And all for under 100 euros. A must play if you're in the Algarve.
Best Hole: 11- A reachable par 5 which typically plays downwind. At first glance nothing special but the drive encourages the second shot to reach the green in 2. This is blind shot over fescue with a bunker at the side of green looking to grab anything that tries to play too safe. To be honest any of the links holes are candidates here.
I cannot speak highly enough of Palmares. It has the truest links holes I've ever played outside of the UK, mixed with some great land movement and elevation change higher up the property. There are 3 nines which are all worth playing. The best is the one by the beach where all the links holes are, where you'll feel like you're playing Chambers Bay mixed with Castle Stuart. The other two nines are more parkland but still have lots of great holes.
The food is great in the clubhouse, so it's the perfect place to spend a whole day, and in my opinion, a far more memorable course than Monte Rei. Best course in the algrave for me
Played here a few times over the years and always enjoyed my rounds. I've played all three loops but find the Lagos and Praia preferable if you have only 18 holes to play. There are some wonderful elevation changes which will test your distance control as to what club to hit off the tee.
I've always found the fairways and turf to be excellent, the Praia stretch can get very links like (hard turf with the ball running) and late afternoon with the sun setting it provides a stunning setting. The greens are usually excellent. I like the club house setting and an ice cold beer after the round is most welcomed.
I would play Palmares every time I'm in the Algarve, it's a little out of the way but the drive here is well worth it. It's a stunning setting and very playable for all skill levels.
I played a round last week of November, very enjoyable, early bird special €75 including buggy. Staff very friendly, but there was a mix up where the lady said I could play as much golf as I wanted on the special leading me to book the early bird intending to play all 27 holes, but the starter told me this was wrong, it was only for 18 holes and besides, the Lagos course was closed for maintenance, not mentioned at all when I was booking. So, I played the beach (Praia) and Alvor 9's in lovely morning weather, a bit of wind got up by 10am. The beach 9 is clearly the highlight, with 4 lovely links style holes, followed by 2 weak par 4's which would otherwise merit this 9 holes getting 5 stars. The Alvor is more of a hilly mountain course, great variety and a good test, without the wow factor of the beachside holes. A buggy would be preferable, but not essential, for this 9, not needed at all for the beach 9. The courses and greens were in very good condition unlike some reviews posted in October-maybe the winter rain has helped. There is also good variety of length on the holes so you get to use a lot of your clubs. Overall I give it 4 stars but would give 4.5 if an option, my only gripe would be that with regular green fees exceeding €100, like the rest of the Algarve golf courses, it is normally overpriced.
Really enjoyed this track. Some amazing scenery. Played 18 then lunch then the final 9. (June 17) which was a good way to sample all the courses. They are varied and will definitely return.