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.“
Certainly one of the best courses in the Algarve, especially the Praia loop. Condition is always excellent and in the five years I have been playing on the Algarve I cannot fault it.
Very interesting holes with even the 'boring' ones - and I only say that as they are competing against some spectacular ones - still good. In fact, the fairly staid run from 10 to 12 only sets up 13 to 18 to show just how good they are.
The elevation changes are arduous and if you are going to walk be prepared for some lung-busters, though the signage has improved over the years so you are now unlikely to find yourself wandering around lost on the long walks between greens and tees, particularly on on the Alvor and Lagos loops.
The one thing I would note is that make sure you have plenty of time and light to play here if you choose to.
Our most recent 1.36pm tee time saw us hole out on the 18th at 7.08pm with the last few holes played into the setting sun and and the final one in near darkness. It's been almost as slow on previous occasions too.
And don't expect a drink in the bar - which has stunning views of the course - after you finish if you've had a slow round: it shuts at 7pm sharp and a near riot by the five or so groups who came in after us having played the last few holes in darkness could not persuade, cajole, bribe or threaten the barman to open up, despite him sitting at the bar having a drink on his own!
If 18 holes at Palmares were on the beach (Praia 9), this would be comfortably in the World's top 100. Just stunning, stark proper links topography and terrain. In particular, you would struggle to find a more beautiful par 3 as the 3rd hole on the Praia 9. The inland holes are decent enough but the coastal holes are epic.
Fantastic course, played the Beach & Alvor 9, Beach 9 a little contrived but the vistas more than make up for this. Modest clubhouse, but for me that adds to the charm of the place. If you are a member here you are one very lucky person!
Played the Alvor and Lagos 9s. I must say I thought the Alvor was a superb 9 holes, with the par 5 4th hole being the highlight, a truly stunning downhill par 5 with spectacular views. I thought the Lagos 9 was also good, the highlight being the par 5 8th hole of the 9, a linksy dog leg to the right with waste bunkers. Would definitely prioritise playing Palmares again over the more overpriced choices.
Good layout with plenty of challenges. In my opinion back nine better than front but still worth a knock when you are out here in this oasis of golf.
Normally, when looking at a 27-hole setup, it’s pretty obvious which of the two 9-hole loops comprise the premier 18-hole combination and Palmares now has me debating whether the Praia nine (holes 19-27) should be replaced with the Alvor nine (holes 1-9) in the championship “best of 18” configuration.
The one major factor against the Alvor is the relatively weak set of three holes that begin the circuit – though the green on the par four 3rd is fiendishly contoured – and this rather insipid start is magnified by the absolutely fabulous pair of holes that immediately follow, as both fairways plunge downhill towards the coast.
The Alvor also finishes with two terrific uphill holes so really, apart from the bland beginning, it contains a very strong set of holes.
Compare them to the Praia, which is played out on links land on either side of the railway, and my notes only have the right doglegged downhill #19 and left doglegged uphill #27 indicated as standout holes, with the others marked as good, but not great.
The remaining loop, the Lagos nine features three par threes, three par fours and three par fives and it gets off to a great start with a couple of plummeting par fours, the first bending to the right, the second to the left. All three short holes on the Lagos are wonderful, the first one in particular, because it’s the only hole on the course where water come into play in a big way, with the green located behind an imposing pond.
Thinking it through now, the only way to do Palmares proper justice is to play all three nines then decide for yourself which composition works best for you at a surprisingly entertaining golf venue.