Decisions, decisions! Is it a 6 or 7 iron? Will the putt break left or right? Do we take on the water or play safe? When arriving at Faro on the Portuguese Algarve, do we drive east or west from the airport? West will take you, along with the vast majority of other golfers, to the well known and impressive courses of Quinta do Lago, Vale de Lobo, Vilamoura and onwards towards the famous Penina. Next time you land, why not point your hire car in the opposite direction and experience the golfing delights that can be found in the Eastern Algarve especially at the excellent Quinta da Ria Golf Club.
Stretching from Faro along the coast towards the border with Spain, the unspoilt natural woodlands and wetlands form a major part of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. Beautiful, rugged and wild, the protected land, known locally as "Sotarento", provides Quinta da Ria and its sister course Quinta da Cima with a wonderful haven away from commercialisation and a promise of no villa-lined fairways and years of noisy building sites.
Opening for play in 2002, the Quinta da Ria course was designed by the well known architect Rocky Roquemore, and is a traditional par 72 layout measuring 6,016 metres from the back tees. Quinta da Ria is a fairly flat, parkland course where there’s usually a challenging breeze with which to cope. As with other Roquemore courses, such as Quinta do Brincal on the Lisbon coast, Quinta da Ria is designed to provide a good challenge for all standards of golfer. Wide landing areas have been created to receive well-struck shots, but trouble aplenty awaits any ill-advised or poorly executed ones. Five strategically placed lakes, numerous bunkers and carob and olive trees add to the challenge of reaching the greens in regulation. Once on the short stuff, the golfer will be faced with large, fast greens with many subtle borrows and undulations.
Quinta da Ria is a good course with some excellent, well-designed and tough holes; special mention should go to holes 5, 10, 13 and 16. The 5th is a cracking par three that has two different teeing areas, both require a good shot over a lake to a shallow green well guarded by bunkers. The par four 10th is a killer hole. Measuring 422 metres from the back tees, with out-of-bounds all down the left side and a large lake guarding the green from 100 metres out. This hole will require your best drive and then a long second over the lake. A par will be worth celebrating.
The par three 13th measures 188 metres from the back tee that runs parallel with the Ria Formosa. This is a tough one-shotter into the prevailing wind, with bunkering almost completely encircling the green that measures a measly 22 metres wide. The par five 16th is a potential card-wrecker with a fairway that doglegs right and then left between two large lakes to a green that is tucked closely behind the second lake. Be sensible off the tee, avoiding the water and you may walk off with a par. Try too much with either tee or approach shots and a watery grave awaits.
Quinta da Ria is an excellent new course set in an unspoilt and quieter part of the Algarve and we thoroughly recommend the trip east.
Quinta da Ria is located by the Atlantic Ocean in the Eastern Algarve, separated from it by wetlands known locally as the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, and yet it is not a links course. It is part of a 36 hole complex built 20 years ago and plays with its mild winds more like a Parkland that happens to be by the sea.
At 6500 yards from the Club tees, with lakes in play on six holes and many strategic bunkers, the golf course is no pushover. The fast-running fairways are bordered by trees on the front nine making them scarcely wide enough for driver and the course at this point feels a little cramped. However things open out from the 11th hole as the course plays nearer the sea and the challenges become far more interesting. The standard of maintenance for fairways, tees, bunkers and most importantly greens is very good throughout.
After a welcoming opening hole, a nice wide par five, the front nine is quite dull with four very similar straight par fours each of about 380 yards, along tree-lined fairways and it needs two good short holes at 2 and at 5 (180 yards over a lake) to provide some variety. But the back nine is an altogether different proposition.
11 is a sweeping par five, first gently uphill and then down and 12 a scenic short par four with the sea on your left and palm trees framing the front of the green. The good holes continue with a beautiful left-to-right dogleg around a lake at 14 and then Ria’s most exciting par five at 16 with another lake on the right penalising a pushed drive, preceding a narrow fairway with more water this time on the left all the way to the green. A par score here is very satisfying. There is more water on the downhill short 17th before a more conventional 420 yard par four at 18 to a well-protected green.
The last 8 holes provide good reasons for the golfer to remember Quinta da Ria fondly for on a sunlit day the closing stretch with the sea in the background it is a unique golfing experience. And although of the two courses on the complex the spacious Cima is the more highly regarded, it is Ria that provides more excitement and memorable golfing moments.
I struggle to remember the difference between Quinta da Ria and da Cima. They're both nice course, perfect for a round on holiday in buggys. They're both as good as each other, and the condition of both was really good. Better places to play in the area, but if you're after some casual golf then these two courses are a good stop.
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Played today on a warm, still day. Very enjoyable game of golf on a challenging course, which is unusual in these parts in having some sea views and being a comfortable walk. We didn't find the development overly oppressive, actually looks really nice, and nothing like the rows of villas at the courses further West. Good solid golf with some fun holes and nice sea views on the back nine. It was very busy, but pace of play was fine. And yes the range is still a rip off, but at least one is playing off grass ! Well worth a game.