American architect Rocky Roquemore has designed plenty of good golf courses on the Iberian peninsula over the years but one of his more recent projects, at Vila Nova de Cacela, on the Sotavento coast in eastern Algarve, may well turn out to be one of his very best.
Located within the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, one of the major advantages of this 36-hole complex is that there are no distracting housing projects to get in the way of enjoying golf in an unspoilt natural setting – and that cannot be said for too many other courses further west along the coastline!
The sister course here is the Quinta da Ria and it lies to the south of the Quinta de Cima, closer to the coast, and is a very good parkland course in its own right with over three hundred transplanted Olive and Carob trees to add character to its landscape.
The Quinta de Cima course has been designed with tournament play in mind and its inbuilt degree of difficulty is designed to attract the more accomplished amateur as well as the professional golfer so its not exactly holiday golf!
A stream runs across the fairways of holes 4 to 6, but it only presents a real problem at the first of these, the 368-yard, par four, 4th where it cuts across right in front of the putting surface. The challenge here really steps up a gear going into the last third of the course where there are three long par fours to be negotiated from holes 13 to 15, followed by three holes where water plays a large part in determining the final mark on your scorecard.
At the par five 16th, a stream runs diagonally across the fairway starting 180 yards from the green and this feeds into a pond to the right of the putting surface, adding pressure to the approach. The tee shot at the par three 17th must carry a pond in front of the putting surface so anything short is dead. Finally, water cuts across the fairway and runs into a pond to the right of the green at the 18th so both the tee shot and second shot have to remain dry before reaching the putting surface – a trio of finishing holes for stout hearted golfers!
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.