Quinta do Lago is the dream which entrepreneur Andre Jordan realised in the early 1970s. This 2,000-acre luxury residential development was perhaps a bit ahead of its time, but now the “Manor estate by the lake” (to which Quinta do Lago roughly translates) is well and truly established.
Located fifteen minutes northwest of Faro airport, American architect William Mitchell raised the bar in terms of golf course architecture here at Quinta do Lago by importing American standard greens, tees and bunkers. The original and best course is now called the South and it opened for play in 1974.
The Quinta do Lago South course is certainly the most famous in the area and it has played host to the Portuguese Open on no fewer than eight occasions with Mark McNulty and Colin Montgomerie among the former title holders. Given its championship pedigree, this is also a course which will be enjoyed by the average handicap golfer. The fairways are relatively generous and the predominantly sandy but undulating ground flatters medium hitters.
With umbrella pine-lined fairways, bold bunkering and a splash of water features, the South course at Quinta do Lago is certainly an eye-catching layout and one which will appeal to discerning golfers.
In May 2020 the South course closed for
renovations which took more than a year to complete. The layout was reseeded
from tee to green with hybrid Bermuda grass, bunkers were refurbished, the lakes on #3 and
#17 were upgraded and the fairway on #8 was softened with pine trees relocated to improve
sightlines to the green. Trees were also removed behind the raised green on #16 to enhance the dramatic views across the lake below.
The South course was one of more than a dozen layouts I saw on a week-long visit to the Algarve last week and I’m glad I didn’t get here until late in my itinerary – the old saying of keeping the best until last really does hold true!
I knew the course had just undergone an extensive (and expensive) renovation during many months of recent covid closure so I fully expected it to be in good condition – I maybe wasn’t quite prepared for just how well the work turned out!
I’m sure regular visitors will be glad there were no substantial changes made to the layout: after all, why try to fix something that wasn’t broken? Retaining the sound original architecture and refurbishing the playing surfaces was a big enough job in anybody’s book.
The attention to presentation detail is as good as I’ve seen at any of the top tracks I’ve been fortunate enough to see over the last few years. Fairway edging is on point and trees have been beautifully thinned out to improve airflow and sunlight.
Green surrounds and runoffs are a joy to behold and putting surfaces are fabulously firm and fast. Beware the refurbished bunkers (a good few of which I made acquaintance with) as the new angular sand is deep and devilishly difficult to escape from.
The major clearance of undergrowth from around tee boxes and alongside fairways must have taken a lot of effort but the wooden pine straw and wooden chips that now replace this vegetation is a wonderful complement to the maintained grass areas.
I didn’t use the cart paths as I was playing with a pull trolley but they all looked as though they had been renewed too.
Many of the fairways are flanked by big houses but they’re positioned a discreet distance back from the holes and well hidden by trees and other plantings. The other big plus is that this upmarket residential element is well established, so there’s no intrusive construction work going on as happens all too often at newer resorts.
My favourite holes included the par four 3rd, with the green protected by a pond to the front left of the putting surface, and the par four 9th which dips down from the tee then veers left and up to the green next to the clubhouse.
On the back nine, the plunging par three 11th and short par 13th are real highlights before arriving at the testing par three 15th which plays over the lake. The 16th then heads uphill before bending left towards the flag. Trees behind the green on this little headland have been removed, opening out the views across the lake towards the Casa do Lago restaurant on the other side – and that’s the photo now used on the front cover of the new scorecard.
Over a coffee after my round, CEO San Moriarty told me the resort is totally committed to “continuous improvement” and I can vouch that the South course is a fine example of putting your money where your mouth is to achieve such an objective. It’s easily the best layout I saw during two trips to The Algarve this year, taking in nineteen different top tracks to the west of Faro.
The final leg of our recent visit found us with an early start at the South course. With the recent large spend on the course I was interested to see what changes had been made. The answer was not many, which in some sense was a relief as the layout is one I have always really enjoyed. In reality the money appears to have been spent on a major tidy up of undergrowth along and between the holes. The local bark chip supplier has enjoyed a bumper year! One bonus it's very hard to lose a ball with all of the bark on the ground.
Once again the greens ran quick and smooth and with the exception of the wicked 11th green they are a pleasure to put on. The South played a little longer than the North course and it puts more emphasis on driving and strong iron play. The ability to shape your tee shots is a great advantage here. I would always recommend playing Laranjal,North and the South course when visiting the area as all three are a cut above many of the courses in the locality with the South being my favourite.
Between 2019 and 2021 a golfing trip to Eastern Algarve has been missing a very important component as the South course at Quinta do Lago had been closed for renovation. I was fortunate enough to be invited for the re-opening in September 2021 to see the design changes after a €7m upgrade. Steeped in history, having held 8 Portuguese Opens, the South course has always been the jewel in the crown at this resort. With the recent investment heavily focused on environmental sustainability, Qunita do Lago resort is leading the way in the Algarve for those who strive for environmentally friendly golf at a destination that doesn’t compromise the quality of the course and overall experience. I’m told sustainability was a goal throughout the project and water management has been a key element of the changes made. The changes to the course are subtle and mostly on the peripheries of the holes as opposed to major architectural adjustments. Among the work to have taken place all the fairways, approaches, greens collars and tees have been resurfaced with a hybrid type of Bermuda grass.
The only hole which has design changes is the devilishly difficult par four 8th hole, where they have made the approach from the fairway wider and given more options and forgiveness from the tee (this was previously criticised by Colin Montgomerie for being too difficult, although I’m sure it’s not the only hole Monty has criticised in his career!) Visually, the course is now more open, giving the feeling of more space from the tee, as many of the areas that were previously populated with bushes and foliage are now covered with bark mulch. The mulch requires less maintenance and the contrast with turfed areas gives the South course a style and character I’ve not seen elsewhere in the Algarve. This also makes it less likely to lose a ball, making for a more pleasurable experience to golfers who stray from the fairways and means a recovery shot is more often possible, even if it requires a deft touch and a little bit of luck! There are 2 loops of nine both returning to the clubhouse, with the majority of the holes here consisting of dog-legs. Shot shaping is a key requirement to score well. The front 9 requires mostly left to right fade shots and the back nine is more for the drawer of the ball, but in all cases, the holes are generous enough to allow for a long a and straight ball. The stark elevation changes of the approach shots make club selection equally as important and an understanding of how the ball will react will be a huge benefit for those looking to get their birdie putts within the 10-foot range or closer. Elevation changes between tees and fairway give many holes an inviting perspective from the tee with ample opportunities to reach for the driver.
Quinta do Lago is set in the heart of a natural park and this adds to the importance of the sustainable and ecological approach the resort has taken. Not only does the resort rely on homegrown organic produce for the local restaurants but they use natural water and pesticides for maintaining the course. They also discourage single-use plastic, providing metal water bottles with water fountains throughout the courses. Overall a day of golf at Quinta do Lago South Course offers traveling golfer or even a club member a very pleasant yet challenging experience. Variety, difficulty, pristine conditioning and a golf course that flows through the undulating land of the nature reserve.
A return visit to Quinta South was a very welcome return indeed, 9 years after my first visit here. Stood on each tee, I recalled the hole, which speaks volumes for the design. It is understood that a few Euros have been spent on improving the course, essentially removing scrub, tidying up the look and playability of the holes, and letting light in, and it has been money well spent. Golf is a downhill game, and at Quinta South elevated tees are the order, with some fairways a good distance below. Water is brought into play, but not over-used. A long par 3 with a good carry and a drive over water on the 17th are sufficient, in my view. Sadly the 18th is the weakest hole of the lot, but preceded by a couple of beauties in 16 and 17.
The sand in the bunkers meant lots of plugged lies for our group, but the swathes of bark made for favourable lies where there was once scrub catching anything wayward. Swings and roundabouts. Yes, golf in Portugal is expensive but this place is worth the outlay, and I will be happy to return here in the years to come.
Good track. Very pricey green fee, back nice stronger than the front and very much modeled on American courses. Loses imagine for an 7 hole stretch in the middle 7-14. Not to say it gets bad just forgettable. I might be a little harsh but given its a regular European Tour venue I expected more.
The south course is the most traditional of the 3 Quinta courses, but also in my opinion the most boring. The first couple of holes are nice before it loses interest for the majority of the front nine. The back nine is much better, and holes 14-17 are really nice.
The course is good, but not worth the price. If you were to chose 2 rounds, I think Laranjal and North are better options.
I always enjoy Quinta South when I visit the Algarve. I’ve played it around a dozen times over the last 5 years in varying conditions and it never fails to impress.
The front nine gives away some birdie chances (2nd, 4th, 6th) but there are a couple of tricky holes, especially the Par 5 5th which requires three accurate shots to a raised green.
The back 9 begins with a long and tricky par 4 followed by a very nice downhill par 3.
My favourite hole on the layout is the downhill par 4 14th, which is followed by a great long par 3 over water.
Overall a strong layout with no weak holes and always in good condition.
Quinta South is the stronger of the two courses at Quinta Do Lago. I am a big fan of this course having played it for the last 30 odd years. The variety of the holes is one of its strong points as are the undulations. If you can shape the ball well off the tee then you will be successful here as there are a number of drives that require a fade or a draw. The approach shots which are mainly struck to raised greens need a bit of thought I would advise choosing one more club to navigate the false fronts. The greens are deceptively slopy and can catch out even the best putters. There are many very good holes on Quinta South but the 5th an unusual par 5 with a double dogleg is an excellent hole and I really like the 6th a sharp dogleg right to left par 4. The 8th though is a terrible hole as it is virtually impossible to hold the fairway…it would be great if someone could come up with a solution to improve this tee shot. The 10th is a cracking long par 4 and 13 is a fun hole which you can drive in the right conditions. 15 is the signature hole a longish par 3 over the lake to a green that runs off both left and right. The 17th meanders through the pine trees to a green that is protected by two large pines at the front left of the green and deep bunker on the left side. The green itself slopes from back to front and many a ball spins back off the green. When in good condition Quinta South is a course I would happily play for the rest of my golfing days but the conditioning is average at present although I hear that plans are afoot to give it a makeover in the next couple of years…something this course deserves!
Have played this course three times over the past 5 years I think it is getting better and better - refurbished, buggies and new clubhouse and improving greens.
What a place Quinta Do Lago is for golf courses. The best thing about it is that all 3 courses that they have are pretty much as good as each other, all in great condition and all give you a great golf course to play. The South course was fantastic and had so many stand out holes where you would feel like you are in heaven. Would love to play again as I loved the experience of playing there last time (even though it was about 35 degrees!)