San Lorenzo is a classy golf course, routed in a figure of eight on sandy undulating terrain alongside the Atlantic, with fairways bordered by umbrella pines and the marshland bird sanctuary of the Ria Formosa.
“The course was designed by an American, Joe Lee,” wrote Michael Gedye in the Golfer’s Guide Portugal, “and built by another, Rocky Roquemore. Few golf architects are presented with such an attractive setting on which to lay out a resort golf course.”
Rocky Roquemore handled most of Lee's design projects outside Florida and San Lorenzo is one of his best, which was once bracketed alongside some of the world’s top golf courses. Times do, of course, change. When the course first opened for play in 1988 it quickly became the Algarve’s beacon of shining light, standing head and shoulders above the area’s other mediocre golfing fare.
“The result combines length, a fair measure of strategic difficult and highly enjoyable, scenic golf,” continued Gedye, “The terrain is ideal; rolling sandy land sweeping over slopes well-wooded with umbrella pine. There are holes which border the constantly changing seaside lagoon and marshland bird sanctuary of the Rio Formosa and three real testers which make full use of the inland lake that is a central feature of the property.”
Exciting golf and stunning views open up at the par three 5th where the backdrop is the beach and the sea beyond. The excitement continues at the next two holes which take you past the threatening waters of the Ria Formosa. The finish is also particularly strong and entertaining with the opposite side of the Ria Formosa coming into play on the 17th and 18th. The 18th is a sneaky 400-yard plus par four with water all the way up the left and a semi-island green. It’s a classic risk and reward finish, which brings San Lorenzo to a close.
I am in the middle of a flash trip travelling through Huelva, Algarve and Lisbon trying to get a wider picture of this Golf Destinations. On Tuesday we played very nice Club de Golf Bellavista and Wednesday it was the turn of renowned San Lorenzo at Algarve. I have been here back in 2018 having played 6 courses but this one was bypassed and I kind of regret it because it is quite good and in that time we were 32 golfers from Argentina who would have enjoyed this one more than a couple we played then.
The expectations were quite high due to its fame and reviews I had red and it really stood up for what it is said about. It is not easy to place it in the country rankings when I only played 7 courses (2 more to come in this trip) and when I will not be able to play Oitavos and Royal Obidos for example but I believe San Lorenzo is fairly put high in the country and Europe rankings as it is a very good course, enjoyable, challenging and with some views of the best in the Península.
It is sometimes tough and unfair to judge a course in these Covid times as many of them depend on Tourism and Green Fees rather than Members and budgets had to be cut in many places in order to survive. Was it in bad condition? Not at all, greens rolling at a decent speed and quite healthy but fairways had some kikuyu contamination from the rough (quite hard to get the ball off it) with made them softer and not rolling enough as the layout shows it should be. But again, it is unfair to dismiss a course which shows a great layout, many different tee shots needed, four very good par 3s with one being just a Gap Wedge and 16th a hybrid into the wind … I like when the set of par 3s demands 4 different clubs and shots, as the directions from each other are different.
The layout is very good, with demanding tee shots which will ask you to work the ball both ways, variety in hole lengths and as said before four very good par 3s. The nicest part comes from 5th (short 3 with the ocean in the horizon) to 7th with ocean views, two tight tee shots and approaches as well. 8th is a bit of a tough to understand par 5 because the long straw grasses by the lake don’t let you figure out how the hole works, a typical hole you will play better on the next time you visit the Course. Back 9 are probably a little less scenic but more challenging with a couple of tough 4s like 12th, 17th and 18th.
The last hole is the one I would put hands on if allowed, the forced carry in the green direction is almost a no go but not due to the distance but the shortness of the landing area: if you make some space there it would make sense to go for it making the hole a great finishing one. It is still good but with room for improvement.
A great afternoon of golf, a course certainly worth a visit and some nice views to be enjoyed.
The drive to San Lorenzo through the Quinta Do Lago estate is pretty spectacular. The roads are clean, the fairways of Quinta are green and the houses are mansions. So when you pull into San Lorenzo you may wonder why such a basic clubhouse doesn’t have 30ft doors leading into a marble corridor.
If you’ve read my reviews before you’ll know I like to review the practice facilities too. Well again if you fancy some practice beforehand their is nothing spectacular about that either.
However San Lorenzo isn’t white suits and bling. It’s not loud and boastful, getting into ones face, like it’s noisy neighbours of Quinta and Vale Do Lobo. What is does is present one of the finest layouts you’ll find. The neighbours must be secretly envious.
San Lorenzo is one of the finest golf courses you are likely to meet. For those whom love, golf, without the brashness, you’ll fall in love right here. She’s certainly not long. I didn’t get my driver out until the Par 5 8th hole. Even then I was reluctant. The first 7 holes are all about strategy. The par 4s are all dog legs with 2 short par 3s mixed in. The 6th and 7th are unbelievable, requiring precision off the tee or one can find water right. They aren’t long holes but by hitting an iron off the tee, they are made so.
The back nine is equally fascinating as the front nine. The holes require thinking about and fairways must be found.
But let me fast forward to the finishing two holes before I wet myself with excitement. I dare you to come up with a better way to end your round? Again like her predecessors she doesn’t ask for a lengthy driver. She demands accuracy. Water lurks at every point. If you finish with two fours you’ll go home happy and talk about how you played the 18th to anyone who’ll listen.
I’ve talked about the condition of courses in depth before. San Lorenzo is not beautifully manicured. In places she is rough. However I feel that’s part of her character. Wooden sleepers and golden sand wouldn’t fit in here. She’s naturally beautiful. She doesn’t need the red lipstick and over dressed make up to have you fall in love with her. For she is naturally beautiful.
A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of my first round at San Lorenzo. I’d have to say that I was really pleasantly surprised by the course and the routing. There are really a lot of interesting holes out there and a noticeable amount of challenge off the tees due to sharp doglegs. Normally I’m not a huge fan of sharp doglegs but the way they were done at San Lorenzo I found slightly more interesting because on most of them you were really forced to choose how much you wanted to cut off. Running the holes through my head there are 9 such doglegs which is a lot on any course. I’m counting 6 left doglegs and 3 right doglegs so that begs to question whether this is a course favoring players that draw the ball? I’m not so sure but it doesn’t hurt you. The course is playable with a straight ball flight or even with a fade, but both will result in more longer approaches than if you can really draw the ball at will. As a training ground for players I guess it would encourage you to learn to shape the ball either direction which is becoming rarer these days.
The greens were also quite interesting with a fair bit of movement and some really interesting pin positions.
There were a couple holes that I didn’t feel worked all that well. The par 5 8th was the first, the second shot was a really awkward one and unlike most of the course a hole that lacks in playability due to the way it was set up. The 18th hole was another that for me wasn’t ideal. The point is to challenge you to make a choice off the tee, go for the heroic carry or play conservative the long way. I went for the aggressive line but had wind behind and just pulled it off, the long carry over water was only one part of the risk, I slightly pulled my shot and ended up perfect, on the line I was intending I would of went through the fairway into the water on the other side of the narrow strip which I couldn’t really see from the tee. Play that hole straight ahead then you are left with a really tough approach over water as well. Not sure if that is really a feasible shot for the average mid to high hcp’er.
In any case in my mind those two holes detract from the overall experience of what otherwise is a really solid routing with a lot of fun holes.
The only other constructive comment that really needs to be addressed is the very poor maintenance of the course. It is in need of some loving and to have some money pumped into the maintenance regime. I was told that San Lorenzo was always a perfectly maintained course as part of this ultra-high-end commercial real estate project. Indeed, there are some serious houses surrounding it, but the course is suffering from a lack of investment at the moment. While that’s a bummer, it’s nonetheless a really fun track with some decent architecture and beautiful views.
On approaching the golf course I thought “wow this looks amazing.” We had an early tee time, the grass had a fresh coat of dew and the sun was emerging over the course. The first was a par 473 meters of the yellows and 494 meters of the white tee play about 540 yards from the white tee. A slight dog leg made this a strong opening hole. The condition of the course was great though due to the time of year a few worm casts were on the fair way the greens were true and rolled at a good pace. The layout was stunning you were able to see the sea from some holes. Some holes proved a challenge and required precision of the tee. Overall San Lorenzo is a good course with a good design, good condition and is a good challenge.
San Lorenzo is really nice, and has some great holes (4, 5, 6, 7). However, the holes with water (8, 17 and 18) really do not belong, and changes the course from a traditional Algarve course to more of a resort style. There are lots of good holes, and I think it's current ranking is fair.
I played the San Lorenzo course many years ago, before I had played so many of the world’s best golf courses. I had a favorable impression of the golf course designed by Joseph Lee/Rocky Roquemore although I wonder if I went back what I might think of it now. When I played it there was not as much housing around it as there is now. I gave it favorable marks for the routing that was employed to get the maximum from the water both in terms of views and use as a defense. Every few holes you feel as if you are hitting in a different direction due to the two loops on each side. I thought there were several holes that were really good despite the few weak ones. But I stress that it was one of the first “good” courses I had played.
I do worry about any course that has so many reviews mentioning poor conditioning as well as poor customer service. Based on those reviews, I went online to look for other recent reviews and found a six minute youtube video from August 4, 2019 that shows every hole. In this video it shows the poor conditioning of the golf course with many of the tee boxes are burnt out. Many areas of the fairways are brown or burnt out. The video does not show many greens although the few it showed looked a bit thick.
On my visit, I did not experience either poor service or poor conditioning as I played it in the month of May. There was no one behind me on the course when I played as a single from the back tees and I went through two groups. In my notes I did notice that there were a lot of tree lined fairways, which is not something I favor. I did give it high marks for difficulty/challenge from the use of the land with the exception of 17/18. I thought the bunkering throughout the course was good on some holes but lacking strategically placed bunkers on other holes. The greens were fine but not the most challenging.
Unlike some other reviews I won’t comment on every hole, but only on the holes where I made notes: good and bad.
The first hole, a par 5 of 540/518 is a double dogleg that would be very difficult for the long hitter to reach in two unless they can really shape shots as well as hit a long way. There are nine bunkers on the hole. The tee shot needs to be hit down the left side where one bunker lies and there are two bunkers on the right. There are two bunkers short left of the skinny green just after the narrowing of the fairway and then four bunkers surrounding the green. I thought this was a hole that required good shot-making.
The next hole, a par 3 of 177/145 is a bad hole because it has “safe” areas short left and back right to a green that should have been had more bunkers instead of the two, one on the front and one on the back. In addition, the second set of tees was too easy for the size of the green.
The third hole, a par 4 of 381/348 is a severe dogleg left with bushes creeping into the fairway before the dogleg and three bunkers on the right side yet the fairway is pretty wide. I did not understand why the routing made the hole trickier than it needed to be other than to make room for housing.
The fourth hole, a par 4 of 371/348 which continues a slight downhill stretch from the first tee, is a gentler dogleg right with bunkers on the right of the fairway for the tee shot and by the green. The fairway tilts a bit left to right. The fairway was too wide for the length of the hole, but I suppose that is why it is resort golf.
The fifth hole, a short par 3 of 141/118 has the first view of the beach and ocean. Other than a nice view it was not much of a golf hole playing down across a dip in the land to a plateaued green.
I liked the sixth hole, a par 4 of 422/399 that plays as a downhill dogleg left but paralleling the beach and ocean, ultimately ending at a small green that I felt was too small.
The seventh was my favorite hole on the course, a par 4 of 377/359 that bends a bit to the left but the green is set into the marsh/beach with 3 bunkers behind the green. The fairway also parallels the marsh/sand/ocean. From the tee it almost looks like the fairway is only as wide as a ribbon as it feels so narrow.
A long par 5 comes next at 574/542 and I did not like the eighth hole. How many doglegs are too many? It seems to go left or perhaps right, then right, then perhaps left, or is it straight over the water to the green? It is dramatic but I thought it was too much. You do see a few lovely birds here but you also see houses.
The ninth hole had the best shaped green side bunkers on the course.
I liked the tenth hole, a par 5 of 567/538 that is a slight dogleg left and does not provide a view of the green until late in the hole.
Eleven is a medium length par 4 with the back side of the green having a very close out of bounds as there is not adequate room if you go long. I do not like the hole for that reason although it is well bunkered by the green.
I do like twelve, a par 4 of 432/403 that plays to a fairway that has a ridge line creating a chasm on the left while the right side is steeply sloped up. There is out of bounds down the entire left side. The green lacked good bunkering with only one small bunker on either side. It is my second favorite hole on this course.
I did not take notes on holes 13 and 14, a par 4 and a par 3 so I must have felt they were not memorable.
Fifteen is the final par 5 at 517/498. I liked the downhill nature of the fairway playing back up to the green. What I really liked were the ten bunkers and the placement of them in the fairway for the tee shot, for the second shot, and by the green. Other than the first hole, this was the only other hole I felt they had gotten the bunkering correct.
I thought there should have been four bunkers on 16, a longer par 3 of 208/188, instead of two.
The par 4 seventeenth should be redone…….see my comment on eighteen.
I think people either love or hate eighteen. It is a 406/382 par 4 with water down the left side but then the water turns back requiring a second shot to clear it. It has another small green with three bunkers nearly surrounding all of the green. It is a heroic hole, visually attractive and in high wind it is difficult so I gave it high marks for that. But I am in the camp of not favoring this hole as I felt they got the routing wrong for the final two holes. I felt the previous hole should have been built differently with two possibilities. It should have been shortened by 20-25 yards making it more of a temptation for longer hitters to try to drive it, A second option could have ben to build a tee further left on 17 to add more yardage and make the tee shot more of a cape hole requiring you to carry the water out to the right. The eighteenth should be a 440 yard (or even longer) hole with a larger green. Both of these changes would have created more risk:reward in the final two holes. In essence, I think the last two holes as not as good as they could have been. Perhaps they could not build a different tee for seventeen out on the path, but if they could do it, they should.
Finally, as noted in my comments, I think the course suffers a bit from a lack of consistency, but I do not think it is a routing issue, I think it is due to lack of bunkers and not enough undulation on the greens. That youtube video is pretty scary so if one is thinking of playing San Lorenzo, better find out about the conditions in advance. If in good condition, it is definitely worth playing despite the inconsistencies and a few other flaws.
As an avid follower of this site, which time and again proves to be an excellent guide for course reviews, I must admit this one fell way short of its expectations. I must echo the sentiments of Richard below; the greens were slow, the fairways worn and the tee boxes were awful. Complete waste of money and time considering how Algarve is littered with brilliant golf courses. Nothing to dispute Monte Rei being the no 1 course in Portugal, but how San Lorenzo made top 10, let alone top 2 baffles me. Stay away, much better courses at a fraction of the money in this wonderful golf region.
Played this course a number of times over the last 10 years and 2010-2015 was one of my favourite courses and a 5-6 during this team frame. Tee boxes used to be beautiful carpets and the greens emaculate. When I last played in 2018 things appeared to have degenerated and in a state of relative disrepair. The course is still a great track and well worth playing but it would be great if it restored itself to its former glory.
The course played in between a links and parkland course. Played last week when it was wet from lots of rain and noted fairways were in bad condition (I am not entirely sure this was because of the rain as they were very patchy with different types of grass growing all over the place). Greens were in very good condition – quick and tricky with wind whipping up quite heavily lead to many three puts. From my one experience here I think the course is generally over rated vs. previous reviews, but would like to see conditions a different time to make another assessment. Thought the finishing 18th hole was a bit gimmicky the way they the water and lack of bail out area if you don’t hit a good tee shot (or even hit a good lay up.
It's been 15 years or so since our only previous visit; with a lot of golfing water under the bridge, would it suffer from a re-examination ? Other than slightly worn greens and tees, not at all, and if anything it's even better than we remembered. The 15th is a little dull, once again on the Algarve expensive range balls and buggies, and the changing room was described as "non league" by one of our party, but this is a top quality golf course and on a sunny day like we had there can't be many places more enjoyable to spend a few hours with friends and redistributing golf balls to the elements.
On my third trip to Quinta do Lago I was really looking forward to playing San Lorenzo for the first time. On arrival at the course, the timber build clubhouse wasn't quite what I expected. The driving range next to the clubhouse was a joke. It wasn't level, it was covered in white sand and with trees immediately ahead in the target area, it looks as if it was put there without any thought. The course itself was in very average condition, the fairways were patchy, the greens much slower than Laranjal & Quinta North which we played on previous days and all in all it was disappointing. The following day we played Quinta South, as we have done on previous tours as our final round, which is definitely the best course in the region. My advice would be not to play San Lorenzo until the Arab owners invest money in the course. As part of our package we paid £134 for the round. It just wasn't worth it. And as for the ranking of being 5th best in Spain it needs serious adjustment down the order!
Richard, that sounds concerning, it certainly wasn't that bad when we were there, although if driving ranges and changing facilities were included in the ranking criteria San Lorenzo would definitely lose positions !