The Algarve is well known as a quality golfing destination so, with the increasing number of newly built courses here, maintaining a position near the top of the area rankings isn't going to be easy. One thing that San Lorenzo has in its favour is the natural charm and character that's so often missing in the newly designed courses, as in the quest for length and pristine conditioning, it's becoming rare for a course to use the original lie of the land to sculpt holes in the way the designers of San Lorenzo have managed.
When the course at San Lorenzo was first built there were very few properties on the land here, allowing the designer freedom to chose the routing through the valleys and along the coastline, making use of the subtle topography of the land and the natural wild and rugged terrain, to offer a unique layout that keeps the interest and anticipation of the golfer.
On first impressions the venue feels a little dated, with a quaint clubhouse, a functional driving range and a small short game area. This lowered my expectations, which can often be a good thing. The first four holes offered little I wouldn't expect to see at lesser ranked Algarve courses, built in the second half of the twentieth century.
That changes when you reach the tee of the par 3, 5th, where you get your first glance at the Atlantic in the backdrop of this delightful short hole, with a green perched at the top of a valley, well protected by trees and bunkers.
Grab your par and move on, as the tee box on the par 4 that follows is a sight to behold, elevated high on the side of a hill and requiring a confident and accurate tee shot, to give a short iron approach to a green that juts out into the barranca - play it well and you'll be rewarded but one slight miss hit and you're likely to be reloading.
From the mid part of the front 9 the round takes a huge leap forwards in terms of quality and excitement and doesn't slow down. The 8th is an extremely demanding and tactical par 5, offering the golfer choices of strategy from tee to green. Longer hitters can fly the bunkers on the left hand side of the fairway and open the possibility of reaching in 2, but this would require ultimate precision, as the green is guarded by water short right and OB long left, making it a tough test even when played in regulation.
There is no weak hole as the round continues into the back 9, but the standout hole comes at 12, as you play the rounds longest par 4 along the boundary of the course, with OB running down the left of the entire hole. The approach is long and uphill and requires two consecutive exceptional shots to achieve a regulation par here.
As with any classic course, the finale doesn't disappoint. Working your way from the 13th to 17th continues to be a delight of intelligent course design. The water comes back in to play on 17 and 18, which make the final two holes the perfect stage for match play, or a very though test if posting a gross score, as the final shot of the round requires precise line and length to a small green, protected by water and heavily bunkered.
It's quite unlikely you could walk off this course having not played all of the shots and clubs in your armoury, such is the diversity in layout. To sum up, I feel this course is exceptional and, unfortunately, they don't make them like this anymore! [SB]
Date: October 05, 2017