The Algarve region of Portugal is home to a number of Europe’s Top 100 golf courses, much of which is due to its ideal terrain and weather conditions. As a consequence any golf course built on the Algarve has to achieve very high standards of design and management not to be looked upon as inferior. The Vale da Pinta golf course, set in the Pestana Golf Resort near Carvoeiro in the Western Algarve, is a course that accepts the ‘quality’ label with ease.
Vale da Pinta was designed by American architect Ronald Fream and inaugurated in 1992. A par 71 layout measuring 6,115 metres from the back tees, Fream has created a wonderful test of golf. He has used the natural landscape of rolling hills, olive groves and other indigenous trees and vegetation combined with a couple of man-made lakes to superb effect. The whole course is framed by the Monchique Hills. Every golfer cannot help but be inspired to achieve their best golf, something that many of the holes will demand.
Tight fairways, doglegs and an assortment of well placed hazards make shot-making and accuracy paramount at Vale da Pinta. A good example of this would be the par five 4th hole. Measuring 512 metres from the back tee, it requires a long and accurate uphill tee-shot towards a marker post, made all the tougher by a fairway bordered by rough on the right and out of bounds on the left. The rest of the hole then stretches away downhill, but caution is required as the olive and carob trees encroach and narrow the fairway significantly. Cleverly placed bunkers and a superb undulating green all add to the sense of relief if par is made.
There is no let up on the next tee, because Fream has designed a cracking par three measuring 168 metres. Played from a very elevated tee to a shallow, wide green with bunkers and water all around. Hitting the green is paramount and made all the harder by the often present wind.
Other holes of note are the 9th, a par four measuring 373 metres. It’s an excellent hole that rewards a long drive over the dogleg with a short approach to a deceptively long green – check the wind first though. The 13th – a par four of only 336 metres – on paper should be relatively simple, however a stroke index of 1 tells the true story of this hole. From the tee a large lake and bunker on the far bank ensure that a very good strike will be required to clear this combination of hazards. Taking the safer route right of the water will be the best decision however this still leaves a tricky approach to a shallow green well protected by sand. Finally, the 18th is a wonderful par five finishing hole measuring 581 metres and will require three long straight shots. A par here is a great finish.Vale da Pinta has many excellent, testing holes and will definitely keep golfers of all standard thinking until the very last putt. A delightful course in a superb location.
The first thing I noticed about Pinta was its dramatic elevation changes. It’s pretty short but feels like a long walk. It has some great bunkering too, they frame a lot of holes well and add some intimidation.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Pinta though. On the front nine lots of holes feel like tight doglegs where you can’t take them on, it’s a boring mid-iron then approach. With all the houses it’s a bit claustrophobic, not that the course is massively tight but it feels like golf isn’t the priority in the area – it’s fitting in as many properties as possible.
#10 is similarly a lay-up to a corner (or take on the car park) but it does open up after that. Hills are rolling rather than steep, there aren’t as many homes and you have more variety. It does get bottle necked in the last few holes though; I don’t think there are many quick rounds completed at VDP.