Vale do Lobo is the Algarve’s most senior golf resort, founded in 1962 and it is currently the largest luxury resort in Portugal. Much has happened at the Vale since Sir Henry Cotton laid out the fist course at Vale do Lobo in the early 60s. Cotton’s original layout has been split in half to form two new courses, the Royal and the Ocean and many houses have sprung up around the course, creating some rather long walks between greens and tees.
The Royal course is widely regarded as the better of Vale do Lobo’s two layouts. American architect Rocky Roquemore laid out the nine new holes in the late 90s, which are routed over gently undulating ground further inland. Thirteen holes from the Royal course are combined with five holes from the Ocean course to form the composite layout, which was used to stage the Portuguese Open in 2003. It will therefore come as no surprise that the Royal course is a supremely challenging test of golf.
Undoubtedly the star of the Royal course is the par three 16th. This cliff top signature hole measures 224 yards from the back tees. This is probably the most photographed hole in Portuguese golf and the view from the back tee which is perched on the edge of the cliff is one of our all-time favourites. This is a stunning hole without a shadow of doubt and it makes the pricey green fee worthwhile.
The reality is this is a fairly boring course, set amongst housing estates which are clearly more important. There are a few a nice holes, but otherwise it is quite uninspired, there is 1 great hole, which comes as no surprise being the 16th, 220 metre par 3 over a huge quarry that separates the beach from the land. Remarkable vista! The clubhouse is beautiful, and the 16th hole elevate a 3.5 to a 4
The Royal course is famous for its 16th hole, which is a lovely golf hole and makes a nice profile picture on Facebook. This hole however has given the resort a huge reputation for being amazing, which it frankly is not.
First up you get that feeling of excitement when you arrive and you know it’s going to be a good days golf. The club house is modern overlooks the practice putting green and has an excellent outside sitting area to soak up the days golf in. You also see the stand at the top of the hill for the 18th hole on the ocean course which looks a stunning hole.
The first hole starts with the easiest par 5 you’ll ever play. Its around 400 yards and if you can get that first drive into play is a massive birdie opportunity even for higher handicappers. The second too was a very short uninteresting par 3, a very disappointing start to the round. I’m glad to say the course got better and better from there on in with a couple of excellent par 3’s over water and the excellent par 5 11th hole which is as tight and as difficult as they come.
The 14th was another fantastic hole which required an accurate shot to the bottom of the hill then an approach a little uphill to a well guarded green. The 16th hole is what everyone talks about. Slightly over 200 yards the hole is magnificent and lives up to expectations. The wind hadn't been a factor on the previous holes but when we got to the 16th tee with the wind in our face the 5mph light breeze got up to 20mph and straight into our faces. So difficult in fact that not one of our 12 made the green. You then instantly go back in land and it’s like the hole is from a different course, a somewhat surreal experience. Those who are expecting a coastal course would be disappointed with only 2 holes with sea views.
Having played quite a few courses in the algarve i think it’s the best pick for mid to high handicappers and also large groups. It’s not as difficult as most of the other courses, it’s on the shorter side and isn’t too troublesome for higher handicappers. It also doesn't punish you too badly for errant tee shots, however does require you to put the ball in the right area to score well. From the 8 courses i’ve previously played it’s the only one i will be returning to in 2020 (co-vid permitting). It’s by no means Valderama but is such a fun course to play with friends.
As others have noted, with the variety in the area Val de Lobo is showing its age. It's compromised by the patchwork quilt effect of the golf holes crammed into the developments. The 16th is fun and beautiful, but it feels tacked on. Worth a game but no longer in the top courses of the area.
I tend to play this course once every 5 years. Good clubhouse and many enjoyable holes. Perhaps not in the best of condition considering the wealth around the area but still worth a visit.
The Royal course is probably the nicer of the two courses at Vale do Lobo as some of the holes on this course are fabulous especially the par 3 16th which is most likely to be the highlight of everyone's round. It is a long but beautiful par 3 going over the cliffs and the beach on the left of the hole, it is not a tee shot that you want to hit a hook on that's for sure! The par 3 9th is also a lovely hole with water all on your left. Overall the course condition was great and a course that I definitely want to go back and play again!
I loved it. £64 before 08:30 was a steal. I’m inexperienced when it comes it luxury courses and facilities but everything felt classy, pristine and the staff were welcoming. The greens are the best I’ve played. On a wet day there was an army of greenkeepers out rolling the turf. Set amid pine trees the course even smells nice.
The course is fairly straight forward. There aren’t gimmicks (apart from arguably one island green) or unfair holes, it just feels pure and true. There are a good mix of lengths, hills, a little water, waste bunkers, then the sight of the Atlantic on 15 is great reward. 16 is the obvious peak.
I haven’t got much negative to say - there’s no driving range I guess. There are some walks between holes so it is worth having a cart. I just wish I’d based myself here rather than at a course near Portimao! If/when I go back to the Algarve I’ll definitely be returning here.
Want to play here again in different conditions as it was a very rainy period when we played and the course was playing a bit wet, which made if feel much longer than it was (but this might have also been due to not playing good golf shots in general and trying to steer the ball which just lead to more trouble). Was lined by houses which you really felt came into play and maybe were too close if you strayed a bit off line. I think the course is a bit tougher than Quinta do Lago (South). Somewhere between Good and Very Good for me...
Conditioning of this course was fantastic, the greens were great and quick too. I enjoyed the course itself, but can be frustrating playing par 5s that require only a 2iron and a GW (the 1st). Easily the better of the two Vale Do Lobo courses but not walkable - there are some big walks between some of the holes.
Personally didnt think the 16th was as amazing as everyone makes out, definitely better holes on the course.
Played VdL royal last week as first course of a three course trip. Clubhouse is great, with great facilities. Course is fairly tight especially on first few holes but is quite short. Greens were very good as expected. Buggies are essential. Round was very long as we had slow fourball in front. 16th is great hole with great views. But is very hard into the strong breeze. Playing well over 200 yards into 4 club wind. Would certainly play there again as overall experience is great. Royal I would say is slightly better than ocean which I played a few years ago, but would say San Lorenzo and old course are better.