The Algarve region stretches out over more than 200 kilometres of southern Portuguese coastline, from the Spanish border in the east to the Costa Vicentina in the west. The sheltered marshes and sand dunes of the east change into wonderful beaches protected by beautiful cliffs as you move westwards along the coast, before reaching the dramatic rocks and hidden caves of the wilder Atlantic coast. More than 70 per cent of the Algarve coastline is protected nature reserves, which play host to large numbers of migrating birds in spring and autumn.
The coastal town of Vilamoura is situated in a perfect central location and the visitor will soon appreciate why it is arguably Europe's largest and most successful golfing destination. The climate, landscape and on and off course facilities are all perfect for year-round golf. In fact, the governing bodies in the area are so keen to ensure that the golfer is satisfied whilst at the same time respecting the local Portuguese people and supporting the indigenous flora and fauna that all of the Vilamoura courses are the first in the world to be environmentally certified by the ISO 14001 standard.
A gem in this Portuguese golfing Utopia is the Old course and it's the second oldest course in the Algarve, designed by Frank Pennink. The Old opened for play in 1969 and has undeniably remained one of Portugal's and Europe's finest courses ever since. Pennink wanted to build a course in the Algarve that would remind the rapidly growing number of British travellers of the great inland courses back home, something he has admirably succeeded in achieving. To ensure the Vilamoura Old course maintained this enviable position, in 1997 Hawtree & Sons managed a significant amount of upgrading and remodelling, which also included the installation of a sophisticated new irrigation system.
As with so many of the best courses, there was little need to perform major earthwork feats to develop the Old, just a simple, sympathetic use of the existing natural contouring, terrain and vegetation. The tees are always beautifully kept; the fairways are wonderfully crafted and tree-lined, making straight driving crucial; the greens small, especially on the par three holes, and the hazards perfectly placed to catch the errant stroke.
Rather unusually, the course par is set at 73; however, the course layout was changed by swapping the 5th and 18th holes around, reducing the number of par fives on the back nine to three.
Every hole will stay with the player after a round, such is the majesty of the Old course. Almost lulling players into a false sense of security, the first four holes are relatively straightforward – as long as your drive finds the fairway. The 5th is a cracking short hole over a lake to a small, sloping green. The rest of the front nine call for total concentration, and careful shot and club selection. The par five 6th may offer up a birdie from the daily tees but only to the best of drives and long iron or fairway wood approaches to a sloping, well-guarded green. Undoubtedly the pick of the front nine and probably of the entire round is the SI 1 8th hole. Playing 400-plus metres from the Medal tee, the hole slopes down hill to a fairway bunker, doglegs gently to the right and then rises back up to a narrow green well protected by trees all around. A par here is a rare and wonderful event.
Things don't get any easier on the back nine. The 10th, 11th and 12th holes test the golfer's range of shots and accuracy off the tee. Watch out for the collection of fairway bunkers on the 12th – they are large, deep and perfectly placed to catch a player's second shot on this 480-metre par five. The 16th is the last of the par fives and at more than 500 metres, it will call for three excellent shots to a narrow green protected by three large bunkers.
As befits a course of this quality, a well-designed and refined clubhouse and restaurant complement the excellent Old course, allowing the golfer to sit back, relive the round and enjoy the attention and service from the always-friendly staff.
Don't get me wrong I loved playing Vilamoura Old, its a fantastic golf course with some awesome holes, however the condition of Victoria and Quinta do Lago was a level above the condition of this course. The golf course itself was great and had lots of interesting and challenging holes but I would almost consider the course to be overplayed and overrated purely because its got more history. People are desperate to play it more but in my opinion there are definitely better courses out there. I would still play it again if I was given the opportunity as I enjoyed the course and it was a great day.
This is one of the historic layouts in the Algarve region. Fantastic parkland layout with some elevation in the fairways and some really nice holes, like the par 3 4th hole with water and a huge tree infront of the green. Course combines some short par 4 holes and also some really long an testing ones. Fairways are set along some really nice pine trees and accuracy is always a must.
Unfortunately the club house is not the most inviting but the course is one of the best around Vilamoura.
This was the 5th out of 6 rounds in our journey to Portugal and was one of the ones I wanted most to play due to it's history (will again host Portuguese Masters in 2018) and because I am a bigger fun of old fashion tracks instead of the new era Real Estate Development Courses.
Said this we were received very friendly by the crew and we had a blast in a fantastic 25C sunny day.
The course plays rather like a parkalnd with some holes neighbouring others and some others just alone separated from the rest. And it was in excellent shape, fairways just perfect and greens rolling true and fast as most of the ones we played this week.
Greens were a fact, tough to interpret and rad, in a bad day of putting as I had you can have a nightmare, not being able to make putts that to the eye seemed easy.
Holes I would like the highlight:
- Par 3 4th: short and nice over the water and one tree I would take out as it bothers shorter hitters.
- Fantastic par 3 6th downhill with a great green complex breaking left to right.
- Par 4 7th up the hill and dogleg, one of the toughest tee shots.
- WOW! Par 4 8th 450yds from the mid tees down the hill and then up. And another one of those grees were the breaking of the putting line was tough to fin.
- Short par 4 9th is like a break, easily reachable but miss it either side and be prepared for your funeral.
- Par 4 13th might look unfair as it is tough to get the fairway, but there you find that driver is not the option, better get short and a longer second iron.
- Par 5 16th is long and with a third shot up the hill, another one of the good ones.
What would I change? Some trees in the line of play don't bother scratch golfers but are really a problem for older guys and those who don't hit it high. Take them away to make it a better experience for everybody. I loved it!
Where to start? There is so much hype and admiration for this course, but sadly it falls seriously short.
The layout is fantastic, and I can certainly see how (in the past) the hype has been built up about this course. Its a pleasure to plot your way around the course, with some stunning holes.
Like the reviewer below, the condition of the course is simply awful. Anyone who cannot see this must be blinded by the mystic and hype of the course.
The clubhouse is tired, although a very peaceful and pleasant setting.
The cart paths around the clubhouse are uneven, loose and in serious need of repair. The cart paths around the course are some of the worst I've ever seen. They are slippery to walk on and are routed so badly around the course. The condition of them are terrible with some paths turning into dirt tracks.
The tee boxes are uneven and the grass is patchy.
The greens are slow and bobble due to so many un-repaired pitch marks.
The sand in the bunkers are consistent but the bunkers need a lot of edging and work.
Its such a shame to see this course in this condition. The previous owners of Oceanico clearly spent the money on the Victoria and Faldo courses. Lets hope the new owners put some serious investment into the Old course to bring it back to its former glory.
Having played the majority of the courses in the area, Quinta South is a favorite.
I couldn't disagree more with the review below - a two ball rating for this course is outrageous. As with many of the other reviewers I've played this course upwards of 10 times now over the past 8 years or so. I've never seen it in bad condition. It's not a holiday resort course, it's a "proper" course. A true golfing test. I implore anybody visiting the Algarve to pay the money to play here. Victoria is the course that gets the plaudits due to its Portuguese Open status, but if I could only play one course for the rest of my days in the Algarve it would be the Old Course everytime.
Far from being a weakness the clubhouse for me is a strong point - it isn't modern, grand, or bling - it's small, comfortable, and perfectly in keeping with the course. I've spent many a happy afternoon on the veranda looking over the putting green and first tee enjoying some post-round beers.
Ignore the haters and play this course - you won't regret it.
Played the course at 8am in the summer and it's a lovely course some great holes but unfortunately was let down by too much sand on each green, it made putting almost impossible and for 80 euro's not worth the money . Agree the par5's are too many and not quite long enough and tee boxes aren't flat. But a lovely course nonetheless
Thought I'd get involved with this discussion. I have to agree with the review on a couple of aspects - the locker rooms are just awful. Also pace of play is too slow - for a short course it should be way quicker.
However, I still love the place and its always somewhere to play each time I come out. Monte Rei and San Lorenzo are a different class though.