Vilamoura Old Course Golf Club,
Volta do Medronho,
- +351 (0) 289 310 341
20km W of Faro
Contact in advance
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 three holes are relatively straightforward – as long as your drive finds the fairway. The 4th is a cracking short hole over a pond to a small, sloping green. The rest of the front nine call for total concentration, and careful shot and club selection. The par five 5th 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, for most golfers it will call for three solid 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.
The Old course was the second of three Dom Pedro tracks I played at Vilamoura recently. Like the Pinhal that I visited the day before, the Old course is a Frank Pennink design dating back to the late 1960s so I knew it would be a tidy track (as reflected in its European Top 100 ranking) and it didn’t disappoint in any way.
Let’s get conditioning out of the way right from the start as it’s been mentioned in previous reviews: there was nothing wrong with any aspect of the playing surfaces here in the middle of last month so if anybody might think covid layoff for grounds staff (or whatever else) might have adversely affected the quality of presentation then they can think again.
The Old has attracted more than 50 reviews on this website over the last 15 years so it must have something about it to merit so much attention – and as for the clubhouse, I hope it never gets upgraded as it’s a throw back in time to another era, with old-fashioned wooden lockers and a lovely homely atmosphere that’s very hard to emulate in the modern era.
The course can be a little tight in places with trees encroaching on the lines of play – I think the large pine to the right of the par three 4th should be removed, for instance – and it was a lot hillier than I’d expected, especially the sequence from the 6th to the 9th, with fairways rising and falling across some heavily-contoured ground.
I really liked the two par threes on the inward half at #10 and #15, played to volcano greens with steep fall offs on all sides, and the closing par four hole maintains the level of challenge right to the final green, even though the fairway is one of the flatter ones on the course.
The longer back nine felt a bit more arduous, probably because there are three demanding par fives – stroke index 6, 8 and 2 – between the 12th and 16th, so don’t think for a minute you’ll be playing resort-style holiday golf here: you might be riding a buggy with the sun on your back but this is a serious golf course that will test your game to the full.
I was based at the Dom Pedro Marina hotel, one of three 4-star hotels operated by Dom Pedro, which is located in an ideal spot next to the Vilamoura marina. An excellent free shuttle service connects golfers from their accommodation to all of the golf courses.
I didn’t get the chance to play the Millennium and the Laguna course is currently closed while it undergoes a major overhaul that will not be completed until next summer – every reason to come back again to check out those two layouts at a golfing destination brimming with variety…
I wonder, as I write this, if perhaps I’m a little spoilt. For whilst the Old Course at Vilamoura is good ive never considered it spectacular. What I do love is how unspoilt it is in an area where putting up giant villas is a must.
One thing I must say is the maturity of the course means it’s always fantastically presented. Rarely is a blade of grass out of place. Again like so many of the old school courses on the Algarve, the clubhouse is quaint.
I’m still yet to play the first well here. It can be reached quite easily and runs down the hill. I still can’t work out how to play it. The course then runs through the pine trees bringing you up the hill at the end of your nine holes to the clubhouse.
I’ve only rated the course as ‘Good’ because I never come away thinking of a spectacular hole. All the holes are good and some like the 16th have a feel of Augusta to them. Yet none stand out that I sit afterwards thinking I’d love to play that hole again and again.
It’s certainly a debate amongst our group as to which course we love over here. The Old Course is always on the agenda but for me it’s become a standard course… who knows maybe I’m just used to it now.
I have been fortunate to play the old course nearly a dozen times now, and never get tired of its layout, outstanding natural beauty and the tough challenge especially from the tips. The Cork trees that guard the greens and. Line the fairways have an uncanny knack of grabbing balls just a hairs breath short of their intended target. For me there may be more modern courses but the traditional UK feel played under wonderful climate for me is heave.
A couple months ago I played the famous Old Course at Vilamoura for the first time. It’s a rolling parkland course that’s maintained to a high standard and characterized by mature umbrella pines that play a huge role in dictating play. In some cases, shots require shaping to get around the trees. The course is not extremely long, so this is seen as one of the main defenses the course has against longer hitters in my mind. On many cases some of the holes have an almost Valderrama feel to them. There is also a par 3 with a tree between the tee box and the green, just over a pond. This is not a small tree, but a huge full-grown mature umbrella pine. Playing the hole successfully requires a solid shot over the tree which is more than a challenge for the average golfer.
There are also quite a few holes that dogleg either left or right and the trees really dictate the shape of shot you can hit. Most often you could play a shorter club than driver or 3 wood and simply hit straight but then be faced with a much tougher approach or a lay-up. They do beg you to take some risk off the tee and cut off some corners but you really need to watch out and plot your way around carefully as the trees also function as catcher’s mitts and any ball so much as touching a tree is immediately stopped.
To play a round without being in the trees at all would require either excellent or very conservative play.
One of the great features of this course are the elevation changes and nice mix of up and downhill holes, even several that have a downhill tee shot followed by an uphill approach, these holes tempt you more than most others to try and cut corners or play a little more aggressive than you otherwise might with a flat hole.
The Old Course remains one of the must play courses in the Algarve for any golf trip to the area. Hopefully in the future I will have a chance to play some of the resort’s other courses.
The Old Course is nice, but not as good as I had heard. Being an Algarve course lined with umbrella pines, there is only so much you can do before it gets repetitive.
The first is a lovely par 4, and the 4th is a nice par 3 over agree, which is a quirk I really like. After this there are a few good holes, but most of them merge into one and are very forgetful.
Personally I wouldn't go on a trip to Vilamoura, but would go and play Palmares and Penina further away.
The Vilamoura Old course is a wonderful place for a round. I've played a number of times here over the years but enjoyed it best when I had a late tee time and almost had the course for myself.
It's a lovely walk among the (pine?) trees and it's a very pleasing course aesthetically. There's really nothing tricked up here, just very pure and pleasurable golf.
I really like the clubhouse setting and the staff is very friendly. The putting green in front of the clubhouse is a nice place to warm up or settle a bet after the round. The range is very close by and from there it's 50 metres to the first tee. There are no long walks between the tee boxes, everything feels right. It feels compact and makes you want to play another round.
The old course has a magnificnet feel to it, real golfing royalty nestled in the golfing capital of the world Vilamoura!
The pine trees act as ball magnest and you may feel like taking to them with a chain saw, but the course is fantastic.
The only reason I havent scored it higher is the last 3 times we have played it the greens have been left to grow out and were not conducive to rolling putts, so a bit disappointing
Played the Old Course for about the fifth time in my life. This is always a favourite of mine when on a golf break on Portugal.
I thought the course was immaculate. Good greens; tee boxes were in top condition; and lovely and dry, despite the time of year.
The clubhouse is fairly small, but that’s fine with me. Food was good after the round, and the beer always tastes better after playing here!
Played on the 13th September 2019 and was in great condition. 4 hours for a 4-ball so doesn't take all day.
I've played the Old Course 6 or 7 times I guess and it never disappoints. If you like tree lined courses there are none better on the Algarve. Sure, Monte Rei and others offer something different but this is the best of its type.
Positioning off the tee is more important than length. If you want to bomb a driver all day you may not always get the best out of it. Don't expect a straight shot to the green from anywhere on a fairway, you may be blocked out. That said, its fair, very engaging and for some, may take a second visit before you start to appreciate it.