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 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.
In my opinion there are a lot better courses in the algarve and this course is relying on former glory. Not a pick on the Faldo for example. A bit dull and busier than many of the other courses played in this region.
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!