The Pinhal is one of the older courses at the sprawling Vilamoura golf complex, opening as a Frank Pennink-designed layout in the mid-1970s. A decade later, Robert Trent Jones was called in to revamp the Pinhal so it’s one of a select few European courses to bear the stamp of the American master golf architect.
Holes are draped over a rolling landscape with many of the fairways lined by canopies of umbrella and Atlantic pines. Consequently, some of the holes can feel a little tight in places as the playing corridors have narrowed over time. Water hazards, in the shape of a stream and some small ponds, come into play at a handful of holes but they never threaten to dominate proceedings.
There’s a demanding start to the round at Pinhal with a couple of lusty par fours and a pair of long par fives to tackle in the first four holes. The par three 8th is also a tough nut, played across water to a two-tiered green protected by four bunkers.On the back nine, the short par four 11th doglegs 90 degrees to the left, followed by two par threes at 12 and 14 that play either side of a testing, uphill par five where both the drive and second shot are blind.
My wife and I played this course in Oct 2019, having paid just over €110 each (buggy is extra €45), it was not the first time we had played Pinhal, indeed we have played it on numerous prior occasions.
We were both very disappointed in the quality of the greens, bunkers and surrounding areas. It is clear they get many golfers here but few seem to repair pitch marks, and the greens staff clearly have done little to remedy them
leaving greens unsightly and very bobbly. Grass around bunkers had not been cut for weeks by their appearance meaning an errant shot did not roll into the bunker but got got lodged in the grass but being so long, playing out if it was almost impossible to play out from.
Clearly the course is trying to save money, charging a high price to play and cutting back on maintenance.
This is a great shame, the course layout is fairly good, most fairways lined by pines but if you miss the fairway you may lose a shot but not your ball. Some holes cause you to think, due to the odd steeam or dogleg, making it a strategic course not just hit and hope. The range is long and wide, though it could do with a better pitching area. Staff are friendly and pleasant such a shame most of this is lost in the greens poor maintenance.
I really liked Pinhal. It's not built on the same scale as many of the newer courses on the Algarve, but it feels more natural (or maybe traditional). It's an easy walk and playable for all standards. There is more room off the tee than the tree-lined would have you believe. A number of memorable holes and good value too.