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.
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.