In a way, I think it’s tricky to fairly review a course you played on holiday. Everything seems better on holiday. You’re in Portugal. The weather is perfect. You’re with your best mates. You’ve got 4 bottles of ice-cold Super Bock in the buggy cooler. Your work phone is 2000 miles away. Life is about as good as it can get for any golfer who isn’t a Tour pro or the owner of a diamond mine.
But I digress. Here are the most objective thoughts I can muster about this course.
It’s taken as gospel that the best track in Vilamoura is the Old. An elegant, mature course that gracefully winds its way through the umbrella pines over dramatically undulating terrain. The Victoria meanwhile is an open, largely flat, bulldozer scarred behemoth that’s lacking any scenic beauty, clearly designed to be a spectator course for European Tour events.
But the thing is, I actually think the latter is more enjoyable.
Yes, the front 9 is a bit ordinary in its architecture (the 4th and 7th standing out in my mind as exceptions) and I find the bunker on number 8 at best a gimmick, at worst an eyesore. But from the approach to the 10th green onwards, it’s rollocking good fun.
Water is an ever present threat on the back 9 but there is plenty of fairway to hit if you can keep your nerve. 11 is risk/reward off the tee as the fairway is pinched narrow by the lake at around the 240 yard (sorry we’re on the continent - 220 metre) mark, but successfully threading the needle offers up a much more simple second shot. The 12th is a monstrous par 5 that demands two carries over the lake. 13 is a beautiful par 3. 14 is a really fun par 4 with a stream dividing the fairway into two halves - A brave (and successful) tee shot gets rewarded with a simple approach. 15 is a drivable par 4 for the longer hitters. 16 is a tough, long par 3, though the green is much bigger than it looks. 17 is a spectacular par 5 that winds its way through babbling brooks, mini waterfalls and more dramatic lakes. Finally, 18 is one of the toughest holes on the course. A long par 4 with water threatening down the left of the fairway and bunkers guarding the safer right-hand side. The green is handsomely guarded by more water framed by classy looking stonework.
In the end, perhaps this isn’t an objective review. Golf is the experience you have and it’s difficult to compartmentalise the different elements of that experience. Is the Victoria Course a great layout worthy of the 5 ball rating I’m giving it? Its world ranking on this site would suggest not. Who am I to argue with the collective wisdom of those more experienced and articulate than I am? I’m just a guy who had the time of his life playing the Victoria course. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?
Date: February 16, 2021