In the early days Quinta do Lago was more somewhere to retire, rather than play golf. If you played golf you would likely look elsewhere along the Algarve, these days it is the No. 1 resort in the country and home to three of the best courses in Portugal. This year it turns 50 and it’s looking very well for it.
If you’ve never been before the first thing that’s noticeable is quite how accessible it is from Faro Airport which must see as many golf travel covers on their carousels as any airport in Europe. Within 20 minutes you will be arriving at the resort which makes it incredibly accessible and you could be teeing off within a couple of hours of landing. The climate is absolutely ideal, with 300 days of sunshine, and it’s so well set up for golfers – in three days the longest we had to wait was five minutes for a lift to any course. It’s all spectacularly efficient.
Another first impression is that it’s vast, on the scale of a small town which means it’s all quite manageable but you might not get your bearings for a few days. Quinta do Lago is three times the size of Monaco and more than 2,000 acres. There are beautiful nature trails that lead to stunning restaurants, there are boutique hotels, wellness centres and, since 2017, it features a Sports Campus which attracts leading athletes and teams to fine-tune their skills.
Over the years it’s become far more lifestyle and family oriented, it might not be apparent from various aspects but the resort sits on the beach and, although there’s plenty to see and do up and down the coast (and Uber operates on the Algarve), you could very easily not leave the property and enjoy a packed holiday.
But many of us will be here for the golf, there are three 18-hole courses and all of them are ranked in the upper echelons of any Portugal listings. Quinta do Lago's South Course is the original having opened its doors in 1974 and two years later is staged its first Portugal Open. In the 80s it staged half a dozen more European Tour events and it was here, in 1989, that Colin Montgomerie won his first event on tour. This is a bigger course than its siblings, is very American in style with the property set back and, over the course of the pandemic, it underwent a large renovation and a €7m upgrade. Here you can expect a course in immaculate condition, plenty of playability, fantastic views with the Ria Formosa a frequent sight particularly with the opening up of vistas, and umbrella pines.
The North Course was originally called the Ria Formosa, named after the nature reserve, and nine of its holes are from the early days. A second nine was added in the early 90s and it received its own renovation in 2013 when the American architect Beau Welling and Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley oversaw some fantastic changes with improvements to every aspect of the course. Again expect the layout and conditioning to be exceptional, rapid greens and the course now enjoys a better flow from its early days as well as the spectacular views enjoyed elsewhere around the property.
The new kid on the block is Laranjal which opened in 2009 and offers something every bit as good, many rate this the best of the bunch, but also something different from its older siblings. Laranjal was originally an orange grove and sits on the eastern edge of the resort. There are no properties overlooking things, water plays its part without being too overbearing and there are plenty of risk-reward opportunities with five par 5s to have a go at. But there is definitely a fun element to 18 holes here in among the cork oaks and orange trees and you don’t feel hemmed in by your surrounds. If you do visit Quinta don’t think this is the add-on course, as we mentioned many would make this the first tick in the box.
You could spend a fortnight at Quinta do Lago and eat at a different restaurant every night. The Bovino Steakhouse – ‘Prime cuts for a prime location’ – is one of the coolest restaurants that you could ever eat at while the Bold Octopus is worth it for the walk alone. Less than a 30-minute stroll across the boardwalk this beachside restaurant sits in the heart of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and serves exceptionally good freshly sourced seafood.
As spectacular as Quinta do Lago is has a normal feel to the whole place. The North and South boast a very healthy membership which adds to the buzz, there is a coffee shop on what is likely to be the busiest driving range in Europe and the staff, wherever you go, are incredibly friendly and helpful.
All of this began when the property developer André Jordan sat on a hill, looked across the marshlands and had a vision for what lay ahead – “I wanted to create a high-quality resort that reflected local character and style.”
Now 50 years of age Quinta do Lago has never looked better.