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Golf holiday Portugal: Go to the east coast of the Algarve for empty fairways

If your friends say they’re heading to the Algarve on a golfing trip, they’re most likely headed for the central part of the region – just a short drive from the city of Faro and the airport.

They will stay in one of the major resorts – Vale do Lobo or Vilamoura, for example.

‘Stay’ is the word: those Portuguese resorts are designed so that everything – food, golf, beach, kids’ clubs, spas – is a short buggy ride away. You will feel perfectly at home. Most of the voices you hear on the greens and at the buffet will be British.

Not so in the eastern part of the region. It is a longer drive (45 minutes) from Faro. There are far fewer mega resorts and the clientele is much more local.

That’s where I, and two golf buddies, went to the Praia Verde hotel. It is part of a new collection of Portuguese-owned boutique hotels launched last May.

Quiet: Mark Jones went golfing in the eastern part of Portugal’s Algarve, where there aren’t many mega-resorts and the clientele is likely to be local. He plays at Quinta da Ria (above), an oceanfront golf course that is “sunny, windy, [and] very gentle’

They offer the chance to ‘form real connections with the place and surrounding communities’. Interestingly, that’s certainly not the mission of the larger resorts, who are happy for you to stay within their gates and spend all your time and money there.

As we entered the Praia Verde there was chilled Portuguese fado playing instead of the usual thump-boom-boom resort playlist. In the lobby, there were racks of local produce instead of a shop.

Our second floor rooms had views over the canopy of umbrella pines. Compared to the hustle and bustle of the main Algarve resorts, it was almost eerily quiet and peaceful.

The beach, a few hundred yards away, felt much more like Cape Cod than Costa del Sol: pale, fluffy sand, boardwalks, and a swanky glass-fronted restaurant overlooking the waves.

We walked back to the hotel through lanes of palatial, abandoned holiday homes (£2.18 million to buy one). The Eastern Algarve follows the same business model as the rest: acres of real estate destined for second homes, hotels, cafes and golf courses. There’s a vague Truman Show feel. I struggled to find a real connection to the place.

Mark says Quinta da Ria is ideal for a potter's rejuvenation and a chance to soak up some vitamin D before heading back to the UK winter

Mark says Quinta da Ria is ideal for a potter's rejuvenation and a chance to soak up some vitamin D before heading back to the UK winter

Mark says Quinta da Ria is ideal for a potter’s rejuvenation and a chance to soak up some vitamin D before heading back to the UK winter

Still, we all felt relaxed leading up to the next two days of golfing challenges. This was important: the more tense you are, the worse you perform on the trail.

Algarve courses and staff have been feeling tense since the pandemic. The real estate crash that followed 2008 put an end to many glitzy plans. But 1.3 million rounds were played here in 2019, making it Europe’s top winter golf destination.

When the Covid no-fly zone hit, some didn’t recover from that second shock. That is why Octant Hotels has acquired the Quinta do Vale course – designed by the late Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros.

For our round we explored an epic course through a valley of olive groves and lakes. There was a large S (for Seve) shaped bunker on the 12th, a tough test.

“If your friends say they’re going on a golf trip to the Algarve, they’re most likely heading to the central part of the region,” explains Mark (stock photo)


A three night stay at Octant Praia Verde including breakfast, a round of golf at Quinta da Ria and a round of golf at Quinta do Vale starts from £270 pp, based on double occupancy in a double room. Visit praiaverde.octanthotels.com.

After the round, as we compared war stories to Super Bock beers, a real soldier came to chat – Denise, a tiny, retired US Army officer. Like many Americans, she had taken advantage of the Portuguese government’s tax and pension plans to move here.

For people like Denise, the country offers a relaxed (that word again) open-air lifestyle, far from the ever-present culture wars and anxiety at home.

Our second round was at Quinta da Ria, an oceanfront golf course: sunny, windy, fairly mild. Although Seve required a lot of concentration, this was ideal for a potter’s invigoration and a chance to soak up some vitamin D before returning to the British winter.

We had our dose of local culture in Tavira, with its pretty houses and riverside walking paths. We even found an octopus restaurant run by a young Nepalese couple just like you. As we ate we realized we were the only three British golfers visible for the entire trip.

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