It's the variety of Portugal's Algarve that makes it so special. Yes, it has the wild Atlantic waves that are so popular with surfers but it also has quiet beaches perfect for young children. Yes, it has picturesque fishing villages and historic castles aplenty but it also has lively nightclubs and Michelin-starred restaurants. And then there are its golf courses. This relatively small southwestern tip of the Iberian peninsula is home to some of the world's very best fairways. Albufeira and Vilamoura are two of the biggest names but the Algarve also has other options - and all of them are within easy reach of that magnificent coastline and benefitting from a climate that offers warm, dry summers and enticingly mild winters.
With five courses – Victoria, Old Course, Millennium, Punhal and Laguna – golfers are spoiled for choice at Dom Pedro Vilamoura. The Arnold Palmer-designed Victoria, host of every Portuguese Masters' tournament since 2005, is the place to go if you want to swing your clubs on a course that's as technically challenging as it is beautiful. Set among pine trees and benefiting as much from its status as the Algarve's ‘Grand Dame’ of courses as from its impressive modern clubhouse, the Old Course is also not one to miss. As its name suggests, Millennium is the newest addition to the Vilamoura portfolio, while Punhal and Laguna are longer established courses. Whichever course appeals most to you, the beachfront Dom Pedro Vilamoura hotel is the perfect location from which to enjoy the golf and all the other attractions of the beach and nearby marina.
An elegant country club that's also a comforting and private hideaway from a busy world, the Monte Rei Golf & Country Club sits amidst 1000 acres of countryside. Its beautiful Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course is an award-winning effort that challenges players of all handicaps and none. There's also a Golf Academy run by PGA professionals, offering tailored programmes to suit individual guests. Accommodation options are carefully curated and provide luxuries such as heated pools and welcome hampers. Meanwhile, a dedicated concierge team is on hand to arrange everything from restocking your fridge to finding suitable childcare to ensure you can enjoy an evening out at one of the resort's restaurants - whether that's an informal meal on a terrace overlooking the fairways or a gourmet meal at the Michelin-starred Rui Silvestre.
Quinta do Lago's three golf courses are only part of the story at this resort. Located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Quinta do Lago is also a fascinating – and beguiling – destination for anyone who loves nature. Journey through its lagoon with the assistance of one of the resort's marine biologists and you might be lucky enough to spot flamingos or otters. Alternatively, explore nearby Silves, once the Algarve's Moorish capital, or visit Loulé Market. Obviously, there's also the golf: a favourite of European tour professionals, the South Course has particularly stunning views over the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Meanwhile, the challenging Laranjal Course is located in an orange grove, and the North Course's relatively recent redesign means that it benefits from well-considered technical challenges and four sets of tees on every hole to ensure its suitability for golfers of all handicaps.
One of the Algarve's newest courses, the Espiche nonetheless already ranks alongside the best of the rest. Its watchword is "sustainability" and everything about it is geared towards preserving the area's biodiversity and ensuring that the 18-hole course is a seamless addition to the landscape. Admire the indigenous vegetation, the thoughtfully-positioned lakes and streams and, of course, the views over the surrounding vineyards and the Monchique mountains as you take a breather from tackling this challenging course that demands precise techniques. Located close to Lagos and Praia da Luz, the Espiche also offers great opportunities for day trips as well as entertainment for non-golfing members of the party.
Vale do Lobo's two 18-hole championship courses – Ocean and Royal – are two of Portugal's finest. Technically challenging, especially if the wind is against you, but endlessly scenic, the oceanfront courses are the crowning glories of this resort. However, Vale do Lobo also has its own Golf Academy, golf shop and well-appointed clubhouse where you can enjoy drinks and swap golfing stories with friends and acquaintances old and new. Elsewhere in the resort, you'll find beaches with beautiful golden sand, watersports, a tennis academy, a fitness centre, plenty of dining options and a diverse programme of entertainment that includes everything from bootcamps to pottery-painting workshops. Accommodation options include villas, townhouses and apartments, making it easy to pick whatever best suits your party.
Overlooking the Atlantic, this 9-hole course is the ideal spot for beginners and low handicap golfers. Described as a "scaled down" full-size course it offers just the right amount of technical challenge without threatening confidence-building. Its location close to the pretty fishing village of Carvoeiro with its sandy beach, sandstone cliffs and range of bars and cafes ensures plenty of enjoyable extra-curricular activities for golfers and non-golfers alike. Vale de Milho also has its own friendly and welcoming club house, which offers everything from a pre-round cup of coffee to peaceful lunches and evening cocktails. It also hosts regular ‘Fish & Chip Fridays’ complete with live music.
A superb option for anyone looking to combine excellent golf facilities with a family holiday, the Balaia Golf Village Resort & Golf is two kilometres from the nearest beach and has facilities that include six outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a gym, a wellness centre, bike hire and a children's club. The resort's own Golf Academy caters as much for amateurs as for professionals, with Putting and Chipping Greens, a Driving Range, nine and 18-hole courses, and a dedicated golf teacher. The sea views from the fairways are as impressive as the manicured greens themselves. And, when the clubs are put away for the day, the resort offers excellent dining options, including a restaurant showcasing the finest southern Portuguese cuisine.