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Guide to Golf at Quinta do Lago & Magnolia Hotel

By: Derek Clements | Wed 19 Sep 2018

QUINTA DO LAGO is one of the most popular destinations for golfers who choose to visit Portugal. If you have ever been then you will know why and if you haven’t, there is an obvious question: why not? It features three of the finest golf courses in Europe and a spectacular choice of accommodation to suit every pocket. It is perfect not only for golfers but for family holidays - they have been welcoming British families to the Algarve for almost 50 years now.

One of the best places to stay is surely the five-star Magnolia Hotel, designed in 1950s chic retro style but offering every possible mod con and located just a five-minute drive from Faro Airport.

The Magnolia Hotel with Golfbreaks.com

Golf at Quinta do Lago with Golfbreaks.com

If you are a fan of 1950s America you will love the Magnolia where, at first glance, it is easy to believe that time has stood still. You might almost imagine that Marlon Brando will come swaggering through reception, or that Cary Grant will offer to take your luggage to your room. It is a stunning hotel. As it says on its website: “The Magnolia pays homage to the iconic 1950s motor hotel and brings a taste of Palm Springs to the Algarve bu offering something you won’t find anywhere else in the region.”

Not everybody is going to get too excited at the prospect of staying somewhere that describes itself as a 1950s motel. Relax. It is really nothing of the kind. It features 74 rooms, three luxurious suites and seven cottages and it really does offer the last word in luxury. And, of course, since it sits so close to the three courses at Quinta do Lago, it offers various stay and play packages, and a great deal more besides, including its own private beach for the exclusive use of guests, with free sunbeds and umbrellas.

The suites feature separate living areas with comfortable sofas to relax on. In the bathrooms you will find a state-of-the-art shower awaits, with a vanity sink and mirror equipped with hairdryer, magnifying make-up mirror, and signature Magnolia slides.

The restaurant serves everything from fresh salads to pasta dishes and an American-style ‘Mag Burger’, all cooked and prepared before your eyes in an ‘open’ kitchen. The Magnolia prides itself in using only the best local ingredients in a restaurant that, in terms of design, is inspired by the iconic American diner, complete with abstract art. A Midnight Toastie Service is available for anybody who gets hungry after hours. The American theme continues with outdoor movies and pool party barbecues.

You will surely spend a good deal of your time sampling the delights of the outdoor pool bar, where cocktails are a speciality of the house, along with a fabulous choice of Portuguese and international wines, as well as delicious milkshakes that should be enjoyed under the palm trees while watching the world going by.  

As you would expect, most of the day-time activities take place around the spectacular heated outdoor swimming pool (ensuring a constant water temperature all year round), and if you get fed up lying in the sun or decide that you want something more than a few laps of the pool, you can pick up a complimentary bicycle and head off to the beautiful Ria Formosa nature reserve, nearby shops or just enjoy the local scenery.

The spa offers a full range of holistic therapies in fabulous therapy rooms - the perfect way to switch off and recharge your batteries. Or you could try your hand at yoga, led by the hotel’s fully qualified coaches. For the more energetic, there is an opportunity to take advantage of a state-of-the-art gymnasium on site or you may prefer to head down to The Campus multi-sports hub located at Quinta do Lago. Golf is the main attraction in this part of the world but the Magnolia also offers a magnificent outdoor tennis court, with rackets and balls available at no charge.

Quinta do Lago South Course Review

Quinta do Lago North Course Review

Quinta do Lago Laranjal Course Review

This part of the world is all about golf, however, and Quinta do Lago features three of the finest golf courses in Europe. If you doubt it, just check out the reviews. If you never play anywhere else again you will head to the fairways in the sky feeling blessed. We will get to the courses in a moment, but Quinta do Lago, which has hosted many European Tour events, also boasts some superb facilities, not the least of which is the Paul McGinley Golf Academy. As well as the region’s only TaylorMade performance centre where you can get yourself made to measure for your perfect set of clubs.


Quinta do Lago has been voted Europe’s best golf destination twice in recent years as well as picking up a host of other awards and nominations.

The jewel in the crown is the South Course. It was designed in 1974 by William Mitchell, who introduced American-standard greens, tees and bunkers to the Algarve. It quickly gained a reputation as one of the best courses in Europe. It carves its way through pines trees and features plenty of lakes and natural fauna. It is a visual treat, as well as being one terrific test of your golf skills. The course is a par 72 and measures 6,500 metres (7,108 yards). It has hosted the Portuguese Open on eight occasions, most memorably back in 1989 when Colin Montgomerie won by 11 strokes after finishing the week on 24 under par. The key to playing the South Course play is accuracy from the tee and although it is a tough challenge from the championship tees, a choice of tees means that high handicappers will enjoy the course. The front nine will favour golfers who like to draw the ball while the back nine is designed for those who fade it. The hardest holes are the eighth, 15th and 18th, all of which call for pinpoint accuracy. No matter what time of year you play here, you can be certain that the tees, fairways and greens will be pristine.

The North Course was totally redesigned in 2014 by architect Beau Welling and former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley at a cost of more than £7m. The work included building new greens, tees and bunkers, as well as updating the irrigation and drainage systems and building new cart paths. There are four sets of tees on every hole and the two main challenges are the water hazards and the greens, which are large and undulating - get round here without three-putting and you have achieved something special. Through the introduction of seasonal rough grass and the planting of specimen trees, the aesthetics and environmental impact of the par-72 course has significantly improved. The renovation has allowed for water recycling, solar energy while the grassy areas will encourage new ecosystems.

Finally, there is the Laranjal Course. It opened in 2009 and two years later won a best course award at the Portuguese Travel Awards. Originally an orange grove, the par 72 course is located in the  Ludo Valley. It features five lakes, huge pine trees, oak trees and orange trees. Measuring 6,480 metres (7,086 yards), it demands accuracy and concentration on every shot. It features five par fives which offer the chance of birdies, eight par fours and five glorious par threes.


We defy anybody to spend any length of time at Quinta do Lago and return home without having put weight on. The resort boasts, wait for it, NINE eateries, and that is without counting the food served in the clubhouse. The choice of food is simply breathtaking.  If beef is your thing, head for the award-winning Bovino steakhouse, but if you prefer fish you may prefer Casa do Lago, which is famous for its grilled lobster.  Casa Velha is mentioned in the Michelin Guide while for more informal dining you should head for Dano’s or The Shack. Wood-fired pizza? Koko is the place to be seen. And so it goes on.


Quinta do Lago was the dream of a property developer, Andre Jordan, who opened the first part of the complex in 1972 and gradually saw it increase in size and quality. “Sometimes when you look at a property you have an instant view of what you are going to do. There was no road access to Quinta do Lago, so I had to drive along trails and through pine woods until I came to a high point overlooking it, with the ocean on the horizon. Within 10 minutes I had the concept for the whole project in my mind. I wanted to create a high-quality resort that reflected local character and style.”

Much has happened in the years that followed - there have been plenty of highs, but there have also been some noted lows, none more so than when the state took over the running of the place and forced Jordan out. It is now owned by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, who has overseen improvements to the courses, infrastructure, facilities and amenities, as well as the construction of a number of luxury homes. Looking at it now, it is difficult to imagine the deserted marshlands Jordan bought all those years ago.

For more information and packages, visit Golfbreaks.com.

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