Palmares Ocean Living and Golf Review
The Western Algarve has an authentic feel of true Portugal, something that is lacking in central areas around the popular golfing mecca of Vilamoura.
Here you will find some charming beach resorts, a lively town with bars, restaurants galore and some good quality golf courses.
Standing out is Palmares Ocean Living and Golf, which is without doubt one of the best golf locations in Europe.
Situated on a coastal ridge above the bustling town of Lagos with commanding views of the Alvor estuary and the long, golden Meia Praia beach, this really is a golfing experience to savour.
It has changed character considerably over the years. Designed by Frank Pennick and opened in 1975, it was a traditional members’ style course, much admired. In the early days it was out in the wilds, running over typical scrubland, crossing the railway line and over towards the beach. It changed dramatically under new ownership of Onyria Golf Resorts who hired Robert Trent Jones II to unlock the true potential of this stunning location. In 2011 the American redesigned the layout, adding an extra 9 holes, giving each of its three loops a distinctive character. It is now owned by the Spanish developer Kronos Homes and an investment partner who have added a 20-room hotel with two suites, new clubhouse featuring the Al Sud Michelin starred restaurant and a number of high-end properties.
The three loops have very distinctive features and as a result Palmares offers a great golfing experience. No matter which two of the three are selected, players are rewarded with equally impressive conditioning throughout, at least in my experience, from playing there a number of times over the years.
Alvor (Holes 1-9)
The first three holes on this section are a bit underwhelming in character compared to the serious wow-factor of some of the others. The two par fours, featuring wide fairways, play rather long but are not overly difficult. In between is a downhill par three requiring a good tee shot to a testing green that brings you out of any early round slumber.
Everything changes across the road heading down the path towards the fourth tee. Here, from a terrific vantage point above the teeing area, the Bay of Lagos appears in the distance and the hole plays down a gorgeous valley to a large testing green. It is truly a photogenic hole and a fair test too.
A couple of demanding holes follow the slope down to the shoreline where a testing par three with a huge bunker complex to the left needs negotiating before the course turns at 90 degrees marking the start of the ascent towards the clubhouse.
This section makes use of the hilly terrain at the top of the course from the off with a tricky downhill short par four featuring a well protected green.
The only water holes on the entire complex are situated here - a par three over a pond, and a long par four with a lake by the left side of the green often played from a blind approach shot.
A taste of the sandy wasteland of the final loop comes into play later in the round before the ascent to the clubhouse once more.
In my opinion this links-like loop is the best of the three and I think you may be disappointed if it is not available for play when you make a booking.
It starts off with a downhill dog-leg par four. Do not be tempted to cut off the corner or your round may well start with the curse of a lost ball.
The path then takes players under the railway track to the brilliant beach holes where sandy wastes and dunes are carpeted with dreaded ice plants. A good recovery from these unusual types of hazard borders on a miracle.
The second on this loop, a long par five, is extremely challenging not least because the green is hidden from sight by a large sand dune.
Another long par five, the 22nd on the card, is the stand out hole on the course in my opinion.
A dog-leg right, its long bumpy fairway runs parallel to the beach through the sandy dunes. It really is a special hole and finding par after negotiating a route to the elevated, exposed green will be a victory in itself.
Later comes a short but testing par four with a risk-or-reward split fairway. The loop finishes with an uphill left dog-leg, bringing a fitting close to a superb section.
Clubhouse and Facilities
The views from the patio area are unsurpassable and the previous, dated clubhouse building has been replaced by a fantastic structure, which is simply jaw dropping. Constructed in red pigmented concrete to mimic the rich tones of the local clay soils, its quality really sums up this resort. It is home to the Michelin starred restaurant, golf reception, changing rooms and pro shop.
One of the most interesting and well resourced Algarve towns, it has bars and restaurants in abundance, as well as a modern marina and a number of hotels.
While Palmares is the highlight course there are others that welcome visitors within easy reach of Lagos. They include Boavista, Espiche and the three courses owned by NAU. Not too far away are the Faldo and O’Connor Jnr courses at Kronos Homes’s second resort, Amendoeira.
This classy resort has evolved over the years to provide top class golf offering a variety of interest and challenges. The addition of the hotel and new clubhouse has added to its appeal to players wanting to experience the best that Europe has to offer.
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