With the new golf season in the Algarve kicking into gear, seasoned veterans and enthusiastic amateurs alike are all on the hunt for some of the most challenging and beautiful golf on the planet. Right now, the hard fought battle of summer improvements, tweaks and changes is coming to an end and every course in the region is set to come out swinging. Which ones are packing the most punch in 2013? Take a look at our top 5:
1. The Sir Henry Thomas Championship Course
The Sir Henry Thomas is the first 18 hole championship course to grace the Algarve, and is recognised as one of the most challenging and satisfying courses in the world. Designed and constructed by its famous namesake, the course is located at the world famous Penina Hotel & Golf Resort and was recently voted Portugals Leading Golf Resort by the World Travel Awards. A par 72 that boasts an eclectic array of stunning scenery, subtle slopes and amazing scenery, the course is renowned for being as picturesque as it is unforgiving. Playing frequent host to the Portuguese Open, the Sir Henry Thomas is a delight for professionals and amateurs of all abilities.
2. San Lorenzo Golf Course
Located in the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, the San Lorenzo Golf Course is perhaps the most beautiful course that can be found in the Algarve and is built within deep pine woods that open out onto a magnificent ocean vista, saltwater marshes and freshwater lagoons. Dont let all that vibrant nature fool you though, this course was masterminded by two of the finest golf architects in the world, Joseph Lee and Rocky Roquermore and has been winning awards for its exceptional greens and challenging golf since 1988. Youll find yourself driving down fairways alongside the Ria Formosa Estuary, chipping over deceptively long lakes and weaving in and out of some of the finest scenery that can be found anywhere in Portugal.
3. Pinheiros Altos
The course has established itself as one of the most prestigious and successful golfing centres in Europe and features a 27 hole championship course, offering exciting challenges and varying degrees of difficulty. Each of the nine holes; The Pines, The Corks and The Olives is a par 36, all of which have their starting and finishing points close to the impressive clubhouse. The course is located deep in the heart of the Ria Formosa nature reserve and is just a stone throw away from extensive, unspoilt beaches and the expansive Atlantic ocean.
4. The North Course at Monte Rei
One of the few Jack Nicklaus Signature courses to be located in Europe and the first to make an appearance in Portugal – the North Course at Monte Rei is fast becoming one of the places to play in the Algarve. Located up in the hills northeast of Tavira, and tantalisingly close to the Spanish border, the course is an abundance of luscious greens, challenging water hazards and unbelievable views. From the downhill view at the 1st to the wide open stadium feel of the 18th, Monte Rei truly is a top 100 course that you wont want to play just once.
5. The Oceanico Old Course
Designed by Frank Pennink, the Old Course cut its first divot back in 1969 and has been topping the rankings of European golf courses ever since. Located in the coastal town of Vilamoura, this unusual par 73 is near perfect for all year round golf. Great, but dangerous, for long hitters of the ball, the unforgiving greens and fairways are lined with an abundance of umbrella pines that have claimed many a stray ball with aplomb. And whilst this magnificent old gent of a course may transport you back to the great old days of championship golf, with its old-style clubhouse and slow greens it sure isnt in need of a makeover and guarantees round after round of superb entertainment.