With Yorkshire almost underwater following two months of incessant rain, I was fortunate enough to find respite in Portugal’s Algarve. The venue for three days Amendoeira, home to the increasingly popular Faldo and O’Connor Jnr. courses.
A 35 minute drive from Faro the Kronos owned Amendoeira Golf Resort has popular golf destination Vilamoura close by and picturesque Silves even closer. The complex covers 270 hectares, employs over 150 staff and can sleep up to 1,200 guests across its range of luxury villas (large and not quite so large) and spacious apartments. The two Championship courses are accompanied by a floodlit nine hole, par 3 Academy Course (the only floodlit course in Portugal), top quality football pitches, tennis courts, swimming pools and gym facilities. Amendoeira Golf Resort carries that name, but it can offer guests a full range of sports activity.
After a substantial breakfast in the Club House restaurant and a briefing from our host, we collected our buggies and rode off to the first tee, passing a statue of Sir Nick along the way.
Designed by the multiple Major winner this course at 6,598 metres (add 10% for yards) seemed destined to provide a stern test. It did not disappoint. Carved out of the rugged Algarve landscape (a significant engineering achievement) this impressive lay-out offered steep climbs and equally steep descents to meandering fairways populated with cavernous bunkers which crept out just far enough to collect the misdirected drive or approach.
The beauty of this course and its partner O’Connor Jnr is that you can choose just how much of a test you want to take on. A range of tees moving in descending order from Gold through White, Yellow, Blue and Red means that you can take your ball/s 6,598 metres or just over 5,000.
From the Gold tees there are some carries which would have been too far for the mid handicapper, but from Blue most of the time the ravines and water could be crossed. Faldo is known as a “quirky” designer and his Amendoeira eighteen typify that, with hidden bunkers and blind shots a regular feature. It’s a very strong course which tests all the golfer’s talents but at the same time provides a spectacular walk around rugged but stunning scenery.
The bunkers are legendary for their size and depth and even in November they like the rest of the course were in magnificent condition. Four hours later and with a respectable 8 over par score it was time for dinner in the Club House.
The Amendoeira Club House provides the base for your stay. In addition to the Golf Shop where all your golfing accessories are available it houses a convenience store to help the self-catering, two restaurants, one for breakfast and one for snacks, lunch and dinner.
And of-course includes a well- stocked bar where the afternoons play was discussed. Having the Club House as the base with villas and apartments surrounding provides a village type ambience and this is facilitated by a shuttle service on call from 7.00am through 11.00pm to move visitors and their clubs round the resort.
Post dinner it was time to sample the Academy Course. This nine hole challenge can be played through the day but comes to life under the lights. Holes ranging in length from 50 to 100 metres are great fun to play and provide great practice for the short game. We were fortunate enough to play alongside European Par 3 Champion Hugo Espirito Santo who shot an impressive 20!
What a contrast between the up and down of Faldo and the languid rolling O’Connor Jnr. Maybe the course reflects the gentle nature of one of Ireland’s finest. That said O’Connor Jnr. is no pushover at 6,708 metres from the Gold and 5,640 from the Blue (my preferred tee). This is a beautiful course which makes dramatic use of the water features which run alongside and across it. If you go off- line or come up short on O’Connor Jnr there’s every chance your ball will be wet.
Where Faldo is in the hills/mountains, O’Connor Jnr runs through the valley and is much easier on the legs (if carrying) and on the driving (if taking the buggy). There are some picture postcard holes with none better than the superb 8th. Rated the toughest on the course at SI 1 this 402 metre (Gold) par 4 has water all the way down and then across to avoid before reaching a small undulating green. Not the longest but a thorough examination of accuracy and control.
With the Amendoeira golf experience complete we had a look at one of the resort’s magnificent villas. They are dream homes, complete with pools, stunning views and internal luxury and can be bought as part of a resort package (which includes golf and buggies).
If you prefer a hotel base rather than the villa and apartment options available at Amendoeira then the resort has a reciprocal arrangement with the nearby (15 minute drive) Vila Vita Parc Hotel. This five star property is perfect for golfers on holiday with the family as it provides a luxury package of accommodation, leisure facilities and restaurants inclusive of the two Michelin Star “Ocean Restaurant”. Our visit to Portugal ended with a tour round this superb hotel and it’s available to rent or buy villas ahead of sampling some of their top of the range cuisine.
The three courses (you should definitely play the floodlit course) at Amendoeira offer a great package for golf parties or families looking to Portugal, which is only two and a half hours away, to offer warm climate (outside of December through January, the weather is all but guaranteed), relaxation, good sport and high quality accommodation. If one of the course-bordering villas is a step too far, the apartments are a great option, fully equipped and an ideal base for group or family.
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