May 2003: Algarve golf

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Vilamoura Millen clubh 002It started, as many of these things do, with a very determined driver. Portugal was a wasteland for golfers when Frank Pennink designed the first, Villamoura I, opened in 1969. Henry Cotton designed Penina Villamoura II which opened in 1976 and by the time the Robert Trent Jones Junior designed Pinhal opened in 1976 the message was clear. This was going to become one of our premier year round golf destinations.

They came because they heard about the golf. There are 27 golf courses on the Algarve coast.

“The Irish are our best customers,” Paula Grade of the Lusotur Golfes commercial department says. “They seem to be always in a good mood, like the Portuguese.”

She says that the courses have transformed the region. Her parents were farmers in the nearby Arade, a beautiful province in the nearby mountains but now it is tourism which drives the local economy. Her husband works as a greenkeeper, she is completing a Tourism degree while marketing the plush golf courses of her homeland.

The Portuguese are only beginning to take to the game. In the Algarve the daily shuttle takes golfers from their hotels. Those who don’t play can sign up at one of the many golf acadamies locally.

If there is a key to the success of the Portuguese golf experience, it is organisation. Golfers can try a different course every day there are three fabulous courses in Villamoura alone. Their transport is arranged,meals are easily varied and there are karaoke bars to while the night away.

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