Quinta do Lago – the ultimate in golf destinations

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Have you ever been on a golf holiday where it seems that the destination was simply made for golf? Well if you haven’t, then put Quinta do Lago on top of the list for your next foreign foray on the fairways.

One of our all-time favourite golf destinations here at IGM is Quinta do Lago. It is set amongst 2,000 acres of the picturesque Ria Formosa Natural Park and located just 15 minutes from Faro airport, Quinta do Lago and it just has it all for a Irish travelling golfer. It’s easy and quick to access, with regular flights from Ryanair and Aer Lingus, the weather is a welcome break from the cold and rain back home, language is no barrier, it’s competitively priced and for those of us who hate lugging our clubs through the airport (and paying exorbitant prices too) there’s a Clubs to Hire shop in the arrivals hall at Faro Airport, so we can click and collect them when we get there!

The golf too is simply second to none. Whether you’re an average golfer or a better player, the courses are challenging and if you stay in the area they are all within a few minutes shuttle so can be reached with ease.

On our recent trip we had the pleasure of staying at the newly opened (2017) Magnolia Hotel in the heart of Quinta do Lago and while the glowing neon external signs didn’t fill yours truly with confidence on arrival, it didn’t take long for this opinion to be reversed.

The hotel has a youthful, fresh vibe and boasts 74 bedrooms, 3 suites as well as 7 cottages and is designed in a motel style with the bedrooms separate to the main reception, bar and restaurant. It’s certainly a different style of accommodation and for a golfing holiday it was a new way to experience the delights of Quinta do Lago but we came to realise that there is a certain sense of freedom that comes with being able to come and go as you please and access your room without passing through reception areas and nodding politely at other guests.

With the rental car parked almost at the entrance to the room we discovered that the facilities at Magnolia are excellent too, with a relaxing heated outdoor pool, cosy bar (which had an extensive Gin menu to boot) and the food was good, without being pretentious and was well priced also. High speed wi-fi was an unexpected bonus and there are tennis courts, a well-equipped gym and treatment rooms if you wanted to avail of spa treatments. There were also a selection of bicycles outside the reception which can be taken and used to explore the area, which is convenient because as a guest at Magnolia you get access to the whole Quinta do Lago estate including the beach, the superb restaurants & sports cafes as well as the sailing lake.

But it wasn’t for that reason that we’d come!  And so it was onwards to the golf course and our first port of call was the South Course.

The South Course is arguably the jewel in the crown of Quinta do Lago and it was with some amount of trepidation that we unpacked our rental clubs at the range but we needn’t have been worried, Clubs to Hire offer a superb service and what awaited us was a shiny set of TaylorMade M4’s in beautiful condition: there goes the travelling golfers’ stock excuse for a poor shot off the first!

Designed in 1974 the South Course has played host to the Portuguese Open on a number of occasions and it lives up to its prestigious reputation no matter how often you take it on. It’s really a pleasure to play.

Punctuated by lakes, the course has a superb flow to it, offering challenges through design, layout and elevation changes while the occasionally narrow fairways are a delight with umbrella-like trees providing a canopy should you find yourself in the rough.

The South Course is certainly the toughest of those that we played in Quinta do Lago but don’t let that deter you, if you keep it in play off the tee the approach shots are not overly tough and while some of the greens have swails in them, they are very playable for all handicaps.

After golf we spent a little time at the TaylorMade Performance Centre, honing our game for the challenges to come and with all the latest in technology available there as well as custom fitting, it’s definitely worth a visit.  If that’s not for you then perhaps the   Paul McGinley Academy founded in October 2011 by Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain might do the trick?

Following all that golf, of course we needed some sustenance and so we found our way to Bovino restaurant. If you like steak, this is THE place for you! There weren’t many people there but the restaurant can cater for up to a 1000 guests, which boggles the mind, especially when you consider the service and food on offer. Bovino is a wonderful experience and our group enjoyed platters of seafood to start followed by a sharing plate of steak, which I admit sounds a little odd initially. However, when the stacked hotplate arrived with sirloin, fillet, rump and all other manner of cuts sliced into nice neat pieces and presented with little tags so you could help yourself to whatever you fancied – we were in heaven!

The wine list is pretty extensive at Bovino too and they have a superb cocktail menu on offer, again if you’re into that sort of thing!

And so we shuttled back to the hotel (5 minute), deciding to bypass the music and endless craic at the Irish run Cheeky Pup bar which is a mere 5 minutes from the hotel – well, we had to leave something for tomorrow!

The following day we took on the North Course, a much gentler affair than the South, but no less enjoyable. This course was designed in 2014 by Beau Welling in conjunction with Paul McGinley and you will notice there are more touches of modern course design. Generous fairways and cavernous bunkers along with low cut Bermuda grass around the greens make this course infinitely playable.

One thing you might notice, however, is the abundance of doglegs on this course, in fact all the par fours, except 10 and 13 are doglegs of some description, which helps differentiate this course from all those surrounding it. It’s one you will remember for particular holes, the 14thstands out for us. Where on a golf trip you may occasionally struggle to remember specific courses or holes at other destinations, the North Course at Quinta do Lago will live long in the memory.

Given that we were in the heart of sporting country with plenty of alternatives to golf on offer our hosts had a ‘bit of a treat’ in store for us after golf with a lesson and game of Padel.  Having never even heard of the game Padel we were game to give it a try.  That was our first mistake!

For the uninitiated Padel a mix of squash and tennis – kind of!  It’s a game a little like tennis only with a harder ball, played on a clay based court with a hard tennis racket-like bat. You can play the ball off the walls and backboards a bit like squash and it’s as hard on the legs as squash too – so not for the weary! It was great fun to see it in action but having over indulged at lunch thankfully we had the chance to get back to our roots afterwards with a game of crazy golf!

If you spend any time at all in this area it’s easy to see why Quinta do Lago is a winter training destination for many of the elite golf team’s from around Europe, not to mention other sports such as soccer and cycling. The quality of the product is second to none and the hotel offerings are varied to suit your requirements or your wallet. The golf is sublime too and while we only played twice on this trip there are plenty of other options available including some wonderful offerings at Laranjal, San Lorenzo and Dom Pedro.

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