Four great golf courses, 72 great holes. But if you had to choose – really had to choose – what would be the perfect 18? Each of the four golf courses in Quinta do Lago are recognised as world class but with the help of the professionals from each club, Kenny Fairbairn, Domingos Gomes Silva, Rogerio Valente and Antonio Santos, we have created a fantasy 18 holes made up of their own favourites.
So put on your virtual reality goggles. These are the best 18 holes from the Quinta do Lago courses as chosen by the Golf Professionals of Pinheiros Altos, Quinta do Lago South, Ria Formosa (Quinta do Lago North) and San Lorenzo.
1st Par 5: First hole, San Lorenzo.
An inviting driving hole, but even a handicap golfer will need three good blows to reach the large elevated and undulating green.
2nd Par 4: Sixth hole Ria, Formosa.
A great example of a short but testing par 4. An accurate drive is required between a cluster of fairway bunkers on the left and pines on the right. Unless your driver is working perfectly, take a long iron or utility club from the tee! The tiered green is fortressed by bunkers front and back.
3rd Par 4: Fifth hole, Pinheiros Altos.
A good drive is necessary on this long par 4 to reduce the danger of finding the lake that laps gently, but terrifyingly, against the left hand side of the green. Handicap golfers may decide to take the safe option and lay-up.
4th Par 4: Seventeenth hole, San Lorenzo.
With a massive lake running along the entire left side of the fairway and across the front of the green, a good drive is essential. A good tee shot is rewarded with a short iron over water to the green, but if you are out of position from the tee you may have to play away from the water with your second shot and try to make par with a chip and putt.
5th Par 3: Seventeenth hole, Pinheiros Altos.
A beautiful short par 3 over water to an island green. This may be a short hole but very few 4 balls leave the tee without someone finding the water.
6th Par 4: Eighteenth hole, Quinta do Lago.
A long hitter can carry the bunkers on the left side of the fairway but beware of running out of room as the hole dog-legs left. The second is to an elevated green, guarded by bunkers left and right.
7th Par 4: Twelfth hole, Ria Formosa.
A spectacular 90-degree left-hand dog-leg around a three acre lake. The lake begins 150 metres from the tee and extends along the left side of the fairway and left side of the green. Try not to fear the water as it could force you to over hit the second shot leaving a tricky putt across a large undulating green.
8th Par 3: Sixteenth hole, San Lorenzo.
If the wind is in your face you will need your longest iron or a wood to reach this magnificent par 3. The terrain between tee and green deceives you into thinking the hole is shorter than it looks. The hole runs along the edge of the Ria Formosa, and rewards you with glorious sea views.
9th Par 5: Seventh hole, Ria Formosa.
This is one of the best par 5s in the world of golf. Drive across a shallow depression with the beautiful Loule hills as a backdrop. If you are a long hitter, this hole demands crosshair accuracy from the tee, as the gap between left and right bunkers at 200 metres is at its narrowest when driving. A gentle uphill approach to a tiered green is guarded by more bunkers and helps to make this a real challenge.
10th Par 4: Sixth hole, San Lorenzo.
Magnificent views will greet you from the elevated tee as you look out over the Ria Formosa, to the vastness of the Atlantic beyond. Hit left and you may be unplayable, hit right and you are on the beach. Your second shot not only needs to avoid water to your right, but also in front of the green.
11th Par 3: Fifteenth hole, Quinta do Lago.
This is one of the most photographed holes in golf. It offers a truly beautiful long par 3 at 200 metres, with around 180 metres to carry the lake, but watch out for the trap to your left and trees on the right. You may need your longest iron or a wood if the wind blows.
12th Par 5: Eighth hole, Pinheiros Altos.
This is 631 yards of pure trouble with water everywhere! It has been described by the resident professional as being like a dangerous woman – beautiful but cruel.
13th Par 4: Third hole, Quinta do Lago.
Don’t be fooled by the generous looking fairway, hit too far right and the pines will block your second shot, too far left and a bank will take you towards an unseen lake. The green is elevated and anything short can roll back into the lake. A bunker left is there to catch you, should you become fearful of the water.
14th Par 3: Fourteenth hole, Ria Formosa.
A great medium distance par 3, played from an elevated tee, which makes the wind an important factor. The green is shaped in a figure of eight, with a tiered waist. It is flanked by bunkers both left and right, and banks threaten front and rear to make this a good test wherever the flag is positioned.
15th Par 4: Eighteenth hole, Pinheiros Altos.
Most people find this uphill par 4 pretty difficult. The real trouble starts when you reach the green; it is arguably the teeth-grinding toughest in the Algarve!
16th Par 4: Sixteenth hole, Quinta do Lago.
A drive down the centre-right of the fairway sets up an easy approach to this sunken green. Sand or trees will trap any drive you hit too far left. A steep bank to the right of the green will act as a bale-out area for a pushed shot. But whatever you do, don’t go left, it’s nothing but disaster!
17th Par 5: Fourth hole, Pinheiros Altos.
We defy you not to fall in love with this beautifully constructed, totally picturesque downhill par 5. You can choose to go around or over the lake for your second shot, and enjoy the lovely old cork trees framing the green.
18th Par 4: Eighteenth hole, San Lorenzo.
From the tee you might think you can drive the green, and big hitters can carry the water, but the target is so small is it worth the risk? A good tee shot leaves you with a mid-iron to a semi-island green. This is undoubtedly one of the best finishing holes in the world of golf.
19th Hole. Well above par.
You wouldn’t drive, wedge, chip and putt your way round without some liquid refreshment to finish. After these 18 holes, you’ve earned it! But which of the three great clubhouses is the best for a wind-down? When we came to choosing the 19th hole, war broke out. Each professional insisted their clubhouse was the best. So we left them arguing in the bar.