Best Golf Courses in the Algarve


I love everything about the Algarve, starting with the excellent Faro Airport and continuing with the ease with which you can travel from east to west, the sensational food, the fabulous weather and, obviously, the courses.

I’ve enjoyed several trips with my better half there, family holidays to four resorts and a few days with my friends on a couple of occasions. All were utterly flawless.

Things have changed since my first trip to the Algarve and the golf holiday scene has developed significantly. But the Algarve remains one of the two key areas in continental Europe for a golf break and this ranking – just as the Andalusia one was last year – is well overdue.

The order of the top 10 will be of interest even if the names in the section at the start won’t be a huge surprise. But the prime motivation for creating this ranking is in the middle and end sections, where a lot of names will appear that you’ve seen on golf break websites before and probably wondered just how good they are.

If anyone ever questions why we produce rankings, or so many of them, I point them towards ones like this.

We aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but I do sincerely believe that we are providing a useful reference for golfers deciding on the courses to play on their trip.

If you’re heading for the Algarve, I’d like to think if you’ve got a choice between two courses at a similar rate and one is No.16 in this list and one No.31, you’ll feel confident in choosing No.16 and expect you’re getting a better course for your money.

There are definitely some surprises in this list, which I hope will give you food for thought as you plan a trip to Portugal’s south coast.

Helping me create this ranking were: William Murphy, Sean Corte-Real, Frederico Champalimaud, Salvador Macedo, David Shepherd, Kevin Markham, Chris Jowett, Mikael Johansson and Rodrigo Ulrich. Some panellists have links to courses in the region but their ranking of them was disregarded. (I encouraged them to include their own courses out of curiosity, and they are INCREDIBLY objective – but I still excluded their view).

Each course is judged on the criteria used for all our rankings: design, setting, consistency, memorable holes, playability and conditioning.

Best Golf Courses in the Algarve

37. Balaia

Albufeira, Central Algarve

A fun course with some surprising subtlety in the Balaia Golf Village Resort. The view from the 1st sets you up nicely for a first-class round.

36. Vale de Milho

Carvoeiro, Central Algarve

A Dave Thomas-designed nine-holer with Atlantic views close to Carvoeiro. It has large, contoured greens, mature trees, lakes and bunkers.

35. Santo Antonio

Vila de Bispo, Western Algarve

Originally known as Parque da Floresta, this is the most westerly course in the Algarve. A Pepe Gancedo parkland laid out on rolling terrain that is framed by mature woodland and with large water features and changes in elevation.

34. Alto

Portimao, Western Algarve

Alto’s elevated tees encourage you to open your shoulders as well as take in the views, but approach with caution – water hazards include a huge lake on the standout par-5 16th. Lots of uphill approach shots.

33. Benamor

Tavira, Eastern Algarve

Sits in the foothills of Barrocal on the outskirts of the ancient city of Tavira. Opened in the spring of 2000 with input from Sir Henry Cotton, who died before construction fully began on the project he had helped devise in the mid-’80s. It boasts mountain and sea views from its tranquil location that notably lacks residences. Almond, carob, cork and olive trees line the fairways.

32. Alamos

Portimao, Western Algarve

Alamos is a relatively short and tight affair; a strong technical course that is a constant but pleasing challenge. Its greens are relatively small with movement in them. Enjoys a lovely inland setting.

31. Boavista

Lagos, Western Algarve

Howard Swan set this course down on a hillside overlooking Lagos and the Atlantic. It has some interesting and varied holes and is very playable. The 7th is a lovely par 4 with an Atlantic backdrop, while the thrilling par-5 13th, short 14th and the risk-and-reward 17th are standouts on the road home.

Dom Pedro's Millenium Course is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve

30. Dom Pedro (Millenium)

Quarteira, Central Algarve

It won’t surprise you when this course opened… or, rather, when nine holes were added by Martin Hawtree to join up with nine stolen from the earlier (1990) Laguna course. The first couple of holes and the back nine are on flat land but the run from the 3rd to the 7th lie on more undulating terrain framed by pines and are really, really good.

Silves is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

29. Silves

Silves, Central Algarve

Opened in 2007, this pretty countryside course lies in a tranquil spot at the foot of the Monchique mountains and is especially welcoming to less proficient golfers. Fruit orchards and small farms surround the course to create a very pleasant experience.

Pine Cliffs is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

28. Pine Cliffs

Albafeira, Central Algarve

Just nine holes here but Pine Cliffs cruises into the top 30 ahead of some 18-holers because its location, on top of the orange cliffs, makes it an unforgettable experience – not least the iconic par 3, Devil’s Parlour, played across a ravine.

The dark red of the sandstone cliffs contrasts sharply with the immaculate green of the course and the sparkling blue ocean below to glorious effect. Gorgeous.

Dom Pedro's Pinhal is one of the best courses in the Algarve.

27. Dom Pedro (Pinhal)

Quarteira, Central Algarve

Initially designed by Frank Pennink in the 1970s and later revised by Robert Trent Jones Snr, Pinhal travels over undulating ground lined by umbrella pines and featuring a stream and several small ponds. It is tranquil and playable, with not inconsiderable charm.

Vila Sol is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

26. Vila Sol

Vilamoura, Central Algarve

Donald Steel laid out the Championship course here in 1991 among sweet-smelling pines. Almond and fig trees, plants, flowers, lakes and streams also add to the pleasure. If it was renovated and upgraded in terms of presentation it would be 10 spots higher. (There is also a very good Academy nine-holer at Vila Sol that is really a third loop of proper golf.)

25. Vale da Pinta

Carvoeiro, Central Algarve

“A cracking and well-designed course that has been the final qualifying course for the Seniors Tour,” says one panellist. Designed by Ron Fream in 1992, lakes are in play on a handful of holes while the rolling terrain is populated by carob, fig, almond and olive trees – including one 1,200-year-old olive tree. Elevation changes add interest.

Morgado is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve,

24. Morgado

Portimao, Algarve

Set in a valley between Portimao and Monchique, with generally wide fairways (though there are some mature trees) that invite you to open your shoulders as the main defence is its greens and bunkers. Russell Talley of European Golf Design did an excellent job on the bunkering here and the second half is really strong.

Quinta do Vale is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

23. Quinta do Vale

Castro Marim, Eastern Algarve

This Seve Ballesteros design has his trademark six par 3s, 4s and 5s as well as an S-shaped bunker at the start of the front nine. Water features are a prominent part on the opening half and the 18th delivers a grandstand finish.

It is always in good condition – helped by less play than the superstars in the central region – and is a challenge for all as it is often windy.

Salgados is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

22. Salgados

Vale de Parra, Central Algarve

Part of the NAU group along with Morgado and Alamos, but unlike those two, Salgados enjoys a coastal location.

One of our Continental Europe Top 100 Resorts, ponds, lakes and streams affect the majority of holes – as do sea breezes.

Set down on flat land framed by palm trees and with an array of wildlife, especially birds, accompanying your round, this is extremely pleasant holiday golf.

21. Dom Pedro (Laguna)

Vilamoura, Central Algarve

Designed in 1990 by Joseph Lee – the US architect who laid out San Lorenzo – initially as 27 holes. Nine went towards neighbouring Dom Pedro course Millennium, with which it shares a clubhouse.

It has been totally refurbished with all its fairways restored to their original style, greens now faster and firmer and bunkers completely overhauled. That helps nudge it up in this ranking, as do its fine par 3s.

Espiche is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

20. Espiche

Lagos, Western Algarve

Peter Sauerman designed this relatively new course in an ecological reserve with a varied landscape and water hazards to create an enjoyable test that does not demand too much. He routed the course sympathetically around woodland, streams, small lakes and wetlands.

19. Castro Marim (Atlantic & Guadiana)

Castro Marim, Eastern Algarve

Terry Murray designed 18 holes here in 2001 – the Guadiana and Atlantic loops – with the Grouse added seven years later. The younger loop is at least the equal of its sisters.

Lakes feature prominently at times and it can feel longer than its yardage as its undulating fairways often lead to elevated greens. Some nice risk-reward moments and the 4th on the Atlantic is superb.

Vale do Lobo's Royal course is one of the best in the Algarve.

18. Vale do Lobo (Royal)

Quarteira, Central Algarve

The Royal weaves between more of Vale do Lobo’s residential development with holes that are perfectly worthy, it’s just that rather than gazing at the Atlantic you are often gazing into someone’s back garden (albeit usually a very attractive one).

There is a bit of road crossing to be done too, but in holes such as the strong par-4 3rd and the sporty 4th, it has some very notable moments.

On the back nine the 15th offers the kind of sensational view enjoyed on its sister, a short par 4 with a terrific view of the ocean from its elevated tee. It begins a stretch sufficiently stellar to secure the Royal’s place in the top 20.

Gramacho is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

17. Gramacho

Carvoeiro, Central Algarve

Initially designed as a nine-holer in the 1970s by Ron Fream, Gramacho became 18 when former World No.1 Nick Price joined forces with the American to create 18 holes. Funky greens, elevation changes and holes routed among rock outcrops give this undulating course real character and a position some may be surprised about. But rest assured, we love it!

Quinta da Ria is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

16. Quinta da Ria

Tavira, Eastern Algarve

The Ria offers the visiting golfer breathtaking ocean views – à la Turnberry, Doonbeg or Vale do Lobo – by virtue of several holes’ being laid out on the edge of the beach.

It takes its name from the majestic Ria Formosa, the nature reserve that gives San Lorenzo its glory and its reputation.

Opened in 2002, much of the front nine is played in straight lines on fairly flat land lined by semi-mature trees. But then in a run of holes in the middle of the back nine there are moments of rare excitement and beauty, with the ocean shimmering beyond the green or fairways stretched out alongside sandy beaches.

Few courses on the continent boast such a site, with so many holes having such beachside views of the sea. It delivers X Factor in spades.

Pinheiros Altos is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

15. Pinheiros Altos

Almancil, Central Algarve

Two nines (the Pines and Olives) were created by Ron Fream in the early ’90s and George Santana da Silva added the Corks in the new millennium. His work, which is in supreme condition, comfortably warrants a place alongside the Pines in our list. The Olives is a little less interesting and it is actually hard to believe Corks and not it were added later.

14. Ombria

Loule, Central Algarve

The new kid on the block – the first new course in the Algarve in 10 years – and we were given special access to Ombria for some of our panellists so that we could consider it for this ranking.

It is completely ready, and has been for some time. Its framing, nature, sustainability, design, maintenance, and variety make it a hugely fun and challenging course. Distance is not a factor, but strategy is. Something different for the Algarve – and we are playing it cautiously with this initial placement… we think Ombria has the potential to notably rise.

Vale do Lobo's Ocean course is one of the best in the Algarve,

13. Vale do Lobo (Ocean)

Quarteira, Central Algarve

The name hints at what is to look forward to here, but you have to be patient. The front nine is perfectly enjoyable among mature trees, but it does look rather modest when compared to the second half.

Following a nice downhill, reachable par 5 on the 10th, you drive up and over a hill and as you march over its summit a fabulous view of a green that looks like it is suspended in the air with just the ocean behind. The sandy beach beyond completes the picture postcard scene.

After the uphill, narrow 12th, you then tackle the gorgeous 13th. This is played over a valley to another ‘infinity’ green with blue sky beyond a target framed by two ‘sentry’ pines. The 14th offers an even more expansive view of the gleaming ocean beyond; it is as spectacular as it gets on the Algarve. Then comes the 15th, the an oft-photographed short hole played alongside the ocean with the sound of the waves crashing against the sand banks just yards from the tee.

Penina is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

12. Penina

Portimao, Western Algarve

The original course in the Algarve, laid out by Sir Henry Cotton in 1966. Sir Henry had retired to the Algarve after a life in golf that had included three Open titles, but found himself asked to lay out the region’s first course.

His legacy is a course that weaves between sun-loving mature trees and colourful flora. Water features are a frequent hazard, whether guarding the front of the 2nd green, splitting the two-tier fairway of the 5th, or running alongside the short 13th.

It is a stiff enough test to have hosted the Portuguese Open 10 times.

A renovation would have it comfortably in the top 10.

Amendoeira's Faldo course is one of the best courses in the Algarve.

11. Amendoeira (Faldo)

Alcantarilha, Central Algarve

Many would have the Faldo a couple of places higher but at 7,200 yards and with holm oaks and ancient olive trees waiting to snooker you, the onus is on accuracy as well as distance.

It is laid out on undulating land with an especially hilly back nine and has been known to beat up players comprehensively.

Cacti and wild herbs line many fairways and there are lots of water hazards punctuating the meandering fairways.

Not the most forgiving but a comprehensive, high-class examination.

The O'Connor course at Amendoeira is one of the best in the Algarve.

10. Amendoeira (O’Connor)

Alcantarilha, Central Algarve

While we find it hard to split the Amendoeira courses in terms of the ranking, it is easy to define them in terms of character and style. Compared to the Faldo, this course more readily rewards good play. It has a great selection of varied holes, lovely par 3s, and a fantastic finishing hole played uphill to the imposing clubhouse.

It sits in a valley populated by trees and covered in lush, dense grass that tees your ball up helpfully. The landscape is punctuated by lakes and streams that mean you are always thinking.

A strong finale begins on the 16th with a par 5 with a lateral water hazard along both sides, while the 17th – played to a humpback green – is arguably the best of the par 3s.

Dom Pedro's Victoria course is one of the best in the Algarve.

9. Dom Pedro (Victoria)

Quarteira, Central Algarve

Opened in 2005, and within a year Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge had won the World Cup for Wales here. It was the start of Victoria’s tournament-hosting pedigree, with the Portugal Masters an annual visitor.

A mix of some fun and challenging holes, Victoria is characterised by wide fairways, strong bunkering and water hazards on the impressive back nine.

“It is getting better and better as it becomes more mature, through extra tree definition and personality. Great maintenance,” says one panellist.

Quinta do Lago's Laranjal course is one of the best in the Algarve.

8. Quinta do Lago (Laranjal)

Almancil, Central Algarve

The ‘third’ course at ‘Lago’ but one good enough to be in the conversation for our Continental Top 100.

At times enjoyably open and forgiving, it has sufficient quality that if it stood on its own it would be high profile.

Originally an orange grove, Laranjal twists and turns on a generally more open site than its sisters.

You can make a score here, not least on the five par 5s, but while there is a more airy feel to Laranjal, there is plenty of definition from umbrella pines, cork oaks and orange trees, in addition to several water features.

“Strategy is absolutely key here and approach shots need to be very precise to find the large, undulating and fast greens,” says one panellist.

Quinta de Cima is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

7. Quinta de Cima

Tavira, Eastern Algarve

This elegant, technically strong course was laid out among orange groves by Rocky Roquemore in 2002. Some may be surprised to see it so high in the ranking, but we have no doubt it deserves this spot. It lacks the sea views of sister Ria but intelligently probes your game with questions of accuracy and strategy.

Dog-legs in both directions play a strong part, with mature carob and olive trees ensuring the overly brave or ambitious are punished. It is superbly bunkered both off the tee and around the greens, while ponds and natural creeks are at times a staunch defence.

The closing two holes – part of a finishing quartet that are all exceptionally good and compare to many elite courses – are dominated by two lakes that are linked by a stream that cuts through the site and is very much in play on the 4th, 6th and 13th.

“The complete golfer’s challenge,” says one panellist. “A long course from the back tees that demands the total shot-making arsenal you have in your bag. But it is fair.”

Quinta do Lago's North is one of the best courses in the Algarve.

6. Quinta do Lago (North)

Almancil, Central Algarve

Beau Welling, a student of Tom Fazio and now Tiger Woods’ favoured consultant, collaborated really impressively with Paul McGinley on the 2014 renovation of QdL’s North course.

Pre-renovation, the North was always good, now it is exceptional. The American-Irish alliance have created a beautiful and very playable course.

It re-opened in September 2014 after an incredible 10-month turnaround and now offers extensive aesthetic pleasure; in the striking contrast between the lush fairways and dark brown bark that lines them, in the umbrella pine-lined corridors, in the sculpted green complexes and in the serenity of the natural environment.

Most of all though, it offers a chance to leave the course with a satisfied smile; Welling and McGinley sought to create a course that pleases rather than punishes.

And as at all ‘Lago’ courses, it is beautifully conditioned.

San Lorenzo is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

5. San Lorenzo

Almancil, Central Algarve

One of the elder statesmen of the Algarve. It has been higher in our continental Europe ranking than it is now and with a thorough, astute renovation would get there again.

After a quiet start it picks up at the 5th, a beautiful par 3 over a valley with the ocean visible between the tall, thin pines beyond the green. This short hole starts one of the Algarve’s best stretches.

It is followed by an exhilarating tee shot that looks out over the Ria Formosa marshland and beyond to the Atlantic.

Its small green is tantalisingly perched right on the edge of the land. Another unforgettable tee shot follows on the next and the wetland feel continues on the par-5 8th, a right-to-left dog-leg.

Quinta do Lago's South is one of the best courses in the Algarve.

4. Quinta do Lago (South)

Almancil, Central Algarve

Designed by William Mitchell in 1974, the South hosted the Portuguese Open eight times between 1976 and 2001.

It enjoys one of Portugal’s finest settings, laid out between umbrella pines, among natural vegetation and between lakes, with the Ria Formosa frequently providing a dramatic backdrop.

Laid out in a rough figure of eight formation, there are some long holes mixed with a number of birdie chances.

A wonderful all-round test, the South moves up a gear on its back nine, with the picturesque par-3 11th and outstanding par 5, risk-and-reward 12th just two of many highlights. The 16th is another, offering a magnificent view of the lake, with the fabulous Shack restaurant – with aromas of cooking seafood and steak – looking on.

“Some tests not for the faint-hearted,” says one panellist, “but it is just so good.”

Palmares is one of the best golf courses in the Algarve.

3. Palmares (Praia & Lagos)

Portimao, Western Algarve

Some of the finest scenery in the Algarve is enjoyed from the 27 holes laid out in a mix of links, woodland and parkland at this popular venue. The Alvor and Praia loops offer sea views, while the Lagos looks towards mountains.

The original Frank Pennink design east of Lagos was long a favourite of British golfers – whether ex-pats or holidaymakers – but it was significantly changed by American Robert Trent Jones Jnr in 2010.

Alvor starts high up in the forested hills as the old course did but now there is also a stretch of holes – the Praia – down at the bottom which are linksy in nature. The parkland Lagos loop incorporates two lakes.

Dom Pedro's Old is one of the best courses in the Algarve.

2. Dom Pedro (Old)

Vilamoura, Central Algarve

The Grand Old Lady of the Algarve remains one of its main attractions. This Frank Pennink design from 1969 is a pedigree course of considerable charm whose class is immediately obvious on the gentle downhill 1st, not least because of the lack of housing in view.

While there are more villas in your sightline on the next two holes, there is much less residential development here than almost anywhere else in the region.

We love the 4th, a thrilling par 3 played over a bubbling pond up and over umbrella pines that offer no more than a 10-yard gap if you want to try a lower route.

The front nine ends with a tranquil, high-calibre par 4 then a short two-shotter, while the second half opens with a cool short hole over a valley to a plateau green enclosed by trees. The 14th is one of the highlights, a classy par 4 in total seclusion. Effortlessly good.

“Great design and very friendly, yet challenging,” says one panellist. “Superb risk-reward holes and has a ‘garden’ feel to it. It seems it has been there forever!”

Monte Rei is the best golf course in the Algarve.

1. Monte Rei

Tavira, Eastern Algarve

Designed by Jack Nicklaus – who is now slated to add a second course here – Monte Rei’s opening in 2007 was much anticipated.

That it is established in the top 15 of Continental Europe and the No.1 in the Algarve suggests it has certainly lived up to its billing.

Monte Rei offers a balance of pleasing aesthetics and stringent challenge. Most of all, it is a bucket list ‘experience’.

Helping in the former category is its remote location in foothills between the Serra do Caldeirao mountains and the Atlantic. The journey here is breathtaking in itself, twisting and climbing from the coast into this desert-like retreat among the hills.

Once on the course, runways of green slide between the landscape’s arid burnt orange native soil before your eyes; this is perfectly manicured tranquility.

At well over 7,000 yards, it can be a beast and even off forward tees, there is much to penalise the wayward; if not the water on 11 holes, then the large bunkers or the enormous undulating greens.

“Simply the best! A fantastic visual treat for the senses. A superb layout within the hills and a treat for all levels of golfer,” says one panellist. Few would disagree.

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Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor

Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.

He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.

Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.

He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.

A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.


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