Splendid natural settings with challenging layouts mean great golf in Spain and Portugal. In Spain, golf aficionados head south to the Costa del Sol, a roughly 100-mile stretch along the Mediterranean between Malaga and Gibraltar with more than 60 courses. In Portugal, the best of the best are concentrated along a 90-mile length of southern coastline known as The Algarve.
STAYING: Set within its own 360-acre estate near Portimao is the elegant 198-room Le Meridien Penina Golf and Resort, a luxury five-star property. Recently renovated rooms (most with balconies) are large, tastefully decorated and fitted with such comforts as the Le Meridien bed, flat-screen TV, minibar, and high-speed Internet. Bathrooms are equally spacious. The hotel is noted for fine cuisine, served in a choice of five restaurants featuring Portuguese, Italian and international dishes. In addition to golf, guest facilities include two pools, a beachside restaurant with shuttle service to the beach, and a kids’ club. The hotel group has another property, Le Meridien Vale do Lobo, with its own 18-hole Vale do Lobo course near Almansil. Rooms priced from $140.
PLAYING: The championship Penina Course (6,640 yards/par 73) was designed by 3-time British Open champion and noted golf architect Sir Henry Cotton in 1966 and has been highly rated by golfing experts ever since. Cotton transformed a flat, tree-less piece of real estate into a mature course, measuring more than 7,000 yards from the back tees and embracing streams, lakes and ponds that bring water into play on almost half the holes. The course makes high demands on almost every player. Accompanying the championship course are two 9-hole layouts, both less demanding than the main attraction and both designed by Cotton. Driving a short distance west, golfers enjoy another pioneer—the now-established course, Palmares Golf Club, overlooking Lagos Bay and the historic town of Lagos. British architect Frank Pennink created the course, as he did the Old Course at Vilamoura in central Algarve.
INFORMATION: (888) 625-5144; starwoodhotels.com
STAYING: Located near Albufeira and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, award-winning Vila Joya is a boutique resort nestled amidst gardens and palms. Its Moorish-inspired buildings are fitted with 12 luxury standard and deluxe double rooms and eight beautifully appointed and spacious jr. and Royal suites. All rooms have views of the Atlantic and either a terrace or balcony to enjoy it from. Vila Joya provides its guests with the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Portugal, and other top amenities include the Joy Jung Spa, heated pool, open-air jacuzzi, and tennis court. The resort offers golf packages, including the 3-night Classic Short Golf Break priced from $805 pp dbl, including accommodations, breakfast, full-body massage, use of the Joy Jung Spa facilities and greens fees on three courses—all of which have a driving range, putting and chipping greens, pro shop, restaurant and bar.
PLAYING: The Old Course in Vilamoura, one of five Vilamoura courses, is set in an umbrella pine woods with an undulating terrain. The 18-hole, par 73 course was recently remodeled, and the key holes are the four par 3s. The Silves Oceanico Faldo Golf Course, designed by Nick Faldo and inaugurated in 2008, is located in the Western Algarve, inland two miles from Armacao de Pera. This is a challenging 18-hole, par 72 course, with a hilly terrain in an undulating landscape. And the Victoria Golf Course, located in Vilamoura, debuted in 2004. Arnold Palmer is the architect of this currently longest 18-hole course in Portugal. Each hole has been designed to give the player a choice of five tees to play off, in order to make it suitable for golfers of all handicap levels.
portugal—the lisbon coast
STAYING: Located just a half-hour drive from the heart of Lisbon and a few minutes from the historic town of Sintra, the Penha Longa Hotel Spa & Golf Resort is a luxury place in every way. Managed by Ritz-Carlton, the hotel is part of a protected area and has a rich historical patrimony dating from the 14th century. Spacious rooms and suites have grand views and amenities range from goose-down comforters and plush robes, to high-speed Internet, iPod docking station and marble bathrooms. Resort facilities include five dining and bar venues (with a top-notch Japanese restaurant) and the Six Senses Spa offering sophisticated treatments and therapies. Guest leisure activities run from tennis and squash, to horseback riding, pool swimming (indoor and outdoor), and jogging on resort trails. On this part of the Lisbon Coast, there is a wealth of golf courses for golfing guests who want to play more than one course. The resort’s Unlimited Golf package, priced from $287 per night sgl, includes a deluxe forest-view room, breakfast and unlimited greens fees. A Golf & Spa combo is also available for two people.