Golf in the Algarve: Penina Hotel and Golf Resort

Courses and Travel

Our man revels in Henry Cotton’s Algarve masterpiece – and also enjoys some beach time...

There is more choice for golf on the Algarve than you can shake a 7-iron at but, for my money, the original still remains the best.

Yes, Penina has had its up and downs and a few years ago it was looking a little tired, faded if you will. That was sad to see, although it always retained a certain timeless style.

However, recent attention to both the golfing facilities and the hotel itself have reinvigorated it without taking away an ounce of the charm that I’ve always enjoyed here. It’s once more the perfect getaway – especially from the British winter.

Awakening for anything before the village cockerel makes his morning call is not something my aged body appreciates but on the morning of a trip to sunnier climes and post my cup of Jamaica blue, I am at least a little more nimble.

My destination is the Algarve, which is an easier trip than going anywhere in the UK on an east or west orientation, and even getting to Wales or Scotland is a damn sight harder than Faro for that matter.

For example, Leeds Bradford Airport has three daily flights.

In under three hours’ flying time, the cold, damp, cloudy, rather miserable UK weather (also known as summer) is far from my memory.

My trip takes me slightly further afield, to one of Portugal’s most famous hotel and golf resorts – the five-star Penina Hotel & Golf Resort. Located off the superb A22 motorway, near to the town of Portimao, it is just a 45-minute drive.

I am fortunate to have visited many times over the last 25 years and it has never failed to delight. It has something for every type of golf trip – from the family of casual golfers to the discerning group ‘on tour’.

Penina was the great love of Sir Henry Cotton, the three time Open Champion who designed the championship course in 1966.

The resort, apart from boasting Sir Henry’s Championship course at just shy of 6,900 yards, also has two 9-holers – the Resort and Academy courses – which are by no means a pushover and cater for all standards of golfer.

The resort boasts some of the best practice facilities in the Algarve, with an expansive grass driving range, short-game area and vast putting green. This is somewhere I can spend days on end honing my bad habits.

The hotel has also undergone a significant refurbishment in recent years but has still preserved its original feel. Penina has many facilities within its all-encompassing estate.

These include floodlit tennis courts, a snooker table, swimming pool, gym, outdoor running trail and kids’ club. The championship course at Penina has always had a reputation as being one of the toughest courses in the Algarve.

Sir Henry really did future-proof it all those years ago. There are a number of holes where tees are no longer used as they are deemed too tough today, even with all the advances in equipment.

An example is the 16th, a great par 3 with water to the left and a long, narrow green, which off the tips would play over 240 yards.

You do feel as if you are playing a British championship parkland rather than a typical Algarvian offering, which I personally think is a great positive, and really distinguishes it from many of the mundane pine-laden courses on offer over here.

Penina has generous fairways and short rough. The main defences are its length and array of ditches and water hazards, which makes what at first appears to be a course for the brute actually, on closer inspection, a thinking man’s course.

The course has an unusual flow, except for that both nines start and finish in the shadow of the imposing hotel. The front nine, with a par of 35, is the tougher of the two.

The highlight is the 340- yard 7th, which is downwind so allows the bold to try to carry the ditch running across the fairway, leaving a pitch to a small green.

Penina Hotel and Golf Resort

However, the defensive play leaves a mid-iron to the green – oh, and beware of the large pond down the left. The back nine is where the fun starts. As you tee off in front of the hotel pool, you have two back-to-back par 5s, both without water, so make the most of them.

The course then bites back with a run of five holes, all but one featuring water to catch errant approach shots. With a newly installed and passionate director of golf, I can only see the course improving.

Penina has just had its 50th anniversary, and with some new focus on this, Penina should re-cement its status as the go-to destination for golfers in the Algarve. The hotel has four restaurants. My favourite was the Grill Room.

This silverservice restaurant has a warm atmosphere and a superb wine menu is on hand to wash down a simple array of a la carte dishes.

If you have the luxury of a car then the nearby fishing village of Alvor is worth a visit for dinner, and for a more cosmopolitan vibe, the city of Lagos is only a short drive away.

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