Journalists might persistently moan about being overworked and underpaid, but they do benefit from some superb perks. I was recently invited to spend some time at the Amendoeira Golf Resort in Portugal.
“My flight is at what time?!” I gasped, then realised this probably wasn’t the most grateful reaction.
After getting a little bored of staring at night-time London through the Gatwick Express window at ridiculous o’clock, I lay back and shut my eyes.
Suddenly aware of a presence in my personal space, I opened them again to see a young girl, roughly four years old, staring at me through the gap in the seats. She was irritatingly lively considering my watch said 4:21am.
“Hello!” she bellowed, probably waking up half of Croydon. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Portugal,” I said. “Where are you going?”
“Torquay,” she replied, which surprised me. I’m almost certain Torquay doesn’t have an airport.
An hour later, as I watched hundreds of West Sussex houses get smaller and smaller, I started to think out loud. “Ohhh… she meant Turkey!” I said. Probably a little too brashly, judging by the looks I was getting from those around me.
After landing and collecting my bag, I immediately regretted not checking the weather forecast before I left.
“It’s warm here all year round,” said my driver in broken English. “This is our busiest season.”
“Really? Not the summer?”
“No, because it’s too hot to play golf,” he reasoned.
“In October, November, January and February it’s very cold in England, so people come here to play.”
20 minutes after leaving the airport, we were sweeping down the driveway of the Amendoeira Golf Resort. A floodlit par-three course sat to my left, while the Christy O’Connor Jr and Nick Faldo-designed tracks dominated the remainder of my eye line.
It was the O’Connor Jr course on which I was invited to hack around with Sky Sports’ Mark Kendall and a local named José.
My new Portuguese friend told me O’Connor Jr’s idea was to make the course playable for the mid-to-high handicapper, but also wanted to keep it a challenge for all. The course plays a generous 7,336 yards and an accurate long game is a must as the numerous water hazards scattered around force a more creative hand in your shot making.
O’Connor Jr admits he took a bit of stick for the large greens, but explained he built in enough space for several pin placements.
There’s also a number or risk and reward holes. The severe dog-leg on the tenth can be made a mockery of with a decent drive, leaving just a short pitch into the green. Elsewhere, flirt with the water on the 14th and you’ll have a much kinder route into the dancefloor than if you play it safe.
The course brings you home with a delightful par-4 which O’Connor Jr himself calls a “humdinger”.
It’s an enjoyable track; aided by the fact it’s beautifully kept and far from dull. But it’s certainly not a punishing course. I congratulated my playing partners and walked off the 18th green feeling like I could have walked straight back to the first tee for another round.
And the excellent facilities - including luxurious changing rooms, top-of-the-range restaurants and a well-equipped pro-shop - make it very easy to want to hang around. Rental clubs - or “hirons” as I call them (boom boom) - are brand new Callaway Diablos, while the driving range is overlooked by a Callaway fitting suite.
The temperate climate allows year-round golf, while budget airlines such as Monarch have brought the Algarve to your doorstep without giving your bank manager a reason to worry.
There are several reasons Portugal is such a popular destination for British golfers. Amendoeira is one of them.
Scroll down for more images, and visit the Oceânico Golf website for further information.