The Brief: With an affluence of championship courses already dotted around the Algarve, any newbie track looking to stamp its authority in the region needs to carry plenty of scope.
Lashing down with rain as I jumped on the bus bright and early for a 20-minute excursion from the luxurious Monte da Quinta to Laranjal, on board with white trousers and without waterproofs, there were two thoughts on my mind...
This better be worth it. And will anyone see my underwear.
Four hours later - aided by a scintillating three-jab from outside of 20-foot at 18 to miss out on breaking 80 - Laranjal had more than been worth that 6.30am alarm call.
Opened for play in 2009, the newest track at Quinta do Lago proved to me exactly why it was voted best course at the Portuguese 2011 Travel Awards.
Originally an orange grove, this beautiful par-72 championship layout situated in the Ludo valley boasts spectacular fairways, well-defined greens, five lakes and an abundance of corks, orange trees and umbrella pines – particularly apt during my experience.
The lakes at Laranjal are an integral part of the sophisticated drainage and irrigation system, which includes two pumping stations and a recycling water system.
All of which, ensures the course is playable all-year round as I found out for myself.
On top of the golf course, Laranjal has one of the nicest practice ranges where you can tee up on the grass, instead of mats, which really gets you in the groove before your tee time.
The Golf: Measuring little more than 7,100 yards from the white tees, as well as playing in soft underfoot conditions, Laranjal demanded the highest levels of concentration and accuracy, particularly on the five brutal long par-3s and par-5s. I think the shortest club I hit into one of the short holes was a 6-iron.
However with a choice of tees – and hopefully playing on baked fairways in the sun - anyone hoping for a slightly easier test can find solace in the yellow markers which make the course a friendly option.
Notable holes to look out for if you’re teeing up at Laranjal include the 450-yard par-4 fifth, which requires you to drive from an elevated tee box among a funnel of trees down to a lush green fairway, and the dogleg right-to-left par-5 ninth, which reminded me of the famous sixth at Bay Hill.
Other holes that will linger long in the memory include the signature par-3 11th, featuring a giant beached bunker that stretches into one of the five stunning lakes on the course, and the par-5 16th that requires you to plot your way down the hole, weaving in between two lakes before reaching the green.
Then again, course management at Laranjal was all part of the design process.
“It will be a surprise for a lot of people,” says course architect Jose Santana da Silva.
“It provokes a series of emotions from the first hole to the last. It’s about the game and the strategy as well as the aesthetics. Nobody will be indifferent to it.”
Birdie Hunter: It might be one of the most daunting tee shots at Laranjal, but if you can find the fairway at the par-5 ninth, playing right of the giant lake down the left, you will be left with no more than a 4 or 5-iron into the green. But make sure you get all of it as water protects the green short right.
Bogey Blues: The spectacular par-4 fifth, measuring 450 yards. If you can thread your ball through the needle and find the short stuff, you will still be required to stripe a long iron into a raised, sloping green, making sure you take enough club to clear a giant bunker short of the dancefloor.
On the Dance Floor: With the Algarve suffering from unseasonably bad weather in the weeks prior to my visit, the Penn A4 greens were running exceptionally true and fast, while puddles were few and far between on the Bermuda fairways, bunkers and tee boxes.
The 19th: Located by the par-5 ninth green. The clubhouse features a pro shop, reception, changing rooms, club rental and bar. A buggy bar also circulates around the course.
Splash the Cash: Features branded Quinta do Lago products, in addition equipment, apparel and accessories.
Stay and Play: You can take advantage of a winter deal at Laranjal for €95 until February 14 2013. The deal includes 18 holes and a buggy. Monte da Quinta Resort is located just 20 minutes down the road. The Algarve resort offers you a special discount if you book any of the golf packages available for 2013 and currently offers 15% discounts when golfers book Long or Short drive packages. Click here for more information.
Address: Quinta do Lago Golf Resort, 8135-024 Almancil, Algarve, Portugal
Getting There: Laranjal is located between Almancil and the International Faro Airport on the border of the Ria Formosa natural reserve, a few minutes drive from the centre of the Quinta do Lago Resort. Golfmagic took advantage of the Stress Free Airport Parking service, a facility based at all major airports in the UK with prices starting at £30. Visit www.stressfreeairportparking.com for more information.
Review: If you have played at Laranjal, then why not write your own review? Remember, Golfmagic is giving away a GolfBuddy Platinum AND a GolfBuddy Voice GPS device EVERY MONTH for the best submitted course reviews. Click here for more details.