If only the Portuguese economy was in state that was half as healthy as its Algarve golf courses.
But now, in order to tempt back British golfers scared of an overvalued Euro and a massive VAT hike levied by Portugal’s government, some resorts are offering blinding off peak golf packages.
None better are those offered by the luxurious Monte da Quinta Suites hotel, the latest addition to quality destinations in central Algarve. Backing onto the two Quinta do Lago courses - North and South - it’s within an easy minibus journey of stunning San Lorenzo and the latest kid on the block, Laranjal.
Our fourball stayed for two nights and played the South Course, an old stager in Portuguese terms which opened in 1974 and has hosted the national Ppen championship eight times. Laranjal, however, is set in a former orange grove and opened in October 2009.
In glorious spring sunshine, and the courses just starting to see some tourist activity, both tracks were in immaculate condition, with greens faster than anything experienced during the recent heatwave in southern England, well-mown fairways and lush tee boxes.
The downside of the par-72, 7,095-yard North course is that it takes time to really get going even in a buggy. Unless you want to endure some precipitous climbs and the occasional long yomp from green to the next tee box, settling for four-wheel transport is the preferred option.
The course is shaped in two loops with all the drama coming on the back-nine forming the lower half of a figure of eight. Having faced a number of long uphill par-4s to elevated greens, it was good to have some change of scenery. The 14th is a splendid 383-yard par-4 played from an elevated tee from which you can also catch a glimpse of the lagoon which must be carried to hit the green on next.
The finish is first-class although our group favoured Laranjal - a friendly bear of a course with wide fairways played across lakes and huge white sandy bunkers to well-guarded, greens backed by conifers and cork trees. With five par-5s and five par-3s, there’s plenty of variation and so much to enjoy.
Even off the yellow tees it’s still a formidable test of every shot in your arsenal and it was a tired but happy group that walked off the par-5 18th ready for a cold beer served on a clubhouse terrace bathed in sunshine.