OCeanico OLD (vilamoura) - 15 POINTS
Oceanico Old Course - Vilamoura as it was once called - is one of the grand Dames of golf on the Algarve coast, a mere 25 minutes drive from Faro Airport. The greeting we got was a warm one - friendly staff and efficient dispensing of cheese and ham rolls to be taken out onto the course.
The first hole is a gentle downhill par 4 which would only take a rescue iron and wedge to get to. Nice, straightforward but good fun. And that's really what the Old Course is. There's nothing tricked up about it. The rough isn't too penal, the shots all there laid out in front. The most unusual aspect though is the positioning of the huge canopy trees. Find yourself off the fairway, or even on the wrong side of it, and you will have to either punch out sideways or change your playing line to avoid a mid-air collision which costs shots.
Five par 5s and four par 3s makes it a par 73 which seemed odd as two of the par 5s were less than 470 yards and could have easily been a par 72 instead. The condition was pretty good on the fairways and greens but the tee boxes were poor and out of the keeping with the rest of the course
It was a solid 16-pointer for sure. We played it on the first day of a three course trip to the Algarve and it was the perfect start. Hard to score too badly and nothing too challenging but very well laid out holes which required some thinking rather than pure brute power.
There's a nice video here which shows you the course in some details - check out those canopy trees!
BOOKING THE COURSE
The Oceanico Old course is part of the Oceanico monolith which runs most of the courses in the area. Green fees range from €117 in the low season (December, January, July and August) to €140 in the peak months of March April and October. Again though, well worth looking on bother their sites and the tour operators for package deals as the Algarve is not awash with cash at the moment and there are deals to be hand.
You can book times online here if you do choose to go direct.
We were just in and out for a couple of days so we stayed at the nearby Dona Filipa hotel which has deals to get on at San Lorenzo. The local economy is not in the best of health of recent years so you can get some absolutely cracking deals there. Have a look directly on the website or at one of the tour operator's packages.
The peak golf season is probably in the autumn and spring where the temperatures are in the early to mid 20s. Mid summer you will get some good deals on the golf as fewer people play in the heat but hotels will be more expensive. The flight from the UK is less than 3 hours long and Faro airport is within a 30 minute drive so it's very accessible for a short trip while the UK is shivering.
When it came to nightlife there was a suitably tacky bar next door to the hotel - Monty's - which is full of the expat community and a good restaurant on site. There are plenty of opportunities around and about for evening activities. Vilamoura is just over 20 minutes drive away and there is a classy port with plenty of clubs, pubs and restaurants. If you want to go all out tacky though then head to Albufeira, about half an hour away. It's got the full range of kiss-me-quick bars and clubs open all through the night. Think Blackpool in the sun. Who could possibly resist?!
As for other courses the Algarve is blessed with a plethora - this really is a golfing mecca. You can see the top100 sites ratings for the Algarve here. We played at San Lorenzo, Oceanico Old and Monte Rei so played the top 3 courses in the area and they were all good tracks. While the others may not have quite such good reputations courses like the other Oceanico courses and Quinta da Lago are all very well respected and have held numerous European Tour events so it will be hard to go too wrong.
There is a lot going for the Algarve as a golf destination - the weather, the proximity, the cost (if you do it wisely). As for the golf, well it will be perfectly fine - it's not world beating but equally it won't cause you any offence!
Oceanico Old Course
Volta Golfinho 24, Portugal
Tel - +351 289 310 34
Web - www.oceanicogolf.com/our-courses/oceanico-old-course/