Portugal's top 5 courses

Earlier this year the Golf Monthly team had a debate, sometimes heated, about the best courses in Portugal. Doubtless you'll have your own favourites, but in the end we went for the following

Praia D'El Rey

1 Monte Rei

Stats: par 72, 7,182 yards GF: €135-€190 W: monte-rei.com

Monte Rei's rise to prominence has been remarkably swift. The course, set across beautiful countryside between the Serra do Caldeirão mountains and the Atlantic in the Eastern Algarve, was only opened for play in September 2007.

Monte Rei is one of the few Jack Nicklaus ‘Signature' courses in Europe and the first in Portugal. Using the very highest standards of construction, Nicklaus has created a wonderful layout that blends seamlessly into the naturally rolling terrain and features a proliferation of water hazards along with some superb bunkering.

Each hole at Monte Rei is memorable in its own right (always the sign of a top-rate course) but the 13th deserves special mention. It's a stunning par 4 descending towards a green perched precariously on the edge of a natural lake.

Monte Rei is situated close to the Spanish border in the hills north east of Tavira. The fact it's away from the Algarve's golfing heartland (around Albufeira and Vilamoura) adds to Monte Rei's attraction and mystery.

The course is unique in terms of setting and topography, the design is of the highest quality and the level of service provided at the club is world class. Guests are able to sample everything from simple snacks to fine dining, which creates a unique Mediterranean culinary experience. However, it's a combination of all these luxuries that makes for a rather special golfing destination.

2 Praia D'El Rey

Stats: par 73, 7,110 yards GF: €72.50-€125 W: praia-del-rey.com

On a spectacular and rugged stretch of coastline some 40 miles north of Lisbon, the course at Praia D'El Rey was opened for play in 1997. It's a design by Cabell B. Robinson who worked with Robert Trent Jones for a number of years. Robinson is renowned for his imaginative and unique creations and he has not disappointed with the creation at Praia D'El Rey.

When he first saw the course site, Robinson apparently remarked: "This is the kind of landscape we architects try to create, but at Praia D'El Rey it's all here."

With that in mind, he successfully made use of the natural terrain, blending the holes beautifully into the landscape and creating a stunning result.

The majority of the course is set along the rough-edged Atlantic coastline, delivering a raw, linksy test as swooping fairways lead to firm and tricky greens. The rest of the holes are found amidst the pines, providing an appealing contrast.

3 Oceânico (Old Course)

Stats: par 73, 6,839 yards GF: €88-€150 W: oceanicogolf.com

Opened for play in 1969, the Old Course in the centre of Vilamoura is one of the Algarve's oldest tracks. Unlike many courses in the area, there's a feeling of permanence on the fairways of the Old Course. Frank Pennink was the original designer and Martin Hawtree completed an update in 1996.

4 San Lorenzo

Stats: par 72, 6,822 yards GF: Contact club for details W: sanlorenzogolfcourse.com

Set beside the Ria Formosa marshland bird sanctuary, San Lorenzo is an attractive, peaceful golf course where two loops of nine blend tree-lined and more open marshland-influenced holes. Opened in the late 1980s, San Lorenzo has always been one of the Algarve's more established and best respected clubs.

5 Oceânico (Faldo)

Stats: par 72, 7,216 yards GF: €110-€165 W: oceanicogolf.com

Located alongside the O'Connor course at Amendoeira, Oceânico's Nick Faldo design travels over undulating and sandy terrain that echoes the heathland tracks of south-east England. As you would expect of a Faldo course it demands a strategic approach as it winds past desert scrub and water hazards.

Although it only opened for play in September 2008, the Faldo has already earned a reputation as one of the Algarve's finest layouts. It's a challenging track where each hole poses a different test. This is not a course where you can bludgeon driver off every tee. The back nine is hillier than the front and it offers some attractive views over the surrounding countryside.  

Fergus Bisset
Fergus Bisset

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?