Amendoeira Golf Resort (Faldo)
Location: Monte Raposo, Algarve
Designer: Nick Faldo
Amendoeira Golf Resort (Faldo) is ranked number 89 in our Top 100 Courses Europe:
There is significant evidence to suggest that just as a football team often reflects the personality of its manager, there is similar synergy between a golf course and its designer.
Going back a century, Tom Simpson’s relatively eccentric work compared to the more considered style of Harry Colt reflected the fact the former was an extrovert man of means who could thus literally afford to take risks with his architecture. He didn’t actually need the work, whereas the (hardly stodgy) style of the latter was of a man who was building a reputation and a business.
In modern times, Greg Norman’s prolific bunkering puts an emphasis on driving, the part of the game at which he excelled. Keen historian Frank Pont will never shy away from a chance to include a nod to past architecture and Kyle Phillips’ wide playing areas and funky greens reflect his sunny disposition. Tom Doak, leading the minimalist style that is now in vogue – as well as in more recent times, a reversible course – could barely be more apt for a man unafraid to challenge convention and stir debate.
Sir Nick Faldo is another with a tangible line between his personality and golf course design style. He was the player no-one wanted in their rear-view mirror in the ’80s and ’90s as a result of his enmity for handing loose shots back to the course and the field. Now he dislikes giving cheap shots to those who play the courses he has designed.
So while his Faldo Design company carry out the main thrust of the work, there is tangible influence by Sir Nick on his courses, and perhaps the best illustration sits in the sun-scorched hills of the Algarve.
The Faldo course within the Amendoeira Golf Resort has been a fixture in the Golf World Top 100 Courses in Europe since it made its debut in the list in 2009. It is without a doubt one of the best golf courses in Portugal, and it retained its position of 89th in our latest Top 100 Golf Courses Europe.
In a much-changed ranking of nine new entries this was a notable achievement, especially so because the ranking was shaped by the courses being marked in six different criteria, one of which was ‘Playability’. The Faldo is simply never going to score highly in that category and indeed it polled a lowly 11.1 out of 15 among our panel.
In the other categories, though, it prospered, earning 18.6 and 16.6 for its Design and Presentation respectively. Consistency, at 7.2, was above average and its setting a healthy 15.4. As other resort courses of this ilk fell out of the Top 100 or down the list, it held firm.
Its creator is Nick Faldo. A man who happily shot 18 straight pars to win an Open, would not quibble with our assessment of his golf course.
“I like my courses to be challenging to anyone who plays them,” the six-time major champion tells Golf World. “There might be easy holes in some places, but you still have to think about them, and that is what I am after. The best compliment you can get as a designer is players saying ‘wow, that was a challenge,” when they finish. That’s what I wanted at Amendoeira Golf Resort.”
Amendoeira is far from an impossible golf course. Providing you are honest about your ability and select the correct tees, you can have an incredibly enjoyable round of golf. You will also enjoy the expansive views that Amendoeria Golf Resort provides. It is the epitome of a robust, well-groomed championship golf venue.
The resort is located 15 minutes inland from the golden sandy beaches of the Algarve. It sits on the outskirts of Alcantarilha, with the town of Silves 10 minutes away to the west, and the popular resort of Albufeira just 25 minutes to the south.
Amendoeira Golf Resort is owned by the Oceanico Group, and includes a second 18 holes course designed by Sir Nick’s former Ryder Cup team-mate Christy O’Connor Jnr. It reflects its creator’s personality; fun, forgiving and utterly welcoming.
The hilltop clubhouse is the bustling hub of the resort, and is where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, accompanied by spectacular views of both golf courses. There are also superb practice facilities and a floodlit par-3 academy course.
A new gym, kid’s club, children’s outdoor playground, and handsome villas for hire/to buy are further amenities that combine to make this a large and well-rounded resort – but one clearly dedicated to golf.
In front of the clubhouse, both Faldo and O’Connor Jnr are honoured with statues that you pass en route to the 1st tees of the courses.
There is a big difference between the courses’ nature, and also the terrain they are based on. The O’Connor course mostly darts about the bottom of the valley, whereas the Faldo is routed across much more undulating land. The significant elevation changes provide terrific widescreen views of the whole resort, and surrounding countryside. Whilst the course may be tough, it is certainly not claustrophobic.
So what makes the golf course so difficult?
The Faldo course is a simple one to follow. If you don’t, you will find yourself out of position very easily. If you try to rescue a par, you will often produce a double bogey instead.
The greens are large, and their slopes not only make putting difficult, but add an extra dimension when trying to escape from the deep greenside bunkers. If you land your chip or bunker shot on the ‘wrong’ level for that day’s pin position, the undulations will take your ball in the wrong direction.
The holes very well in both length and features. There are strong and fair par-3’s, and a brutish par-5 of nearly 700 yards. The course is impressive in its consistency too, with the strongest holes spread out well and no sense of a lull.
The first hole is a 456-yard par 4 with a fairway that plays uphill, so even if you find the sweet spot on your driver, you will achieve a fairly short distance despite the warm air.
It’s hard to imagine the two jigsaw-shaped front bunkers don’t see an awful lot of action on this hole and it is hard work to get down in three never mind two from there; sitting below the putting surface, it takes a dexterous but committed shot to get the ball out and in the vicinity of anything but a front pin.
The fast, sloping green makes a quick six loom large. Off the whites it is basically the same, and even off the yellows it is close to 430.
One can also imagine a quick chat about moving forward a set of tees regularly taking place on the 2nd tee, but fears of something unremittingly brutal are allayed nicely on the next two. The 2nd is a short hole played downhill to a kidney-shaped green. Just 161 yards off the yellows, it is protected by three front bunkers, an unforgiving apron and a very funky green surface.
After the sporty 3rd (see previous page) come two more risk-reward holes: the first par 5 at 4 plays downhill right to left with a dilemma of whether to carry the bunkers and barranca with your second, while a heroic carry over water on the 6th is a tempting short cut (if you’ve chosen correct tees).
A Redan-like short 7th and strategic 8th maintain the pace, the latter being stroke one yet not long, for the challenge here is in dealing with the central bunker that splits the fairway and then the narrow, angled, tiered green.
Following one of the course’s best driving holes from an elevated tee on 10, you cross under the Silves-Alcantarilha road to play most of the back nine.
The cool short 11th – the shortest hole on course – is played over water to a funky long but narrow green with a cascading stream down left, and then you start to climb and it is worth emphasising this is a buggy course unless you really, really enjoy a lengthy and stiff walk. Walking is always this golfer’s preference, but four wheels are required here.
The twisting, turning 12th, the brawny 13th at 674 yards off tips – with a phenomenal view from course’s highest point – the clever short par 4s at 14 and 15, a funky green on the short 16th, and the split-level fairway on 17 are all played ‘over the road’ on the steep hillside. Back under the road, the par-5 18th looks ominously bunkered but in fact gives you a chance of a nice closing score to finish.
A birdie there might take away some of the nip you’ve felt at times during the round – but that is just the way the man who created it wanted it.