Designed by Sir Nick Faldo with strategic play in mind this 6598m PAR 72 championship course demands careful positioning to score well.
"The land at Amendoeira is dramatic and the project has the potential to be a real talking point in the Algarve. With so many courses in the region, that's no mean feat", pointed out Nick Faldo, during his visit in 2007.
In a modern twist of a traditional recipe, cacti and wild herbs replace the role of Sunningdale's heather, spartan Holm oaks and ancient olive trees take the place of a lush English woodland, and desert scrub bunkers of crushed limestone replace Berkshire’s sandy tracts in a golf course that revels in the classic principles of strategic play.
Nick said: "This was a very exciting project, which gave me a great opportunity to exploit my passion for design the same way I exploited my passion for playing. You have incredible views, beautiful undulating land and any time you have natural terrain like this, it is great fun to work with."
"The real skill is that when you stand on the tee, the golf hole tells you what to do and if you do what it tells you there is reward but if you don't you're penalised. The back nine is quite hilly, which is fantastic because we've got some great views to complement the course."
"I like my courses to be challenging to whoever plays them. There might be easy holes in some places, but they are a challenge because you have to think about them, and that is what I am after. The best compliment you can get in the design business is when players come off the course and say 'wow, that was a challenge,' and that's just what I planned at Amendoeira Golf Resort."
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Amendoeira Golf Resort is just 35 minutes drive from Faro Airport along the A22 motorway, 4 km inland from the beach resort of Armação de Pêra.
Exit Faro on the main road alongside the airport roundabout and follow the signs for Faro and A22. Continue along this road for approx 2.5 km and take the second exit on the right signposted A22 Lisboa & Portimão to join a dual carriageway. After approx 4 km move to the left hand lane and take the left fork on the dual carriageway following the sign A22/Lisboa/Portimão/Albufeira. After a further 3 km take the right hand exit off the dual carriageway following the sign for A22 Lisboa/Portimão/Albufeira.
Continue for approx 45 km and leave at junction 7/Alcantarilha, where you will come to a large roundabout. Take the first right, signposted Silves, and continue on the road (EN529) for approx 2 km and at the second roundabout the entrance to Amendoeira Golf Resort is on your right.
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After a drive from elevated tees, keeping right side of the fairway is a better line into a green fringed left by five olive trees. A bunker front right, and bunkers set into the foreground ridge protect against an under clubbed approach, while two gnarled carob trees frame the rear. The intent is to then avoid these varied hazards with either a bump and run from off the right edge of the green or a shot carried full to the receptively sloped putting surface
This short hole, the first of the course’s four par 3 holes, is played downhill to a shallow green which poses the player some serious questions, falling steeply off to the right, backed by a rocky outcrop and surrounded threateningly on the left by a large desert bunker studded with clumps of flowering cacti.
Here the golfer is presented with a commanding tee shot, filled with strategic options. The most dynamic route is to cut the dogleg to reach the green 300m away in one glorious shot, the other options require varying combinations of precision and length before hitting the approach shot up to a two-tiered green which sits poised over 360 degree views of Amendoeira. An extraordinary row of five intertwined Holm oaks guard the right side of the carry.
The length of this long hole presents the golfer with another demanding tee shot, which has to be played downhill and downwind to a turn point a full 300m away; a draw is the right shape for your opening shot. The dilemma for the second shot is whether to carry the bunkers and the barranca (a dry ditch filled with rocks) in going for the green in two, or whether to play a "safer" route to a fairway that is threatened only by that barranca.
Here, the golfer is presented with a tricky choice of tee shot: a heroic carry across the largest lake on the golf course, or, alternatively, opting for strategic fairway positioning. The rationale and reward for pursuing either route will vary depending entirely on the pin location of the day. The carry is over water and a scrub bunker, the safer line is all about precision and position, placing the ball precisely to the right side of the dogleg left fairway.
Options abound for each shot from tee to green; various sections of fairway are protected or defined by changes in levels and the arrangements of traps. The result presents innumerable strategic subtleties. Similar in length to the 4th hole, it plays in the opposite direction, quartering into an unhelpful prevailing breeze. With the wind up it is a full three shots to a green that slopes to favour an approach from the more evasive left side of the fairway.
A variation on the North Berwick's Redan hole, the green can be reached by either a fully flighted ball or a bump and run shot feeding down onto the putting surface from the high right side of the approach ground.
Again this tee shot offers options, an arrow straight drive down a narrow channel between the barranca and a central fairway bunker leads to a shorter second shot taking you onto a long, shallow, oblique green. A tee shot to the right leaves a longer approach which carries defending bunkers and asks the ball to be stopped quickly on a surface that slopes away from this direction of approach.
A sweeping, rolling fairway rewards a long tee shot which climbs the step to a plateau from which the green is spied on a natural platform beyond a narrow valley.
The hole stretches away from the high tees to the plain below, and appears to encourage two long draws to attack the green which is bunkered all along the left approach. The wind helps the draw on the tee shot to set up the best angle into the green. But drawing of the approach shot must not be overdone, for the green, 45m long, is narrow and slopes down to the left. When any cross breeze is blowing a controlled fade is a better option to hold the second shot up on the green.
Back into the hills this, the shortest hole on the course, plays up to an angled green. The hole may be short but the green is stretched long - so long that three clubs’ distances cover the front to back pin placements. A waste bunker sprawls down from the right, while a cascading stream runs along the left side.
Another spectacular tee shot must fly over a wooded valley to a ridge of fairway still showing the ancient terraces formed by walls of large boulders and hewn rock. The green is perched higher still, guarded by a magnificent cork oak tree.
From here, the highest point on the golf course, at 50m above the plain, the view over the entire property is commanding - and the view to the fairway is daunting! Although, as ever, safer and easier alternative routes are available, the temptation is to carry as far across the tree tops in the valley below as possible to a distant section of fairway buttressed by cliff walls. The fairway sweeps down and down with cliffs high to the left and a rock wall low to the right. The second shot carries a large area of scrub and the players must decide whether to be short of, carry, or thread through a pair of offset fairway bunkers in the approach area. The need for precision is heightened by the location of the green which juts out on a thin promontory which falls away on all sides.
Traversing uphill, the fairway slopes across from the high right. Waiting below its left edge is a cavernous desert scrub area from where sand was once extracted. The tee shot should be faded into the fairway’s slope to set up a second shot to a green nestled on a terrace beyond the quarry.
The ball to the centre or left of the fairway is gathered in benignly, a ball ‘lost’ on the breeze to the right side is deflected down and away from the green. Given that the green is ledged precariously into the hillside with a steep bunker below it is vital that the tee shot has been accurate. There is precious little margin for error for this second shot and every advantage of stance, elevation and lie from the fairway will be repaid in full.
This is a lovely par 3. There is no big mounding, and a lake runs along the right hand side guarding the hole because it is quite a wide fairway. Anybody playing up the left hand side is going to have a free run at this golf hole. Just watch out for the lake; it runs all the way along the right hand side and up to the right hand side of the green. So anybody hitting the ball safely must keep it up the left-hand side to keep out of trouble.
The split-level fairway is divided by a central bunker 265m from the back tee. This bunker blocks the left channel if hit too long, while a very full drive along the right side climbs to a plateau which then drops down to usher the ball still further up the fairway. Due to the shape and orientation of the green the shorter left side of the fairway can be a preferable position and angle from which to make the second shot, though more often a shorter and easier approach shot is accomplished by staying long and to the right.
To stand a chance of getting up in two the drive must thread the pinch point of bunkers left and right at 265m and have enough fade to hold the right edge of the fairway against the contradictory slope. Letting it go left leaves a very awkward angle home. The green sets up in an amphitheatre in the hillside 235m beyond and requires a superb strike to rise up to and settle on the green. Opting only to reach the green in a regulation three strokes brings the barranca into play. Decision time! Lay up short to leave a mid iron in or carry the hazard for a short pitch up to the green. Under clubbing either shot, or over spinning the pitch risks the humiliation of the ball trickling backwards 50m, all the way, down to the lower fairway level. The clubhouse balcony gives a fabulous view of play from tee to green - no pressure then!