New-look Palmares takes the prize


Sean Dudley

Adam Lawrence attended the reopening of one of the Algarve's oldest courses.

Portuguese firm Grupo Onyria, the owner of the Quinta da Marinha resort outside Lisbon, has opened the reconstructed Palmares course on the Algarve coast in the south of the country.

Originally designed by Anglo-Dutch architect Frank Pennink, and located near the city of Lagos in the west of the Algarve, Palmares opened in 1975. The course was best known for the stretch of five holes set right next to the Atlantic Ocean, the nearest thing to links golf that existed in the Algarve.

Onyria, owned by the Pinto Coelho family which developed Quinta da Marinha in the 1980s in association with the firm of Robert Trent Jones Sr, bought Palmares back in 2003. To bring about its desired transformation at Palmares, the company chose the design practice of Robert Trent Jones Jr, continuing its 30 year association with the Jones family.

The new-look Palmares resort – which will include a hotel, currently in the early stages of construction and planned for a 2012 opening, and associated real estate – has 27 holes, divided into three nines, named Lagos, Alvor and Praia.

The Praia, or beach, nine includes four holes on the seafront land always occupied by the course. On the inland side of the Tunes to Lagos railway line, though, several holes, including two clever short par fours, occupy newly-purchased land, which has been shaped to resemble a links. This part of the site incorporates a double green modelled after the seventh and eleventh on the Old course at St Andrews, including an interesting replica of the famous Eden par three.

The Alvor nine is mostly inland, and includes some steeper terrain, along with the course’s most severe greens. The first three Alvor holes occupy the least interesting land on the property (although the third green is excellent) but after a road crossing, the course enters a beautiful natural valley, the location for three holes. A pretty par three near the water is the highlight of this nine, which concludes with a stiff climb up the eighth and ninth back to the clubhouse.

“Rather than imposing a so-called ‘signature’ look upon this gorgeous parcel of coastal land, we let the land itself determine what the course would look like,” Jones said. “As we’ve done throughout the world, we fit the golf holes into the topography so they look as though they’ve been there for centuries. We like to think of Palmares as having multiple personalities – in a good way. We were given land with great variety, and we used it to create a golf course that expresses different moods and characters, just as the land does, and so therefore it feels natural, and whole.”

A full review of the new-look Palmares resort will appear in issue 25 of GCA, to be published in July. Subscribe to the magazine to see the review.