European Golfing Hotspots
From vintage golf to vintage wines, Europe is top of the leader board when it comes to must-play courses – and they’re just a short flight away. Follow in the footsteps of Ryder Cup legends at Valderrama, sink a few putts and pints in the sunny Algarve and beautiful Mallorca, and bag a birdie as well as a designer bargain in fashionable Deauville.
Tee off: With six excellent courses, Vilamoura is the Algarve’s golfing capital. The Oceanico Old Course (Apartado 970, Vilamoura, 289 310 333) remains the grandest of them all but Vila Sol’s (Alto do Semino, Morgadinhos, Vilamoura, 289 320 370) 27 holes are in Europe’s top 10. San Lorenzo Golf Club’s (Quinta do Lago, 289 396 522) testing fairways hug the stunning Ria Formosa nature reserve, while Vale do Lobo’s Ocean and Royal courses (Almancil, 289 353 000) are an excellent test of skills. East of Faro, the Jack Nicklaus signature course Monte Rei (Apartado 118, Vila Nova de Cacela, 281 950 960) is a firm favourite.
Grab a bite: Vilamoura’s chic marina is packed full of trendy bars and restaurants serving ice-cold sangria, barbecued sardines and spicy piri-piri chicken. You’ll be spoilt for choice at Vale do Lobo’s 15 restaurants, while over at Monte Rei, Michelin-star trained chef Jaime Perez wows golfers with his Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Check out the seafood restaurants on Meia-Praia Beach, especially São Roque (Lagos, 282 792 101).
See the sights: Rev up the speed on a jeep safari through the beautiful Monchique Mountains or slow it down on a relaxing birdwatching cruise of the Ria Formosa nature reserve. Take a stroll around Silves with its castle and 12th-century Gothic cathedral, or watch motor racing in Portimão.
Insider tip: If they bring six guests along, golf professionals can stay and play for free at the Conrad Algarve (Estrada da Quinta do Lago, Almancil, 289 350 700) – this exclusive offer runs until 31 December 2013.
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Tee off: Ryder Cup host Valderrama (Avenida Los Cortijos, Sotogrande, 956 791 200), probably the toughest of the Costa del Sol’s 70 courses, comes at an eye-watering €300 a round. Fortunately, La Finca Cortesin (Carretera de Casares, 952 937 883), San Roque Club’s Old Course (San Roque, 956 613 030) and Sotogrande (Paseo del Parque, Sotogrande, 956 785 014) are equally classy neighbours. Close to Marbella, Rio Real (Marbella, 952 765 732), Mijas Golf Club (Avenida Louison Bobet, Mijas, 952 476 843), La Quinta (Marbella, 952 762 390) and La Cala Resort’s (Mijas Costa, 952 669 033) three excellent courses are all beautifully laid out and a good test of skill.
Grab a bite: Trendy bars and stylish restaurants are within a stagger of fashionable Puerto Banús, Marbella and Fuengirola. Lamoraga (Calle Ramón Areces, Puerto Banús, 952 817 448) dishes up delicious contemporary Spanish cuisine. The Almenara Golf Resort’s (Avenida Almenara, Sotogrande, 956 582 054) post-golf Club sandwich and the Puente Romano Hotel’s (Bulevar Príncipe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, Marbella, 952 820 900) lunchtime seafood buffet are renowned. An après-golf tapas tour takes in six of San Roque’s bars for around €18.
See the sights: Spot celebrities on mega-yachts at Puerto Banús marina. Cool off in the mountains at picture-postcard Mijas with its pretty whitewashed houses, bullring and donkey taxis. Take an open-top bus tour of Málaga and chill at a café in busy Plaza de la Merced before tackling Picasso’s memorabilia-filled home nearby and the Picasso Museum (Calle San Agustín 8, Málaga, 902 443 377) where his artworks are on display.
Insider tip: Privilege room upgrades at the H10 Andalucía Plaza (Nueva Andalucía, Marbella, 952 812 000) come with access to a free bar.
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Tee off: The €30 million Son Gual (Finca Son Gual, Palma de Mallorca, 971 785 888), 10 minutes from the city centre, is the chicest place to play, its fairways in tip-top condition. Style is also guaranteed at Club de Golf Alcanada (Puerto de Alcudia, 971 549 560), which is owned by the Porsche family. The Robert Trent Jones Junior-designed course offers great views over the Bay of Alcudia. Golf Son Vida (Son Vida, Palma de Mallorca, 971 791 210), the island’s oldest club, is also one of the most picturesque.
Grab a bite: Join the young, affluent crowd at fruit-themed Bar Ábaco (Calle San Juan 1, Palma de Mallorca, 971 714 939) in the Old Town for exotic cocktails and rousing opera music in a somewhat peculiar setting. Queues denote La Bóveda (Calle Botería 3, 971 714 863), where Basque tapas are served with Castilian charm. Majorcan wines are excellent – visit a bodega and see for yourself.
See the sights: Visit the 800-year-old Gothic Palma Cathedral before browsing the Old Town for hand-blown glass and Manacor cultured pearls. Chug through the mountains on the old Sóller Railway from Palma to sleepy Sóller. Visit the monastery at Valldemossa, where Frédéric Chopin spent a winter with French writer George Sand – the scenery is stunning.
Insider tip: Green fees are more expensive than on the mainland so look out for free rounds of golf, twilight deals and discounted multi-round passes.
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Tee off: You’ll find frites and fairways aplenty here. Modern art is dotted along the fairways of L’Amirauté Golf course (Tourgéville, 02 3114 4200). The Golf Barrière de Deauville (Mont Canisy, Saint-Arnoult, 02 3114 2424) and Golf Barrière de Saint-Julien (Saint-Julien-sur-Calonne, 02 3164 3030) are two of the prettiest in the region. Omaha Beach Golf Club (La Ferme Saint Sauveur, Port en Bessin, 02 3122 1212) offers 36 challenging holes close to the D-Day Landing Beaches. Beware lost balls on the cliff-top fairways of Golf d’Etretat (Route du Havre, Etretat, 02 3527 0489).
Grab a bite: Take your pick of Deauville’s bars, brasseries and restaurants. A lively night out is guaranteed at noisy Le Spinnaker (52 rue Mirabeau, 02 3188 2440), where a gourmet tasting menu costs €55. Family-run Le Yearling (38 avenue Hocquart de Turtot, 02 3188 3337) serves up French classics at reasonable prices.
See the sights: If you like a punt, visit the famous race course and elegant casino. A shopper’s paradise, Deauville rivals Paris for chic designer brands, from Louis Vuitton to Dior. An indoor Olympic-size pool (Boulevard de la Mer, 02 3114 0217) is ideal for rainy days, and the D-Day Landing Beaches are close by.
Insider tip: Deauville is busy year-round so there is always plenty of life in the town. Le Bar du Normandy (38 rue Jean Mermoz, 02 3198 6622) is the stylish place to be and be seen – and you’re very likely to spot a celebrity
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