IT’S NOT ALL THAT FARO!
CLIVE AGRAN VISITS PINE CLIFFS RESORT IN THE ALGARVE, PORTUGAL.
Spectacular golf holes can induce swing paralysis. I first succumbed to this miserable malaise on the third tee at the Durban Golf and Country Club a few years’ ago in South Africa. Ranked among the top ten golf holes of the world, I was so in awe that my jaw dropped open in an unattractive way as I prepared to tee off. My whole body then went into a kind of involuntary spasm and my ball sliced into the distance never to be seen again. So, although I’ve played the course, I can’t honestly claim to have played that hole. Indeed, until now, I’ve never even mentioned it.
My sub-conscious thoughtfully reminded me of the experience as I stepped onto the ninth or sixth tee at the Pine Cliffs Resort in the Algarve. Although it’s not famous in the conventional sense, it’s a hole that features prominently on all the promotional literature of this superb resort and so it commands respect in the way that celebrities do.
Fabulous though the views are of the pounding Atlantic surf thundering into the beautiful sand beach below from this cliff-top eerie, it’s not a spot upon which to dwell too long.
Erosion is evident in the receding crags and crevices of the reddened cliffs and the thought did cross my mind that a combination of global warming and divot-digging golf clubs might see the demise of this bit at any moment.
Nicknamed the ‘Devil’s Parlour’, there’s no fairway on this 230-yard par three. There’s just the small matter of a 170-yard carry over a ball-gobbling chasm. Even the flag was only visible from the waist up as I let fly a four-wood that never looked anything other than glorious.
The three-foot, birdie putt was a formality and for me “that tee-shot” was the only interesting topic of conversation as I sat afterwards in the scent-laden air sipping a cool lager with my playing partners on the magnificent Clubhouse terrace.
We had all enjoyed what is often described as the best nine-holer in Portugal. If nothing else, the course dramatically demonstrates that the modern obsession with length is at best misguided. Although only two of the holes are more than 420 yards, all of them require care and demand respect. Essentially, the course calls for precision rather than power. Apart from bunkers and the occasional gorge, its principal defence is provided by the numerous umbrella pines that are liberally sprinkled about and have an extraordinary knack of getting in the way. Although not especially large or particularly close to one another, they are nevertheless remarkably effective shot blockers.
Always presented in immaculate condition and with greens as good as you will find anywhere in the Algarve, this Martin Hawtree designed cliff-top challenge should be enough of a treat to entice golfers. Located very handily no more than half-an-hour from Faro and extremely close to the bustling seaside town of Albufeira, the Pine Cliffs Resort is also exceptionally convenient to numerous other great courses in the area – including Quinta da Lago, Vilamoura, Val do Lobo and Vila Sol – and therefore makes an ideal golfing base.
It is also blessed with exceptional practice facilities including an excellent driving range, a pitching and chipping area and a large putting green. There’s also a modern Golf Academy equipped with all the latest teaching technology and a number of PGA professionals happy to give lessons. Although the course and golf facilities explain some of the enormous appeal that the Pine Cliffs Resort has for golfers, they are by no means the whole story. For a start there is a truly magnificent sandy beach at the foot of the cliffs. Reachable by a lift as well as steps, it’s arguably the best in the Algarve.
With swimming, sailing, surfing, snorkeling and a range of other super watersports on offer, it’s undoubtedly one of the best places to be if you’re not playing golf.
There are several superb tennis courts, a health club with an indoor heated swimming pool, five further pools outside and some simply beautiful gardens. There’s the enormously popular Pirate Kids Club, where children are constantly supervised and can safely be left whilst their parents enjoy themselves out on the golf course.
There’s a mouth-watering range of dining options from simple snacks on the beach to fine dining in a glorious gourmet restaurant.
The hotel, the Sheraton Algarve, is pure class. Essentially Portuguese in style with subtle Arab influences, it contains a number of intimate courtyards and inner terraces that offer welcome shade during the hottest part of the day. The rooms are delightfully sophisticated, elegantly furnished and are as comfortable as they are attractive. Most face either the golf course or the Atlantic.
Now, would like to hear about my birdie one more time?