One of the most deceptive golf courses on the Algarve, Pinheiros Altos, Quinta do Lago, 8135 Almancil (tel. 28/935-99-10; www.pinheirosaltos.com), has contours that even professionals say are far more difficult than they appear at first glance. American architect Ronald Fream designed the 100 hectares (247 acres), which abut the wetland refuge of the Rio Formosa National Park. Umbrella pines and dozens of small lakes dot the course. Par is 72. Greens fees are 45€ to 60€ for 9 holes and 80€ to 120€ for 18 holes. Pinheiros Altos lies about 5km (3 miles) south of Almancil. From Almancil, follow the signs to Quinta do Lago and Pinheiros Altos.
The namesake course of the massive development, Quinta do Lago, Quinta do Lago, 8135 Almancil (tel. 28/939-07-00; www.quintadolagogolf.com), consists of two 18-hole golf courses, Quinta do Lago and Rio Formosa. Together they cover more than 240 hectares (593 acres) of sandy terrain that abuts the Rio Formosa Wildlife Sanctuary. Very few long drives here are over open water; instead, the fairways undulate through cork forests and groves of pine trees, sometimes with abrupt changes in elevation. Greens fees are 150€ for 18 holes. The courses are 6km (3 3/4 miles) south of Almancil. From Almancil, follow signs to Quinta do Lago.
Of the four golf courses at the massive Quinta do Lago development, the par-72 San Lorenzo (São Lourenço) course, Quinta do Lago, Almancil, 8100 Loulé (tel. 28/939-65-22), is the most interesting and challenging. San Lorenzo opened in 1988 at the edge of the grassy wetlands of the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve. American golf designers William (Rocky) Roquemore and Joe Lee created it. The most panoramic hole is the 6th; the most frustrating is the 8th. Many long drives, especially those aimed at the 17th and 18th holes, soar over a saltwater lagoon. Greens fees are 75€for 9 holes and 150€ for 18 holes. From Almancil, drive 8km (5 miles) south, following signs to Quinta do Lago.
The Vale do Lobo course, Vale do Lobo, 8135 Almancil (tel. 28/935-34-65), technically isn't part of the Quinta do Lago complex. Because it was established in 1968, before any of its nearby competitors, it played an important role in launching southern Portugal's image as a golfer's mecca. Designed by the British golfer Henry Cotton, it contains four distinct 9-hole segments. All four include runs that stretch over rocks and arid hills, often within view of olive and almond groves, the Atlantic, and the high-rise hotels of nearby Vilamoura and Quarteira. Some long shots require driving golf balls over two ravines, where variable winds and bunkers that have been called "ravenous" make things particularly difficult. Greens fees, depending on the day of the week and other factors, range from 84€ to 94€ for 9 holes to 140€ to 155€ for 18 holes. From Almancil, drive 4km (2 1/2 miles) south of town, following signs to Vale do Lobo.
Visit www.algarvegolf.net for more information on courses in the Algarve region.
One of the most well-established riding stables in the area is Quinta do Lago at Edificio Pinheiros Altos Casa Teft, Almancil (tel. 28/939-60-99). Reservations are recommended. The riding trails pass through the forest, beside golf courses, and even, in some cases, beside a beach. Rides cost 38€ for 1 hour and 60€ for 2 hours.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.