The Algarve has become famous for its great selection of courses and is now one of the top destinations in the world for golfers. However, this exciting region of Portugal has not always been like it is today and it wasn’t until 1966 when an 18-hole course came into existence. That honour went to the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course. If you want to enjoy a great round of golf and step back in time, this is the course for you, featured as one of the best courses in the Algarve.
Penina Championship Golf Course was the very first golf course to open 51 years ago in the Algarve by the one and only Sir Henry Cotton, and know to most under the same name. This 18 Hole Championship golf course is the centrepiece of the Penina Golf Resort just 10 kilometres from Portimao and Praia da Rocha and a must-play whilst in the area.
Often called the Penina Championship golf course in the Algarve, this Sir Henry Cotton designed Championship course has played host to the Portuguese Open on several occasions. In fact, when the tournament became an event on the European Tour in the 1970s, the Sir Henry Cotton Championship course was one of the first to stage the event and did so successfully into the 1980s, through to 2006. Famous winners of the Portuguese Open on this course include Bernhard Gallacher, Sir Nick Faldo, and Miguel Ángel Jiménez. The course continues to host important golf events to this day, such as the Seniors' Match Play.
As the name of the course suggests, it was designed and built by the three-time Open Championship winner, Sir Henry Cotton. He planted over 350,000 shrubs and trees, which is what provides the lovely woodland feel the course enjoys today. The natural streams and lakes were remodelled into a fantastic layout.
The structure of the course is interesting and you will notice immediately it is a par-73 course, which goes against the norm for championship courses. There is one par-5 on the front nine holes and four on the back nine holes and although the surroundings may seem peaceful and relaxing, you must be prepared for a true test of your golfing ability on this course.
The gently rolling fairways and greens are always well kept and in great condition all year round. The greens are difficult to read and some of them can be quite narrow and difficult to find on approach. A great example is the 1st, which features a dogleg left off the tee and narrow green, which is guarded by a bunker front-right. If you were not fully focused on your round of golf before the first hole, you will be once you have completed it.
The only par-5 on the front nine is a great risk and reward hole. A solid drive off the tee will have you in two minds as to whether you should attack the green and with a lake and out of bounds on either side of the hole, you need to 100% committed if you are going for it in two. Moving onto the back nine and the 12th hole is a real beauty. From the tee, it looks easy enough, with a nice straight fairway. However, there is a bunker on the right, which you must avoid because the approach to the green is over water. With the front of the green sloping towards the drink, you cannot afford to be short on this approach.
The 12th hole is a great example of what to expect on the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course. It may be the oldest golf course in the Algarve but it is still one of the best and most exciting.