NORTH COURSE RAISES THE BAR AT QUINTA - Golf News

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Sarah Stirk is impressed by the new-look North Course at Quinta do Logo, which has been redesigned by the magical hands of Paul McGinley

The Majors and the Ryder Cup have been standout weeks during my work with Sky Sports this year, but one tournament that always has a special place in my heart, despite the rare deluge experienced this year, is the Portugal Masters.

I normally stay locally with family, the weather is typically good, the food incredible – I make particular reference to Willies in Villamoura if you haven’t been – and the Portuguese people exude warmth with their welcoming hospitality. This year I went out a few days early for the opening of Quinta do Lago’s redeveloped North Course, which has cemented the prestigious Algarve venue’s position among the best and most exclusive golf resorts in the world.

Days after leading Europe to a memorable Ryder Cup victory against America, McGinley was in Portugal to perform the official opening ceremony of the new €9.6m layout, alongside renowned American architect Beau Welling, Quinta do Lago owner Denis O’Brien, and the resort’s chief executive John Dwyer.

One of the most talked-about design projects in Europe in 2014, McGinley has redeveloped the course in close collaboration with Welling, and it has the remarkable distinction of being completed in the space of just ten months. I was among the first to put the new-look layout to the test during the official opening day celebrations, and firmly believe that McGinley and Welling have a huge hit on their hands, with the North having the quality and potential to replace the famous neighbouring South Course as QDL’s top track.

Among the changes introduced on the par-72, 6,776-yard course, all greens, tees, bunkers, irrigation, drainage systems and cart paths have been rebuilt using the latest state-of-the-art technology. One of the key factor’s lies in the multiple sets of tees introduced on each hole to accommodate players of all levels, as the Ryder Cup skipper noted,

“A lot of people find the game very difficult so the aim with the Golf course was to make it as playable as possible for golfers of all levels. We are trying to encourage people to play the game in a beautiful place and the aim is not too intimidate but to encourage. We didn’t change the template or routing of the course but upgraded it and brought it into the modern world, making it as visual as possible. We want people to go out there, have fun and enjoy the course and its challenge so much that they want to come back and play it again. The course is a challenge, but also very fair.”

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The redevelopment is the first design project that McGinley has collaborated on with Welling, who worked with Tom Fazio for more than ten years, and is also the main consultant for Tiger Woods Design. Welling, who has worked on more than 90 projects worldwide, including the re-design of the famous PGA Tour course at Quail Hollow and Waterville in Ireland, added: “We are proud that we have created a golf course that all golfers will enjoy in the months and years to come, and I have really enjoyed working with the resort.”

The redevelopment is part of a major €29 million investment programme that has been undertaken by Quinta do Lago since 2009, with a further €21 million set to be spent on improving its facilities over the next three years. In line to become the new number one course at the prestigious family resort, the North Course has been revamped with the emphasis firmly on precision and strategy. While many modern-day developments tend to focus on length, Welling and McGinley have been keen to create a golfing experience where accuracy and course management are the key factors.

Dwyer added: “What Paul and Beau have achieved in such a short space of time is amazing and we’re very excited about the future. Golfers will be blown away by the redesigned layout, and I’m sure it’s a course that they will want to play time and time again. The North Course is part of the new face of Quinta do Lago and is the latest significant investment we have made to ensure that the resort remains the most family-friendly venue in the Algarve.”

As well as golf, the culinary experiences are really starting to set Quinta apart. We had the evening celebration dinner at the lakeside Casa Do Lago Restaurant, with seaside shabby chic interiors and gorgeous seafood, and many of you frequent Algarve visitors will have no doubt enjoyed numerous long, lazy lunches at the fabulous Gigi’s on the beach. If you haven’t already, do check out Pure Boutique Café run by John’s charismatic wife Ursula – it’s a superb place for breakfast or a healthy lunch after visiting the gym! A new high quality steak restaurant is next on the agenda to complement the existing gourmet offering.

For me, Quinta wins hands down when it comes to upmarket resorts in Portugal, and things are getting even better with the vast amounts being spent on redevelopment. The ambition is clear, the service remains first class, all in all good news for golf fans, many of which choose the Algarve as the number one destination in Europe.

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