After an investment of €18m in 2004, the fifth golf course at Vilamoura opened for play. Arnold Palmer designed the Victoria and it’s a big layout that was built with tournament play in mind. One year after opening, the course hosted the WGC World Cup, which resulted in a Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge team Wales victory.
In 2007, Oceânico Golf, owners and operators of a group of seven Vilamoura courses, secured the inaugural Portugal Masters. Englishman Steve Webster won the new 2007 European Tour event with an impressive 25 under par total. The Portugal Masters has been held on the Victoria course ever since. Spain’s Alvaro Quiros shot a final round of 68 to win the 2008 title by three shots ahead of Scotland’s Paul Lawrie. Lee Westwood and Richard Green lifted the title in 2009 and 2010 respectively. 20-year-old Tom Lewis, who shot to fame by leading the Open at Royal St George’s as an amateur, won the 2011 Portugal Masters. Lewis birdied five of the last seven holes to claim his maiden title in only his third professional start.
In some ways, the Victoria is similar to the Smurfit course at the K Club, but naturally the weather here on the Algarve is somewhat warmer. The hazards are severe and you may settle for the safe option and a few three putts by aiming to hit these huge, fast and undulating greens in regulation. Keeping out of the numerous water hazards and the threatening bunkers will surely pay dividends to your scorecard on this relatively flat course.
Most new courses require a settling in period and the Oceânico Victoria course at Vilamoura is no different. Some say the Victoria may threaten Vilamoura’s wonderful Old course in the ranking tables, but somehow we doubt it. We think Vilamoura’s new Faldo designed course, which is both dramatic and strategic, may give the Old a run for its money.
This is a nicely designed course that gets better as you get on. The greens are true which should always be a given but is not always the case. The standout holes for me are 7, 11, 12 (which with a big drive is ultimate risk and reward), 14th, 17th and 18 which off the yellows is a 445 yard par 4 that asks a 200 yard carry over water to make it easy. We play very year as a 3 ball and I would just ask to adopt Monte Rei's attitude of not putting other people with us.
During Easter 2016 I had the chance to play the course four times. The expectations were high after six visits to Portugal Masters on the same course. This is a fantastic course. The conditions of tees, fairways and greens are just excellent. It is a quite long course from yellow and white tees, so you need to have a good day with your driver. The course rewards the strategic player since the bunkers and water hazards are numerous. The front nine are very good and the back nine is just amazing. Maybe some high handicapers can find the course a bit difficult. There are other good courses in the Algarve but this one is a memory for life. You have to play it!