Silves Golf Club is one of clutch of golf courses owned by the Pestana Golf Group in Portugal. The group, as with golf in general, has been slowly recovering from the economic collapse of 2007-8. This caused extreme hardship across Europe and beyond, but the ramifications for golf operators were hard felt when the Portuguese government increased VAT from 6% to 23% overnight with no warning.
This helped tax revenues for the government in the aftermath, but sent the golf world into a tailspin for a while. It was not just that tax increased immediately, but it also affected the already committed trade for the forthcoming year. Golf operators and tour operators now ensure that variances in tax are excluded from forward booked rates.
The course is a very pleasant par 70 with 6 par threes, 4 par fives and 8 par fours. The course is not overly long at around 6500 yards from the back tees, and there are plenty of options for those wishing to play a shorter layout. It is a perfect ‘resort style course’, which ensures that the fairways are generous and the water hazards, whilst a clear problem, are not placed with the sadism of some designers. Golf is to be enjoyed here and with reasonable prices and great views, this is indeed a fun place to spend time.
The greens are quite taxing and probably not to the liking of many top pros: quite fast and undulating, but a little bumpy in places. The gradients on and around the greens can really embarrass the golfer, as care is needed to place the ball below the hole where possible or it may not be easy to keep your first putt on the green.
It must be said that the author has - in a Quixotic slash at past glories - entered the Seniors Tour School. ‘Daft as a brush’ springs to mind, but with old friends also eager to see if there is any life in the engine, the frost of the UK was left behind for decidedly warmer days in the Algarve. What fun.
The clubhouse is ideally suited to cater for those looking to enjoy their golf, with good snack food served throughout the day by a cheerful team of waitresses and bar staff.
The course is lightly bunkered and quite a test for an old pro or an enthusiastic amateur, but would be a victim of the super powered tour pros who now populate the world’s main tours. Their extra power would render the course defenceless for the main part and having to rely on nasty pin positions on the undulating greens to keep the scoring at reasonable levels.
The practice putting green is quite good, but unimaginative, and there is little scope to work on your short game. The golf course caters for a lot of holidaymakers, who are obviously keener to play rather than practise.
Nevertheless, the absence of any golf range is a drawback to the facility. It is quite unusual for continental courses to not have any practice ground whatsoever. This is a substantial loss of potential revenue and also a loss of convenience for those wishing to warm up before their round, or spend more dedicated time working on their games with or without a tutor.
The real driver for courses of this type is the property opportunities that can be used around the edges of the course. This is obviously what has put paid to the practice range. These elegant and luxury homes were making colossal profits for golf operators 20 or more years ago and, despite the recent slowdown, this looks set to continue. At Silves Golf Club, there is quite a lot of construction work being undertaken at the present time.
These will create wonderful homes and second homes for the wealthy that can afford them. So the absence of a range is perhaps understandable, but quite unforgivable, bearing in mind that this week in particular is given over to the rekindling of dreams and serious golf from older pros.
Overall, the course is well worth playing and set at a mid price point. With golf in Portugal often costing substantial sums, this section of the market is well worth exploiting, as many visiting the area will want a reasonable course at reasonable prices. But you get what you pay for and Silves is honest fair, but with no frills.
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