How Penina Made the Algarve a Golfing Mecca
As is inevitably the way with professional golfers, Sir Henry Cotton will mainly be remembered for his record on the course (he won three Open Championships between 1934 and 1948), but he should be remembered for much more than that. According to World Golf Hall of Fame, "he also championed the cause of British golf professionals seeking a higher ground in their country's society and became a patriarch of the European Golf Tour." In many ways, he helped make golf what it is today.
He was known for his hard work and perseverance, and he took this attitude with him into his post-playing career. Among his interests, Sir Henry counted course design and green keeping, and it was this, along with what Rikki White of Golfer Today describes as "a passion for champagne, Rolls Royces and a hedonistic lifestyle" that led him to Penina, where he would go on to create the first golf course in the Algarve.
Turning the Algarve into a "Golfing Mecca"
The Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course at Penina Hotel & Golf Resort that he created is steeped in history. According to Chris Bertram of World Golf, the course was so well received "that Sir Henry designed three more courses himself and helped turn almost the entire south coast of Portugal into a golfing Mecca." Alvor Portugal echoes this statement: "Penina is a Championship Course and is considered to be one of the greatest ever made by the famous course designer Sir Henry Cotton."
Penina's reputation as one of the Algarve's best golf courses has seen it become a regular fixture on the Portuguese Open. "[Penina] first staged this championship in 1976 when American Hal Underwood won the tournament" tells Bruce Young of I Seek Golf. Since then, the course has hosted the tournament a further nine times, and as such "nearly every golfer visiting the region knows of the course", says Fran Gallagher, of Global Traveller USA.
An Awe-Inspiring Setting in the Iberian Peninsula
The reasons for Penina's success as a course are many, including its magnificent setting and the surrounding scenery. Destination Golf outlines some of the most memorable aspects of Penina: "The course has some distinct characteristics. Pine and Eucalyptus trees line the fairways, which are entirely flat as the land was originally paddy fields". Bertram expands this description by adding that the course "weaves between sun-loving mature trees and colourful flora."
The splendour of the course is even more remarkable when you consider the painstaking lengths Sir Henry Cotton went to create such a playable course. "History buffs will appreciate the Henry Cotton connection at... Penina. In 1966, Cotton pioneered Algarve golf when he built this course on an old rice farm, using drainage ditches as unforgiving hazards. He also supervised the planting of nearly 400,000 trees" details George Pepper of Golf.com. "Whether the former championship golfer had any inkling of the mark he was laying down when he first began implementing his vision... we don't know" says Penina's Director of Golf Lionel Rio, "but what we do know is the staggering extent of the legacy that he created
A Challenge for Even the Most Seasoned Golfers
It's not just the look of the course that makes Penina such a high priority for golfer's visiting the Algarve. "The challenging layout will test every golfer's shot making ability", according to Just Tee Times. Top 100 Golf Courses describes playing the course as "excellent, attractive and challenging". Global Golfer Mag sums up the course as "a thrilling mix of dogleg holes, short par-fives, tree-lined fairways and water hazards."
There are a number of memorable holes on The Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course, including the seventh, described by Top 100 Golf Courses as "a superb little par four with a lake left and a stream across the fairway at driving distance. A long, narrow green protected by two large bunkers means an accurate approach in both line and length." Fran Gallagher enjoys the challenging 10th hole: "This is a great introduction to the back nine; the dogleg right includes a water hazard you have to clear on your second shot. Some might want to lay up just before the water, but that would leave a long third shot to the green. Several traps guard the green from your approach and can easily dash your hopes for par."
However, it is the 13th hole that is generally regarded as the most challenging, yet also most rewarding, hole on the course, and thus has gained quite a reputation in the golfing world. Golf Today describe it as "one of the best par 3s in the world". Esotril Golf explains the challenges of this famous hole: "The hole presents its own, particular challenge. A lake borders the right-hand side, coming into play off the back tees, while the sloping green is guarded to the front and left by a pair of bunkers." The hole has been named as one of the world's top 500 holes by Golf.com.
Five-Star Facilities to Accompany First-Class Golfing
Golfing in the Algarve often has to couple excellent golfing with first-class accommodation. Many of those who've been impressed with the course have also had very positive things to say about the overall Penina Resort. Chris Bertram highly recommends the hotel: "Penina has a superb hotel with amenities ranging from a dedicated kids' club to the Algarve's largest outdoor pool. It also oozes character and pedigree with its high-ceiling, oak-panelled rooms."
Premier Iberian offers advice on what to do after a day out on the course: "The hotel has plenty to offer when you are not playing golf. There is a superb and very large outdoor pool with plenty of loungers where you can relax and the health centre can provide you with a sauna or a massage. If you are feeling more active there is the gymnasium or the snooker room."
It's not hard to see why Penina has such a good reputation in the golfing world. Just Tee Times sums up the experience of the course by simply saying: "Penina is a truly wonderful golf course". Chris Bertram offers one last piece of advice for any keen golfers making their way to the Algarve: "[The course] is, indeed, a stiff enough test to have hosted the Portuguese Open 10 times, so ink it in to your itinerary."