With its connotations of natural abundance and fecundity, the invading Muslim armies that conquered Al-Gharb (meaning "the west" in Arabic) 1,300 years ago had a great reverence for the colour green.
But nothing absolutely nothing would have prepared them for the sight of Quinta do Lago in today's Algarve region in southern Portugal. The resort town, a 20-minute drive from Faro, is a sea of velvety green fairways, little triangular flags, and toy-sized golf carts buzzing around between holes.
Needless to say, the courses are immaculate clipped to within a blade of perfection, with tidy little sand traps so pristine it would seem a crime, rather than a setback on your way to the putting green, to hit wayward balls into them. The golf courses abutting Four Seasons Fairways resort are no exception.
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A terrace in a calm green sea
The road that runs through it takes the shape of a horseshoe and all along it colonial-style hillside villas with private pools line the way. Guests are afforded a surprising amount of privacy thanks to those hills when you consider that this is a resort with more than 130 villas. Certainly we couldn't see our neighbours from our apartment terrace.
Our terrace came with a gas barbecue, table and chairs, and a Jacuzzi big enough for a baby elephant. Some apartments even have swimming pools. Through the screen door, the walls are painted a minimalist white and the decor is modern. The kitchen is well-stocked with all the essentials, and an induction hob for when you're planning on whipping something up in a traditional cataplana. From the living room, we could see the communal swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) below and the bar, with its extensive menu of cocktails both classic and contemporary.
The master bedroom has an en-suite bathroom, while a second bathroom with shower keeps the other bedroom company across from the kitchen. A larger private terrace was to be found beyond the front door perfect for a mid-morning read before every square-inch of both terraces was bathed in glorious sunshine.
Back down the steps, and just off to the left, is Amara the Fairway's excellent and recently reopened restaurant. Seared scallops in a sparkling wine beurre blanc was followed by stone bass served with a clam velout. My dinner companion had the grouper in Madeira sauce, which was so good she was in danger of losing it across the table top.
All of the dishes were paired with wines chosen by the knowledgeable resident sommelier, Miguel Reis. Keeping with the smart, modern theme, the restaurant has wide windows, so you can gaze out over more fairways while tucking into a dessert of chocolate ganache. This really is a golfer's paradise.
But if you are more of the "golf is a good walk spoiled" persuasion, the nearby lagoon and coastline make for a pleasant stroll. There are also the Roman ruins in nearby Milreu and the picturesque Moorish castle in the town of Loul. But one of the best sights in the Algarve is the fish markets. This region, after all, has to be one of the best in Europe for seafood. On a visit to the Mercado do Peixe (fish market) in the town of Quarteira, about 20 minutes away in the car, the fish had only recently been plucked from the water.
There were hulking great sides of red-raw tuna, netted bags of clams, and jumbo-sized prawns and plenty of jolly traders happy to point you in the right direction.
It's not as if you could go too far wrong, however. Everything looked ready to be flung on the hot barbecue back at the apartment, to be enjoyed moments later with a crisp, cold vinho verde. And after all that, if you still have the energy, you could always try a round or two of golf.
Seven nights at Four Seasons Fairways from £1,380 for a three-bed villa (sleeps up to six) with pool or Jacuzzi. Flights not included. Book at fourseasonsfairways.com or call 00 351 289 357 667
Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.
Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.
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