Driving off for some winter sun

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Fly out to the Algarve for great weather, good food and some amazing golf courses.

There’s nothing more welcome than a bit of sun as the nights get longer and the days become colder.

And while you’re enjoying that warm yellow thing in the sky, why not play a round or two of golf with the ocean just a medium iron away.

For those who like this sort of thing then it’s fairly obvious we’re on our way to the Algarve in Portugal.

There’s no secret to the Algarve. Great weather for the vast majority of the year, excellent food and hospitality, loads of places to stay and some of the finest golf courses and facilities in Europe.

We flew out early on a Friday morning with Monarch from Manchester to Faro and within a couple of hours of meeting up with another group who had come in from Gatwick were enjoying lunch on the balcony of the magnificent Onyria Palmares course.

Having positioned myself on the side of the table to observe the views across the Bay of Lagos I was able to see the challenge in front of me of the nine-hole Praia Course.

Split into three nines - Praia, Lagos and Alvor - Onyria Palmares has hopes of hosting international tournaments.

We played the Praia, a links challenge set within the dunes, and the Lagos, which has more of a parkland feel to it. Both present a test with Praia being more punishing to an irregular golfer like myself.

However, not to worry as we had a night out in Lagos - a small town on the western edge of the Algarve - to look forward to.

Our Marina Club Lagos hotel was located on the harbour and we were just a five-minute walk from the old town.

Lagos seemed a very pleasant place with people bustling around in the evening. And the meal at the Henrique restaurant, which is owned by the same people who run Onyria Palmares, was lovely.

After an early breakfast that helped clear a few cobwebs from the night before we transferred to our next stop, the Conrad Algarve hotel, and a lesson as Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley’s golf academy at Quinta do Lago.

The lesson with ex-pat tutor Sarah-Jane Shepherd and local PGA professional José Ferreira proved to be very fruitful and set me up for more enjoyable personal performances than on the opening day.

The Larangal course is the newest one at Quinta do Lago and is already award-winning.

It was also the venue for an epic fourball comeback by a pair of Sheffield-based golfers, including your correspondent, that made this course my favourite of the three we played.

The Conrad hotel is pretty special too and we had enough time to enjoy a few drinks on the balcony before heading out to Caso do Lago for our evening meal.

The food was lovely again, but more importantly they have a ‘green’ moored in a lake that diners can take a pot shot at with a pitching wedge.

I hit it... eventually.

It was a shame having to check out of the luxurious Conrad but we had one final round to play at the Vale do Lobo Ocean course.

While the previous two we’d played were relatively new additions Vale do Lobo Ocean is an established venue.

As its name suggests it is on the ocean and one of our party decided to take an impromptu dip in the Atlantic.

Well, the sun does do funny things to people.

Three things to do:

Do investigate the local towns when you go to play golf. There’s always a danger of playing your round and then basing yourself at your hotel. Lagos was a delightful little place with loads of character that I wish we had had longer to explore.

Take the opportunity to have a lesson with a club professional. The tutors are very aware that they’re tinkering with something that is very precious to you - changing your golf swing can be like switching the hand you brush your teeth with - but it’s worth persevering with their advice. Concentrating on their tips certainly improved my game beyond all recognition.

Travel facts:

Flights: Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Faro from Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £57.33 one way (£124.32 return) (lead fares for summer ’14). For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, visit www.monarch.co.uk

Golf courses: Quinta do Lago Larangal is the newest course at this popular golf centre - www.quintadolago.com

Onyria Palmares: With 27 holes to choose from, this course has something to test golfers of all abilities - www.onyriapalmares.com

Vale do Lobo: One of the most established resorts on the Algarve - www.valedolobo.com