WHEN former world No 1 Rory McIlroy visited Quinta do Lago a few days after my departure from the renowned Algarve resort, it is unlikely that he strayed far enough off the fairways to find any of the golf balls I had scattered into its trees.
What he will have found is a resort that caters for its visitors' every need, whether you are there to fine tune a game that has won four major championships or hack it around its three courses – the North, South and Laranjal – for fun with a group of friends.
As it approaches its 50th birthday, Quinta do Lago is mirroring some of the fine wines to be found on the menus of its nine restaurants: it is undoubtedly improving with age.
Property developer Andre Jordan's original vision in 1972, to create a high-quality golf and real estate development, was met and its reputation and standard saw it become the stage for the European Tour's Portuguese Open on eight occasions.
Current owner is Irish telecommunications billionaire Denis O'Brien, whose investment in Quinta do Lago – the Farm of the Lake – brought about the creation of the Laranjal course in 2009 to complement its much older siblings, the North and South.
Laranjal's name, which translates as orange grove, gives a clue as to its setting, with fruit trees bordering its fairways on many holes along with umbrella pines and cork-oaks.
It is more forgiving than its brothers (sisters?), the North and South, as stray drives tend to be easily detected among the bark chippings to be found scattered around the trees.
However, its rolling fairways can present challenging lies and its huge, undulating greens mean that any approach shot that finds the wrong tier leaves a putt that will test both nerve and technique.
Five years after Laranjal's creation, the North course underwent a major redesign, with renowned architect Beau Welling aided by former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley for the task. Those of us whose drivers appear to have a defective radar might wonder if the €9m investment needed to include the planting of more trees, but the 'facelift' was an undoubted success.
The first hole, a short, downhill par-4, prepares you for both the sumptuous visual feast and golfing tests that await. The vista presented by its elevated tee paradoxically both inspires you to believe this could really be your day while at the same time offering a landscape that you know will compensate you if it is not.
The South is Quinta do Lago's most highly-regarded of the three having held, as mentioned, the Portuguese Open, and it is no surprise that it presents more challenges than the others.
This is encapsulated by its famous par-3 15th hole, nearly 220 yards off the white tees and almost all of it carry across a lake. Even from its yellow tees, the player is presented with a 176-yard shot that can define the entire stay if the green is found and a par made. Maybe on the next visit.
Quinta's owner O'Brien has ensured that the resort, which sits within the Ria Formosa National Park and is bordered by its beautiful beaches, will captivate golfers throughout their stay, especially since its courses are complemented by the Paul McGinley Golf Academy, a TaylorMade custom fitting centre with high-end coaching technology that provides lessons for every level of golfer in a stunning setting.
But Quinta's lure extends beyond its three excellent courses and O'Brien's goal is to provide enough amenities and activities within its 2,000 acres so that the visitor feels no need to leave 'The Farm of the Lake' during their stay – and future visitors could include the world's best footballers, rugby union players and tennis stars with state-of-the-art pitches, courts and medical and rehabilitation facilities currently under construction.
A short stay left time to sample only one-third of its dining offerings. The Bovino steakhouse is a classic example of rustic chic with food that tantalised the palette while also preparing the diner for the following day's exertions on Laranjal, North or South.
The Koko Lane restaurant sits at the side of the academy and practice range with a menu encompassing pizza, pasta, burgers and salads; fine pre- or post-round fare that can be eaten al fresco if you choose, and which Englishman or woman would not.
Casa Do Lago was my favourite. Located at the edge of the lake, its stunning fresh seafood fare was perfectly complemented for this golf addict by the after-dinner opportunity to hit golf balls towards a floodlit, floating golf island, with both clubs and balls provided.
A wide selection of rental properties are available – our party stayed at the Martinhal Quinta Golf Resort, a four-star collection of independently owned luxury villas comprising two- and three-bedroom town-houses and three- and four-bedroom villas, each with private pool.
This was my second visit to Quinta, my first being in 1979. I will not leave it so long before I return for my third.
Chris Stratford is a member of the International Golf Travel Writers' Association.