Not everywhere, but certainly in the Algarve, November is an excellent month to play golf. The two main reasons are that many, but definitely not all, tourists have stopped booking up all the tee times and the weather is still pleasant.
To be honest, late autumn is actually an ideal time to visit Europe’s leading golf destination, because the weather is still accommodating, while chilly rains have begun to fall in other parts of Europe. The British Isles come to mind, for example.

An important difference is that someone on a golf holiday might actually be a serious golfer. Particularly during the summer months, plenty of people on holiday decide that they might want to include a round or two of golf in their itinerary, not that they play that often or ever back home. The result of many casual, inexperienced or even novice golfers (and in-season there are in fact a plethora of golfers of all levels) is that most of the over three dozen courses become crowded with slow players looking for their lost balls in the wrong clump of trees or taking nearly a dozen practice strokes before addressing the ball and then shanking it off to the side.

Now that many of those duffers, hackers and newbees have returned their rental clubs, sincere enthusiasts have a better chance of finding a desirable tee time and playing a round in under five hours. Don’t get me wrong – people new to the sport have every right to have an opportunity to learn how to play the game. It’s just not ideal when they’re out there three-or-more putting every green on a summer Saturday morning.

Another major positive for residents about golf in November is that the heat has finally subsided and it is now a suitable time to walk even 18 sunny holes. When the August temps climb into the 40°C, basically only mad-dog Englishmen are out there pulling their handcarts through the glare. It becomes a matter of survival. Either you’re found lying facedown in the rough clutching an empty plastic water bottle by a groundskeeper; or you rent a golf cart or trolley with a canopy for shade.

As many a purist will tell you, the proper way to play golf is on foot. It’s a rule in the professional game. Of course, there are exceptions – such as if you’re recovering from knee surgery, or you’re over 70 years of age or the temperature even at 8 in the morning is already 85 degrees F.

Ol’Pat tends to agree that it makes the most sense to walk the course as you play a round of golf. That way, it is more like a sport. I’ve played other sports when I was younger – baseball and American football as a kid; rugby as an adult in the Bahamas and tennis, squash and racquetball; even some volleyball. You’re not allowed to ride a cart in any of those sports. Track and field would then be called Grande Prix racing.

However, with a golf trolley, you’re not only able to ride under power from shot to shot, but many so-called sportsmen also like to smoke a cigar and drink a few beers along the way. These motorized means of conveyance come equipped with slots for beverages and ashtrays. What would you think if the goalkeeper for your local soccer club was seen smoking a cigarette while his side was on attack?

Riding in a buggy turns golf more into a game, since a score is kept, but not really a full-fledged athletic competition.

Yes, coordination is still required and of course concentration (the accumulation of several empty beer cans in the basket behind your seat obviously helps with that), but the need to be fit has been reduced if not eliminated. It’s the old snooker argument. Some physical skills are required but is it a sport or a game? Some people are advocating making bridge an Olympic sport, for example. I think not. I also think club championships and most tournaments should be played on foot and not via a mechanized vehicle.

The American author Mark Twain has been famously quoted as saying “golf is a good walk spoiled”. I don’t agree (he might not have even made the wisecrack. It might have been Harry Leon Wilson or William Gladstone, who couldn’t stand the frustration of missing a two-foot put). Anyway, part of the appeal of playing golf is being outside and enjoying the charms of nature.

Even if a well-maintained course seems manicured, with smoothly mowed fairways (the rough not so much), there’s still plenty of natural wonder to behold – trees of all shapes and colours; lakes, ponds, streams and the views. The Algarve has some of the prettiest courses anywhere, often with lovely views of beaches (not sand traps) and the Atlantic in the distance.

Ol’Pat has also seen a life-time of wildlife while on the golf course. From alligators (some eight-foot long) in Florida to crocodiles (some eight-foot long) in Panama to a small black bear in Maryland, I’ve seen more animals on a golf course than anywhere else. Yes, foxes, skunks, deer, moose, beavers, squirrels, snakes, iguanas, capybaras, lizards, field mice and yes rats, monkeys and plenty of birds, from cranes standing in a pond where my ball just splashed as well as ducks and geese, to hawks, eagles, falcons and storks overhead.

I think with all that going on, plus the challenge of hitting a small white ball with a crooked stick makes being outside, walking around and competing good naturedly with a couple of friends, one of the best things a person could do.
And November in the Algarve is an ideal time to do it.

By Pat, the expat
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For the previous 10 years, Pat lived in Panama which used to be rated above Portugal as a top retirement destination (but not any more), where he wrote a column for a tourist publication.