In the swing – The sun has got its hat on…

What a great run of weather we have had – there’s been hardly a drop of chuva for weeks. This has come at just the right time for all those golfers visiting these shores from northern climes. You see it’s one thing dreaming of a golfing break in a sunny destination to escape from the rigours of winter in the UK. It’s a totally different scenario when you arrive to find there’s more rain than back home.

Thankfully this winter has been good, as we could do with all the help we can get to keep tourism buoyant. With the continued world-wide threat from terrorism, the massive tragedy of Madrid and the ongoing fear such an event naturally creates, we all need a ray of sunshine at some stage. Golf holidays in the sun offer that escapism – the chance to play on pristine condition courses with the sun on your back.

This winter has given many visitors that opportunity, and that can only augur well for the future. I remember bringing a large group of golfers to the Algarve some years ago. After 15 days of continuous rain the inevitable cry came: “We think we’ll try somewhere else next year!”

So it’s not just the golf courses, the restaurants, the beaches and the friendly locals. They are paying for what they cannot get back home – sunshine! Fingers crossed that it continues through the year. With Euro 2004 bringing many new visitors, a little sunshine will go a long way to ensuring everyone sees the real Portugal and all it offers. April 1 sees the start of the Portuguese Open at Le Meridian Penina. Let’s hope the weather doesn’t choose to make a fool of us on that day, or the subsequent three days. The course is looking excellent and a lot of hard work has gone into ensuring that it will be another event we can be proud of. With some of Europe’s best players competing it promises to be a tournament worth paying a visit to. But we’re dependent on the weather of course, Remember Vale do Lobo two years ago?

The international golfing season is now well underway and with 2004 being Ryder Cup year even the superstars of European golf are entering as many tournaments as possible, all vying for those 12 places. The competition is fierce, will Monty actually be an automatic team member or will he rely on a Captain’s pick? A couple of guys who have not played Ryder Cups before, but who I think have the right credentials, are the very colourful Ian Poulter and Vale do Lobo tour Pro Brian Davis. Davis has already won this year and I am sure both of these players would do us proud. We have the master tactician in Bernard Langer as team captain. You can be assured that he will cover every detail to give us the best opportunity of retaining the trophy.

There are a number of other fairly important tournaments due before the Ryder Cup in September, not least of which is the US Masters. Now in its 70th year, it will be played at Augusta National over the Easter weekend. Will Canadian Mike Weir be able to repeat last year, or will Tiger bear his teeth again. The latter has been remarkably slow out of the blocks this year – well at least by his standards – remember he had not a Major to his name last year, a situation I’m sure he will be pretty determined to rectify. He is, of course due to be married this year, so maybe his thoughts are not totally golf focused!

While on the subject of great golfers, what about 14-year-old Michelle Wie from Hawaii? Standing some six feet tall, this bubble gum chewing golf phenomenon missed out by just one shot from making the cut on a PGA tour event. At the ripe old age of 10 she shot a 64, her longest drive measures in at 350 yards and she practices over 30 hours a week. Watch out Annika!

Finally a little local info. Parque da Floresta have its popular Easter Festival starting on Good Friday (April 9). There are competitions each day except Easter Monday until Wednesday April 14. PDF is now in magnificent condition and these are fun events to be involved in. There will also be a range of social events to complement the golf. A BBQ and a Glamorous Gangsters’ Gala Dinner to name but two – the mind boggles! Full details and booking call golf reception on 282 690 054. Enjoy the sunshine and your golf!

PS: Not a lot of people know this! At a five star resort in Idaho they have a computer controlled floating green! So instead of moving the tee backwards and forwards, the greenkeeper simply moves his floating green! Only in America!