Like many, my golf journey started being bored and housebound during the pandemic. One of the few activities that was genuinely Covid friendly, it became something of a personal obsession for that long, hot, terrifying summer of 2020. Lessons were block booked, clubs were bought and thousands of balls were sent into orbit. More often than I’d care to admit, they were also trundled a few short yards north of my position - but that’s all part of the maddening fun. It seemed certain the door to a lifetime of joy and frustration had been opened.

And then, as quickly as the excitement had ignited, it was dampened by Scotland’s winter weather. "Next year," I thought, but life quickly returned to a pre-golf normal, its pace quickening with the arrival of a bouncing baby daughter. Suddenly, the idea of spending four hours wandering around large patches of well-tended lawn searching for wee dimpled balls seemed, like the pandemic itself, slightly alien in retrospect. And while the passion was mostly undimmed, the opportunity had all but vanished.

So when the chance came to head to Portugal to spend a few days hacking and swiping my way around bunkers and various depths of rough while staying in fabulous hotels, I jumped at the chance.

The Herald: The Lisbon Crowne PlazaThe Lisbon Crowne Plaza (Image: DHM)

First up on the itinerary was the Uber modern and shiny-clean Crowne Plaza Hotel, a 25-minute drive from Lisbon Airport and just outside the city. This smart hotel had everything you’d want to unwind after an afternoon of golf. The spa offers multiple treatments including excellent massages while the outdoor pool is an oasis of calm. The food was exceptional with both lighter bar options and a broader menu stacked with local delicacies. For those who are looking to hone their skills further, the hotel also has a nine-hole pitch and putt style golf course that is well tended and loads of fun to play.

The Herald: The Octant SantiagoThe Octant Santiago (Image: DHM)

Moving down the coast after another day on the fairways, we stopped in the Octant Santiago, nestled amongst trees on a hilltop overlooking the quaint town of Santiago do Cacem. The rooms are spacious, and each have a complementary Panama hat which was a nice touch. The view from your terrace is spectacular, especially so on my visit as a slight mist enveloped the town below giving it an ethereal quality as the sun slowly melted away. It’s certainly a glorious spot for a glass of fizz or cold beer before dinner.

Known for its exceptional food, the culinary focus is on the Alentejo cuisine and the locally sourced charcuterie was deliciously moreish. It should also be said that the hotel has outstanding customer service, as I was to find out when I left my bag next to the wrong group’s luggage in the morning and found every earthly belonging had suddenly disappeared into the morning air. Nothing was too much trouble for the slick staff who soon located the bag without any fuss and had it delivered back swiftly, passport and all.

The Herald: The Patio Suite HotelThe Patio Suite Hotel (Image: DHM)

Next up was The Patio Suite Hotel in the Algarve, which couldn’t have been more different than the previous night’s boutique accommodation. A smartly clean and huge hotel that mostly accommodates holidaymakers from the UK and Germany, it has a vast open-plan reception, bar and restaurant that holds up well amid the large footfall. Situated on the outskirts of the boozy Albufeira nightlife, it’s family-focused with two pools and evening entertainment that everyone can enjoy including karaoke and quiz nights. Nearby is the mercifully quiet Falésia beach and I spent a blissful afternoon enjoying its splendid, unspoilt sands before stopping for an Aperol Spritz on the way back.

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I also took a wander into the old town of Albufeira itself (just €8 in an Uber) which has become a mecca for cheap package deals and it’s sad to see such its genuinely beautiful natural framework distorted by cheap-looking bars with names like Buddy’s Steakhouse and Sir Harry’s. Some will like it, some won’t but there’s no doubt that at one point this would have been a stunning but significantly less economically thriving little town.

The Herald: The grounds at the Octant Vila MonteThe grounds at the Octant Vila Monte (Image: DHM)

The final day was dominated by a trip to the spectacular Quinta da Ria golf mecca. With two separate courses and a par 3-only academy course, there's something for everyone who can wave a club. Managed by the same brand as the other hotels mentioned in this article, Discovery Hotel Management, guests can book a golf experience including accommodation and course within one package. It's well worth a stop.

After that was a return to the Octant Vila Monte which was the favourite of my stay. With strong Tuscan Villa vibes and lush, verdant gardens to wander, being there was like visiting a minor member of the Medici family banished from Florence for some errant flourish of personality too far. Bikes are available to traverse the grounds while the heated outdoor pool was an ideal family space although it should be said, this hotel is more appealing to adults than kids. The romantically lit restaurant with sensational food offered the biggest culinary delights of the trip, including a stunning squid ink, prawn and bread stew - a dish to remember. This is a place to come with your significant other and melt into the gorgeous surroundings.

The Herald: A squid ink, prawn and bread stewA squid ink, prawn and bread stew (Image: McFarlane)

So, those were the hotels. They were marvellous and all fine places to stop should you wish to tour the great courses across this area. And the golf? Perhaps one day I will have the time to give myself fully to this infuriating game. Until then, a four-day escape to Portugal isn’t a bad way to keep the flame flickering away.