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It’s the footwork dahling… turn your toes in.

And keep the hands open, and dahling, trust your partner.

I half expect to see Craig Revel Horwood, sitting opposite and holding up a 2.

Thankfully I’m being judged on my tennis and not my dancing by my Mixed Doubles partner Judy Murray.

Yes, that Judy Murray, tennis supercoach, mum of two Wimbledon champions.

And just as importantly in our house a Strictly Come Dancing champion.

If you can’t see my ball… it’s in the hole

Judy has had half an eye on Ashley, Faye, Lauren, Stacey, Joe, Charles, et al this series.

Only half an eye though as her main focus is making tennis players out of the flotsam collection of wannabe racquet tyros I’m assembled here with.

in the new Campus development in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve.

Just Judy

Judy is running a series of coaching classes for young and old, good and bad, studious and messers, which, er, would be me.

In my defence her starter hooter was too inviting not to play keepie up with.

Judy, though, as well as being very good at sport, is also a very good sport.

And even allowed me to give her a waltz at the end.

Another good sport and one you won’t have heard much about is padel which is more popular in the Iberian Peninsula than tennis.

And look what other tennis star I met at the airport

Former rugby international Max Evans who with soccer great John Terry took to the game on a trip to the Algarve describes it…

As the child that tennis and squash would have spawned.

Max factor

Played to the same scoring system as tennis, the big difference is the non-string bats, the underhand serve, the fact that you can play off the glass walls, and dare I say it that it is more fun.

Judy’s work done, she gets a deserved breather. Me, I’m off to bother some golf pros.

For four days I will have a team of experts tasked with trying to make an athlete of me, just as they can too.

The professional at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy shows off the latest golf technology, tracking machines, sensory guides et al.

it can turn the most ordinary club member into a Rory or a Tiger, or on the odd shot at least. If you concentrate that is.

But there’s always one messer who gets distracted, in this case drawn to Paul McGinley’s buggy from when he captained Europe to victory at Gleneagles.

There’s a good reason why the big boys and girls get to play the South Course, one of three Championship courses here at Quinta.

While yours truly is kept to the driving range.

Magic buggy

I do get to drive me a buggy, though not Paul McGinley’s golf cart which sensibly is kept where it is.

And I get to see the course, safely for me and the golfers, or at least that’s the plan.

Until the boy racer in me kicks in and I cut up a buggy in front and almost drive into the lake that skirts one of the greens.

I dare say I would have come up with dozens of stray golf balls in my pockets.

Maybe I’ll fare better on two wheels.

Quinta do Lago means Farm by the Lake and Quinta is at great pains to keep human athletic exertions and the natural world in perfect harmony.

The Rio Formosa Reserve which runs parallel to the course is more geared to Shiny Ibises and Spoonbill birdies.

And yes, get off your bikes and get your binos out and you really will see these fascinating birds scoop up their prey with spoonlike beaks.

Hunger is the best sauce

I’d like to say I planned my disembarkation.

But he truth is I took one sandy corner too many and too sharply in my obsession to lead the party.

Eyebrows may be raised as my suitability to go back with the sensible ones on the roads, but hunger called.

That hunger was sated as it invariably is in these parts by the harvest of the seas.

The world literally is your piscine pleasure in these parts no fish is safe.

So I felt not a pang of guilt in devouring Dory’s pals, the lobster, clams, prawns, seabass here at the island restaurant Casa do Lago, and more of that later.

There is a green in the water for diner/golfers to shoot at but it was wisely out of bounds for us on the day.

The appeal of The Campus is its infrastructure and expertise.

On Campus

Why else would Premier League side Burnley, former Champions League winners Olympique Marseille and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand who runs a soccer camp come here.

Or Irish Paralympian road race great Brian Rohan who runs The Bike Shed which is more, much more, than that.

Ask him politely and he might just allow you to hold one of his Olympic gold medals.

Of course, when it comes to sport we’re all of us experts and so I spend my last night at a sports bar,

Dano the Mano

Dano’s, where I watch three matches simultaneously on the big screen (and who said that men could not multi-task?)

I’d like to say that all the games were thrillers but I was in my element all the same.

I was tackling, cleanly, a chicken casserole, to soak up the beer you understand while exchanging sporting trivia with my Portuguese hosts.

I was less good at the Halloween quiz but back myself against any Dancing Dad when the House band appears.

There’s always a price to pay though for revelry and that is invariably a sore head in the morning.

Art Deco

Yes, the art deco style Magnolia where we are staying specialises in fixing that too…

The Mag Burger, beef, bacon, cheese and lettuce burger and fries with a special peppery sauce the Chef, naturally, wasn’t sharing, and a pineapple, OJ, coconut and spinach smoothie!

I was feeling invincible and dived straight for the pool (yes, strictly against the rules).

And there by the poolside who was watching but Judy Murray.

Keeeep praaaaactising!

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail.


How to get there: Ryanair (€70 return) and Aer Lingus (€78 return) fly to Faro. Visit and

Where to stay: Hotel Magnolia. Quinta do Lago, Portugal. Visit Book early to get 15% off on its Hot Summer Offer. A standard room €168 per night.

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