Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe 2016

23 December 2015 Respond to this article

Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe 2016

Our latest Continental European Top 100 ranking list is unveiled

We’ve yet to meet anybody who has played Continental Europe’s Top 100 Golf Courses. Our extended team of contributors have seen all the courses on this latest European ranking list but it’s a challenging process to sequence the rankings because no one person has played them all. Additionally some raters argue their corner more strongly than others. If you’re reading this article and have played 50% or more of the hundred courses listed, then you are doing very well indeed and I for one would love to hear from you, so please get in touch.

It seems inconceivable that only two courses from Continental Europe have recently been listed in our 2016 World Top 100. The main reason for this, I think, is that it’s a real labour of love for any golfer to travel to so many different countries with their sticks in tow. It could take a lifetime to visit each country in Continental Europe let alone play every one of the contender courses in every individual country. It’s much easier (relatively speaking) to organise the ranking lists on a country-by-country basis.

Having said all of this, we’ve done our very best and spent a great deal of time on this latest Top 100 ranking list. It’s by no means definitive but it’s an honest and unbiased effort.

There’s no change at the pinnacle of the table, it’s the position that Morfontaine has occupied for many years and it will take a very special course to displace this venerable Tom Simpson classic, which Kyle Phillips continues to modify, albeit with a light touch.

We do have a new Dutch number two though (following a recent Frank Pont renovation) and it’s one of a handful of courses from The Netherlands that appear prominently within this latest list. Koninklijke Haagsche, or Royal Hague, leaps seven positions and also claims a spot in the World Top 100. Refashioned by Harry Colt and Charles Alison just ahead of the Second World War, Royal Hague is blessed with dramatic topography, which sets it apart from most of its Dutch counterparts. Click here to read more about Royal Hague from our International Correspondent, David Davis.

Utrecht de Pan Golf ClubUtrecht de Pan is Holland’s equivalent to England’s Sunningdale and it makes a bold move into the European Top 10 (up 15 to #9). It shares Royal Hague’s Harry Colt lineage and both courses were showcased via the TV series “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf”. If you’re lucky enough to play de Pan, check out the statue of Pan, playing his pipes, on the thatched clubhouse roof. Hopefully, you will not have encountered him during your round as he is said to haunt the woods and fields, causing anxiety to those who pass through – hence the term panic attack. Click here to read more about Utrecht de Pan from our International Correspondent, David Davis.

Everyone knows that there are two Real (Royal) clubs in Sotogrande and one might not have the same Ryder Cup pedigree as the other, but for the first time the original Robert Trent Jones course, Real Sotogrande (up 8 to #7) overtakes its younger sibling, Valderrama. We’re sure this won’t meet with universal agreement, but if you’ve played them both you’ll already have an opinion as to which one is best.

Monte Rei GolfThe North course at Monte Rei (up 2 to #10) is yet to be joined by a younger sibling, but this Algarve property is perfectly able to stand alone. One of the few Jack Nicklaus Signature courses in Europe, Monte Rei continues to receive more positive reviews than most other European facilities. Our Editor Jim McCann commented as follows: “Nicklaus designs are not everybody’s cup of tea but, wow, what a fantastic job Jack did here on such a wonderfully diverse property – this is golf on a grand scale as fairways pitch and roll around heaving foothills in a clever routing that only ever allows the layout of the following hole to be revealed on arrival at the next tee.”

An extensive French review has resulted in a few significant moves, notably Harry Colt’s St Germain (up 37 to #17), which frankly was previously positioned way too low in our rankings, and Les Aisses, (up 41 to #33). The original Les Aisses design was modern and occasionally eccentric, but Hawtree Limited changed all that and the style now harks back to the Golden Age. Architect Russell Talley commented exclusively for Top 100 (his full article can be read by clicking the Les Aisses link): “The owner’s brief for Hawtree Ltd was to re-create an old-style course reminiscent and inspired by the old heathland courses of the UK. The existing course, built in the early 1990s, was three loops of nine, of which two of them, the red and white course, were chosen to comprehensively redevelop in style… All tees and greens were remodelled, along with new fairway bunkering.”

Our new European Top 100 features eleven new entries, the highest of which is from Sweden. Ullna Golf Club leaps in at #44 following an extensive Nicklaus renovation. The course retains Sven Tumba’s original routing from the early 1980s, but new tees, re-shaped fairways, new bunkers and green complexes at all holes, make the renovated Ullna a definite candidate to return to the top of the Swedish rankings.

Hubbelrath East courseDr Bernhard von Limburger, or “Limmy” to his friends, originally designed the East course at Hubbelrath (new entry #57). He drilled a supremely challenging layout through the forest and in the process exposed some amazing natural landforms. Under the guidance of Howard Swan, the East has been remodelled and lengthened to ensure it remains a significant test when hosting important tournaments. Nowadays it's mostly about the top-level amateur circuit, but in the past the German Open was held here on eight occasions between 1973 and 1994.

Robert Trent Jones Jnr upgraded Palmares (new entry #67) in 2010, dividing the property into three nines, “Lagos,” “Praia” and “Alvor”. Four holes on the Praia nine (two pretty par threes and two tough par fives) run along the shoreline and the second last greensite on this circuit is shared with the penultimate hole on the Lagos nine (where the only two water holes on the complex are featured). A reviewer recently commented: “Stark elevation changes and a pleasingly engaging and not to say unusual breadth of variety awaits throughout. It just gets better and better. The last few holes feel magical and natural. A fitting end to a superb golf course that you will really love and remember.”

The layout belonging to the Golfsociëteit De Lage Vuursche (new entry #71) is the result of collaboration between Kyle Phillips and RTJII and it opened for play in the year 2000. This was an ambitious restoration project that aimed to revert flat farmland back to its former glory of rolling terrain flanked by woodland. The result is that Lage Vuursche has found its level as one of Holland’s premier courses.

Neguri Golf CourseNeguri (new entry #77) bursts back into the 2016 European rankings for the first time since 2008. Alfonso Erhardt Ybarra, author of The golf courses of Javier Arana, writes: “The course of the Real Sociedad de Golf de Neguri benefits from an excellent routing that extracts the maximum value from a relatively small property; the distances between each green and the following tee are virtually non-existent. Arana had no need for aggressive earthworks or artificial trappings to breathe life and excitement into the course. Despite an apparent absence of hazards, Neguri has withstood its first fifty years admirably, without any lengthening or any addition of sand traps to the forty-five existing ones.”

The opening of the Stadium course at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club was subject to intense coverage in the golfing press. However, the Castle course (new entry #84) seemed to slip below the radar when it opened in 2009. We think the members quietly count their lucky stars as they get to keep the Castle as their little secret. What luxury to have such an interesting counterpoint to the splendid Stadium course at your home club. The Stadium course might be the tougher of the two with its massive length and demanding design, but the Castle course is no pushover. It’s a thorough challenge for any player.

Golf de Belle Dune (new entry #86) is the southernmost club in the triumvirate also comprised of Le Touquet and Hardelot. It’s a popular layout with Brits who travel through the Channel Tunnel to the Côte d’Opale. This relatively young course opened for play in 1992 and Jean-Manuel Rossi routed it through some of the France’s finest dune land, a stone’s throw away from the sea.

Penati Heritage courseFew people will have heard of the Heritage’s designer, Jonathan Davison, whose work to date has centred on Eastern Europe and Ireland. We predicted that his Heritage course (skilfully shaped by Mick McShane) would be the star in his portfolio. A new entry at #93, the Heritage course leapfrogs the Nicklaus-designed Legend at Slovakia’s Penati Golf Resort. The designer commented as follows: “I set myself a goal to create a golf course that would reflect the theory the early golf course architects espoused. It ignited inside me a desire to use all the existing components of the countryside to their maximum authenticity in order for the course to have the traditional look evoking the atmosphere of “the golden era of golf courses” and to offer a totally different playing experience alongside that of the Nicklaus-designed 18-hole course completed earlier.”

The quirky Barbaroux (a re-entry at #94) is set close to the French Riviera. It’s the prime location for golfers who want the warm Mediterranean sunshine on their backs. Pete and P.B. Dye (Paul Burke) – the father and son team – designed Barbaroux, and it’s the first Dye creation in France, opening for play in 1989. This is the course that created a stir and it’s still causing some controversy today. The reason for this is simple, the Dyes did some serious earth moving and the Barbaroux course is a potpourri of styles, which range from links-like holes with blind shots to US-styled target golf holes protected by water. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s certainly not dull.

Quinta do Lago North courseQuinta do Lago has come a long way since entrepreneur André Jordan’s dream way back in the early 1970s. The South course is the layout that most avid golfers rush to play, but the North course (new entry #95), formerly called the Ria Formosa (named after the Nature Reserve) is definitely worth savouring after its €9.6m renovation by American architect Beau Welling in collaboration with European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. The new-look North course reopened in October 2014 to critical acclaim.

Vallda is located in Kungsbacka just south of Sweden's second largest city Gothenburg. In the Göteborg area you will find some thirty decent golf courses and Martin Hawtree’s Vallda Golf & Country Club (new entry #98) is the region’s best. It might be described as a Swedish anomaly, illustrated by one reviewer as follows: “It is very rare to be able to play a real game on the ground in Sweden as most courses are too extensively watered and Mother Nature normally sprinkles liberally herself in July. Vallda naturally has sprinklers, but sensibly leaves Nature to take its course, while no doubt watering to keep the grass alive, but no more. The result was a really fast-running course, all the way from tee to green.”

Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to let us know what you think of our latest 2016 Continental European Top 100. Have we omitted a course that really should be in our rankings, or have we included a course that really doesn’t deserve to be there? Maybe there’s a particular layout that’s riding too high or perhaps there’s one lying too low in the standings? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top and bottom of the page if you’d like to share your opinion.

If you’d like to help improve our European golf course rankings, please get in touch. Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post many colourful course reviews, please keep them coming, it’s your reviews that we all enjoy reading most.

Keith Baxter
Editor-in-Chief
Top 100 Golf Courses

2016

Course

Country

Move

1

Morfontaine

France

No change

2

Koninklijke Haagsche

Netherlands

Up 7

3

PGA de Catalunya (Stadium)

Spain

No change

4

Les Bordes

France

Up 1

5

Chantilly (Vineuil)

France

Up 1

6

Fontainebleau

France

Up 4

7

Real Sotogrande

Spain

Up 8

8

Real Valderrama

Spain

Down 4

9

Utrecht de Pan

Netherlands

Up 15

10

Monte Rei (North)

Portugal

Up 2

11

Kennemer

Netherlands

No change

12

Hamburger Falkenstein

Germany

Up 1

13

Noordwijkse

Netherlands

Down 11

14

Bro Hof Slott (Stadium)

Sweden

Down 7

15

Oitavos Dunes

Portugal

Up 1

16

Prince de Provence

France

Up 2

17

St Germain

France

Up 37

18

Budersand Sylt

Germany

Up 2

19

Terre Blanche (Château)

France

Up 3

20

Royal Zoute

Belgium

Down 12

21

Scandinavian (Old)

Denmark

Up 5

22

Lykia Links

Turkey

Down 5

23

Lubker (Sand & Sky)

Denmark

Up 6

24

El Saler

Spain

Up 10

25

Finca Cortesin

Spain

Up 12

26

Royal Park I Roveri (Robert Trent Jones)

Italy

Up 7

27

Thracian Cliffs

Bulgaria

Up 3

28

Biella

Italy

Down 9

29

Medoc (Chateaux)

France

Up 21

30

Falsterbo

Sweden

Up 5

31

Seignosse

France

Up 22

32

Oceanico (Old)

Portugal

Up 8

33

Les Aisses

France

Up 41

34

Halmstad (North)

Sweden

Up 4

35

National (L'Albatros)

France

Down 21

36

Troia

Portugal

Up 12

37

Limburg

Belgium

Up 23

38

Domaine Imperial

Switzerland

Down 7

39

Royal Belgium (Old)

Belgium

Down 7

40

Visby

Sweden

Down 15

41

Winston (Links)

Germany

Up 23

42

Sporting Club Berlin (Faldo)

Germany

Down 21

43

San Lorenzo

Portugal

Down 20

44

Ullna

Sweden

New entry

45

Eindhoven

Netherlands

Up 1

46

Barsebäck (Masters)

Sweden

Down 19

47

Las Brisas

Spain

Up 28

48

Real Sevilla

Spain

Up 33

49

Kempferhof

France

Down 21

50

Real Puerta de Hierro (Abajo)

Spain

Up 5

51

Son Gual

Spain

No change

52

Vasatorps (Tournament)

Sweden

Down 8

53

Kytäjä G.C. (South East)

Finland

Down 12

54

Hilversumsche

Netherlands

Up 8

55

Antalya (Sultan)

Turkey

Up 13

56

Le Touquet (La Mer)

France

No change

57

Hubbelrath (East)

Germany

New entry

58

RSHE Club de Campo (North)

Spain

Down 15

59

Hardelot (Les Pins)

France

Up 12

60

Carya

Turkey

Up 13

61

Castelconturbia (Blue & Yellow)

Italy

Down 9

62

Santander

Spain

Down 23

63

Villa d'Este

Italy

Down 18

64

Oceanico (Faldo)

Portugal

Up 35

65

Esbjerg (Marbaek)

Denmark

Up 21

66

Chiberta

France

Up 24

67

Palmares (Praia & Lagos)

Portugal

New entry

68

PGA National Sweden (Lakes)

Sweden

Up 8

69

Fontana

Austria

Down 20

70

Scandinavian (New)

Denmark

Down 13

71

Lage Vuursche

Netherlands

New entry

72

Rosendaelsche

Netherlands

Down 5

73

Praia D'El Rey

Portugal

Down 31

74

El Prat (Open)

Spain

Down 9

75

Cornelia (Prince)

Turkey

Down 6

76

PGA National Sweden (Links)

Sweden

Up 8

77

Neguri

Spain

New entry

78

Quinta do Lago (South)

Portugal

Up 10

79

Golf Nazionale

Italy

Down 16

80

Real Puerta de Hierro (Arriba)

Spain

Down 21

81

Royal Waterloo (La Marache)

Belgium

Down 15

82

Elea

Cyprus

Down 24

83

La Reserva

Spain

Down 10

84

Bro Hof Slott (Castle)

Sweden

New entry

85

Adamstal

Austria

Down 15

86

Belle Dune

France

New entry

87

Penha Longa (Atlantico)

Portugal

Down 8

88

Holstebro (Forest)

Denmark

Down 6

89

Linna

Finland

Up 4

90

Furnas

Portugal

Down 29

91

Club De Campo Villa de Madrid (Negro)

Spain

Up 3

92

Sand

Sweden

Down 9

93

Penati (Heritage)

Slovakia

New entry

94

Barbaroux

France

New entry

95

Quinta do Lago (North)

Portugal

New entry

96

Miklagard

Norway

Down 4

97

Penati (Legend)

Slovakia

No change

98

Vallda

Sweden

New entry

99

Estonia (Sea)

Estonia

Down 4

100

Oslo

Norway

Down 4

Click to see in detail our new 2016 Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe.