Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe 2012
Our latest and long-awaited Continental European Top 100 golf course rankings are unveiled
25th January 2012
One hundred and ninety-one golf courses were on our ever-growing shortlist for a position within our latest and long-awaited Continental European Top 100 ranking list.
Assembling the list was tricky, as we have yet to find anyone who has played anywhere nearly enough top Continental European courses. The likelihood is that nobody will ever try and play them all, as there are many challenges golfing across a continent that incorporates so many different countries and languages. If you have played them all or have played a significant proportion then please get in touch… I’d love to hear from you.
However, we do have many contributors that reach across Europe and it was really a question of placing all the contenders in the mix and then sequencing the results. Sounds easy?
Golf courses from sixteen Continental European countries made our list and for the first time we have a course from Iceland in the hundred. When Cédric, our Icelandic correspondent, visited Keilir in 2010 he said the club had added some new back tees and it’s now “clearly the best course in the country, both in terms of design and quality, not to mention the unique front nine in the lava”. Keilir debuts at position 99.
At the opposite – and warmer – end of Europe, we have the arrival of the new Sir Nick Faldo-designed course at Elea Golf Club, which opened in Cyprus in October 2010. Despite the presence of another good Cypriot course, Aphrodite Hills, Elea has managed to further raise the golfing bar in Cyprus.
Domain Imperial remains the only golf course from Switzerland to make the hundred, but we have two new entries from Turkey and Perry Dye’s Lykia Links moves meteorically up the table. Thomson Perrett & Lobb’s Carya makes its European debut, as does Bob Hunt’s Sueno (Pines). With five Turkish courses now in the hundred, Turkey really is a destination for the golfing aficionado.
The Netherlands is an overlooked golfing destination but take note, this small but perfectly formed country has the best collection of links courses outside Britain and Ireland. David Davis, our Benelux correspondent, has recently written several detailed essays on Dutch golf courses. If you are interested in finding out more then visit the Top 100 News Channel and check out David’s articles. The Dutch and Rosendaelsche are both new entries in our European hundred, which now means The Netherlands can boast seven courses in the Continental European Top 100.
Belgium is another of the Low Countries that punches well above its weight. Despite its diminutive size, Belgium has four Royals that are worthy of inspection and Royal Zoute continues to lead the Belgian way.
Spain and Portugal are still the primary destinations for those seeking warm climate golf. Spain is the original holiday destination for winter-weary Europeans and the southern Costas continue to be popular for the weather. However, those in search of the best Spanish course should now head to Barcelona and the Costa Brava region because the Stadium course at PGA de Catalunya has finally knocked Valderrama from the Spanish top spot. Portugal’s Monte Rei remains ahead of Oitavos Dunes in our European rankings, but from Iberia, only Spain can boast new entries, the highest of which is the Arriba course at Puerta de Hierro – however, we did feature the Arriba course in our 2006 Continental European rankings. Finca Cortesin, host to the 2009 World Match Play Championship, is a brand new entry, as is Son Gual and Abama on the islands of Majorca and Tenerife respectively. The Links course at Emporda is another Spanish new entry but I feel that Robert von Hagge’s creations in Girona (Links and Forest courses) are underrated.
Five courses from Germany are new entries in our 2012 European rankings. Germany has formerly proven to be a difficult country for us to unravel, but Jens Bernitzky has recently joined the Top 100 team. Jens runs his own Golf Tourism Marketing business, the “Deutsche Golf Strasse®” (German Golf Trail), the first private golf cooperation in Germany and together we aim to publish the first ever ranking list of Germany’s Top 100 Golf Courses. Christoph Stadler refurbished the Harry Colt-designed course of Frankfurter Golf Club recently and it’s our highest new German entry in the European hundred. Koln Golf & Country Club at Refrath returns to the European chart as does Bernhard von Limburger’s Garlstedter Heide course at Club Zur Vahr in Bremen. Arnold Palmer’s layout at the Sporting Club Berlin is the final German new entry, which joins Nick Faldo’s course at the impressive 63-hole Sporting Club Berlin.
Austria now has four courses listed in the hundred and there are three new entries, although Gut Altentann appeared in our 2006 European rankings. Adamstal and Schloss Schonborn join our highest ranked Austrian course, Fontana.
There are three fewer courses from Italy in our European list this year, but we have one new Italian entry at Sir Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort. There are 36 Kyle Phillips-designed holes on offer at Verdura, but the old fashioned out-and-back Verdura West course just has the edge over the also solid East layout. Both of Verdura’s courses feature prominently in our latest Italian rankings.
We have already mentioned Iceland, but all the Nordic countries continue to provide outstanding golfing facilities. Sweden has the lion’s share of golf courses, indeed there are more Swedish golf courses than across the rest of the Nordic countries put together. Nine Swedish courses appear on our European chart and there’s one new entry at the impressive PGA of Sweden National facility, which boasts two courses from the burgeoning Kyle Phillips portfolio. The Lakes course is the more highly rated layout at the PGA National, but the Links course is also a fine layout in its own right.
Surprisingly, no Norwegian courses made our European rankings, despite the best endeavours of our own Norway and Sweden correspondent. Jan Nordstrom has played virtually every course in Norway and is working his way systematically through the courses of Sweden. Jan’s view is that the quality of top Swedish courses is so much higher than anything available in his Norwegian homeland. However, if you are planning to play golf in Norway, there are still some great courses to savour, so check out our extended Norway Top 20.
Denmark is a strong golfing nation and the addition of the new 36-hole facility at the Scandinavian Golf Club simply adds to the country’s strength and depth. The Old course at the Scandinavian is our highest Danish new entry, even though it only opened its tees for play in 2010, one year ahead of the club’s New course.
Finland retains three courses in the European table and two are available for play at Kytäjä Golf Club. Tom McBroom, who knows a thing or two about designing great Canadian golf courses, designed both layouts at Kytäjä, which bear remarkable similarities to the Canadian landscape.
If you are searching for an undiscovered European golfing destination, then you may want to look at Bulgaria. Thracian Cliffs is located on the northern Black Sea Coast and it’s a Black Knight signature design that opened in 2011. The course is routed, hole after hole, along the cliffs on magical land of the once powerful Thracian kingdoms. The setting is pure theatre and Gary Player is quite rightly enthusiastic about the site: “You will not find another golf course like this anywhere on the planet”, commented Player. “Pebble Beach is renowned as the best site and I would say Thracian Cliffs is twice as good as Pebble Beach.” Now that is a statement.
France remains the cornerstone of our European rankings and there are nineteen French courses on the list. Three French courses have dropped off the list only to be replaced by three new Gallic layouts. Barbaroux, Joyenval (Marly) and Hardelot (Les Pins) make an appearance for the first time and we also have a new Continental European No.1. Morfontaine heads the European rankings again, just as the club did in 2008. Les Bordes maintains its Continental European No.2 position but swaps places in the French national rankings with Morfontaine. With around 550 golf courses across France there is not only strength in numbers but also depth in quality. Numerous layouts from the Golden Age still exist, occasionally in their original form, and we hope to extend our French rankings in the not too distant future.
We always welcome feedback, so please feel free to let us know what you think of our latest Continental European Top 100. We don’t claim to be “definitive” but we do like to think that we’re the most “informed” and considered golf course rankings in the business. If you’ve played any of our featured European courses, we’d love to know what you think, so why not post a course review or two?
Click the link to see the latest Continental European Top 100 in detail.
Breakdown of courses by country: Austria 4, Belgium 4, Bulgaria 1, Cyprus 1, Denmark 4, Finland 3, France 19, Germany 9, Iceland 1, Italy 7, Netherlands 7, Portugal 9, Spain 16, Sweden 9, Switzerland 1, Turkey 5.For those interested, the twenty-five courses that made way for the new are: Miklagard, Hilversumsche, Bogogno (Conte), Ullna, Beuerberg, Rethmar, Steiermarkischer, Limburg, Pevero, Courson (Vert/Noir), St Leon-Rot (St Leon), Oceanico (Victoria), St Leon-Rot (Rot), Frosaker, Hills, Club De Campo Villa de Madrid (Negro), Rungsted, St Dionys, Skjoldenaesholm (RTJ), Roma-Acquasanta, PGA National Sweden (Links), Milano, Chiberta, Royal Mougins, Moss & Rygge.
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