- Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe 2020
Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe 2020
Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe 2020
It’s two years since we published the last edition of our Top 100 chart for Continental Europe and as this listing is refreshed biennially, it’s now time to reveal our latest ranking positions for 2020-21.
We still haven’t come across anybody who’s played every one of these tracks and that’s hardly a bombshell revelation if you consider the number of different countries involved across a vast area. Instead, we rely on trusted correspondents around Europe who’ve played a large proportion of courses within their country and elsewhere, combining their data into an all-embracing list from which we make informed decisions about the relative merits of the serious contenders across the various nations.
If you think you have the necessary pan-national experience to contribute to our process then by all means get in touch with us as we try to produce the most informed chart possible.
For those interested in the overall statistics, exactly half the courses fall back or drop out altogether, with forty moving up and ten remaining in the same place. The eleven exiting courses are replaced by the same number of new entries, of course. The “Big Four” golfing nations of France, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands account for more than half the entries and Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Italy weigh in with thirty between them. Ten other countries are represented in the remaining thirteen positions.
The top three slots stay exactly as they were when we last updated the European listings, which means Tom Simpson’s Grand Parcours course at Golf de Morfontaine is still the No. 1 layout in Continental Europe, a position it’s held onto for six of the seven editions we’ve published since 2008.
Morfontaine - Grand Parcours
Described in the latest review for the course as “four hours of golfing bliss… [at] an extraordinary club with a brilliant set-up both on and off the golf course,” the Grand Parcours has also now been joined in the elite continental Top 100 by the club’s fabulous 9-hole Vallière course, which is our final chart newcomer at #99.
Morfontaine - Vallière course
This little beauty is another Tom Simpson tour de force from over a century ago and even though it’s been significantly remodelled since it first opened in 1913, there’s still plenty of the original layout left for golfers to enjoy one of the most fun-filled nine holes in world golf and we have absolutely no hesitation in introducing it into these multi-national rankings.
At the top of the table, the Grand Parcours layout holds off strong challenges from two brilliant old Dutch masters, Koninkijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club (at #2) and Utrechtse Golf Club ‘De Pan’ (at #3), where the architectural talents of Harry Colt and his design partner Hugh Alison during the 1920s and 1930s transformed these already wonderful layouts into the world-class courses that we recognise today.
“Big and bold [and] a challenge for all levels of golfer – both off the tee where targets perhaps appear tighter than they really are, and the approach shots which are often off uneven lies to elevated greens” is what a recent reviewer posted for Koninkijke Haagsche, while the same person also wrote about Utrecht de Pan: “it’s not flashy, long or overly demanding. It does however require some thought on length of tee shot, and angle of attack… one of the most impressive old courses I have played.”
Another course that now graces our World Top 100 is Spain’s Real Club Valderrama, and it rises three places to No. 4 in our Continental Europe listings. It’s quite a turnaround in fortunes for a course that slipped to number 8 in Europe four years ago but an extensive renovation since then, mainly to install new drainage and renew bunkers, has helped reinvigorate this iconic Robert Trent Jones design and propel it back upwards in the rankings.
Real Valderrama Golf Club
Our Argentina correspondent Javier Pintos was here a few months ago and had this to say: “I teed off with GM Javier Reviriego in a fun, fast twosome where he was showing the changes, updates and modifications the course went through in the last couple of years. I feel this is even more valuable than just playing the course… [it] was in perfect shape, and when I say perfect I mean it, arguably the best in Continental Europe and with no doubt Top 100 in the World.”
Another Spanish track making a big move is Campo de Golf El Saler, entering the elite Top 10 tier for the first time with a sensational six-place jump up to number 5. It’s a big favourite of Top 100 panellists David Davis and Fergal O’Leary, with David posting: “this course is a perfect subtle myriad of pine forest, sand dunes and sea… [with] excellent and very interesting green complexes and surrounds”. Fergal also commented: “the simplicity of its creation makes El Saler a world-class piece of architecture worthy of global acclaim… the bunkers are works of art and always feel in the right place”.
Who knows... maybe there’s a berth awaiting for Javier Arana’s masterpiece in the next edition of the World 100 when it appears in another two years’ time?
A further significant upward move in the new European standings is made by another Iberian golfing giant, Real Club de Golf Las Brisas, which leaps thirteen places to No. 24. Laid out by Robert Trent Jones in the late 1960s and completely renovated by Kyle Phillips a few years ago, this magnificent Marbella track was visited a few months ago by Simon Bale, our Commercial Director, who thought: “the designer has done everything to use the natural topography to create drama without compromising playability.”
A little further down the listings, the Robert von Hagge-designed 18-hole layout at Golf de Seignosse in the southwest of France climbs a creditable twelve spots to No. 35. Ownership of the golf facility changed hands a short while ago and Open Golf, which is now in charge, has already embarked on an ambitious refurbishment program to improve what is already an outstanding course. For sure, the best is yet to come for this fantastic example of what its flamboyant designer was capable of.
In the lower half of the table, three courses make admirable double-digit progress.
The Links course at WINSTONgolf in Germany (up fifteen to #69) is a David Kraus inland links that took quite a tumble from No. 41 during our previous chart reappraisal but it’s now regained a lot of the ground that was lost. Lassi Pekka Tilander’s Pärnu Bay Golf Links in Estonia (up nineteen to #75) is another new millennium track that has quickly gained similar cult status in the Baltic region.
On the other hand, the Links course at Golf de Granville in southwest France (up ten to #89) has been around for more than a century, since Harry Colt carried out remedial work on the layout immediately after World War I, in fact. One of the very few authentic links layouts to exist in all of Europe, this classic old course is one to be savoured in a modern era where less than perfect conditioning is frowned upon and often derided.
Granville - Links course
Turning to the new entries, the highest newcomer – Bernardus in The Netherlands – streaks into the upper reaches of the chart at No. 25. Designed by Kyle Phillips and opened for play last year, it’s about to host the KLM Open for three years, starting this September. A review from a few months ago stated: “the facilities and overall experience here are very strong, and the ‘member for a day’ approach is pretty interesting”. Television coverage of the European Tour event should certainly go some way to conveying just how good this place is.
Three German tracks also make the cut: the Rot and Gelb nines at Golf Club Föhr’s recently revitalised 27-hole facility in the North Fresian Islands (new at #34); David Krause’s Niedersachsen course at Golf Club Hardenberg in Northeim (new at #86); and the second 18-hole layout at WINSTONgolf in Vorbeck, which is the Holger Rengstorf-designed Open course (new at #96).
Golf Club Föhr
A trio of Belgian Royals also enter the new Top 100, though two of them are actually re-entries, having dropped out a while back. Royal Ostend Golf Club, established back in 1903, makes its first appearance at No. 82, slightly ahead of Royal Waterloo Golf Club’s La Marache course at No. 87, which fell out of the rankings in 2016. Both layouts have benefitted from architectural input in the last few years from architect Martin Hawtree, whose family firm has operated in the country for a very long time now.
Royal Ostend - image courtesy of the EIGCA
The third new entry from Belgium, the Tom Simpson course at Royal Antwerp Golf Club, arrives at No. 43, having previously featured in three revisions of our listings between 2008 and 2012. Founded in 1888, Royal Antwerp is one of the five oldest clubs in continental Europe, with a course originally set out by Willie Park Jr. in 1913. Tom Simpson redesigned the layout in 1930 and it’s now undergoing a well-received sympathetic renovation from local architect Dimitri Van Hauwaert.
Our International Correspondent David Davis had this to say about the course when he posted a review three months ago: “I’m thrilled to say this is the single best renovation and turnaround I’ve ever seen in Continental Europe… Royal Antwerp for me has become the poster child for what could be done to every single European Golden Age course that has been neglected for years… Bravo Royal Antwerp!”
A couple of Spanish layouts also make it into the Top 100 and they’re each located close to the centre of Madrid: Real Moraleja (3) from the design board of Jack Nicklaus (at #54) and Javier Arana’s 1950s Negro course at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid (at #81). The West course at Olgiata Golf Club in Rome debuts at No. 98, bringing the number of Italian courses in our chart up to five, which is still a surprisingly small number for a nation with such a long golfing tradition.
Olgiata Golf Club
Perhaps we’ll have other courses from Italy in our Top 100 next time around, and there are other nations currently without representation – the likes of the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia – which might also work their way into the reckoning for our 2022 edition. We’d like to run the rule over quite a few courses in those countries in the coming months so be prepared to possibly discover a few new tracks in among the usual suspects when we next revise our Continental Europe rankings.
To view the complete detailed list of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe click the link.
Top 100 Golf Courses