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Top 100 Golf Courses updates its Alpine rankings 2018

14 February, 2018

Top 100 Golf Courses updates its Alpine rankings 2018

We’ve been ranking courses in Austria and Switzerland since 2008 so this is the 5th biennial revision of the national listings for the two Alpine countries that we’ve conducted. Austria is home to around 160 courses at the last count, with Switzerland having just under 100, which lists them at 11th and 16th respectively in a table of golf course provision in Europe (including GB&I).

There are 100,000 registered Austrian golfers and 90,000 fully paid up Swiss golfers and both nations have a surprisingly large percentage of female participants; 35% for Austria – the joint second highest in Europe – and 34% for Switzerland against a European average of 25%, as detailed in a KPMG document entitled Golf Participation Report for Europe 2017.


Golf in Austria was officially established in 1901 when Ambassador Plunkett from the British Embassy and a British diplomat named Andrew Percy approached Count Althann to negotiate a lease of the hunting grounds of Prater Park in Vienna with Emperor Franz Joseph. Willie Park Jnr, who’d already designed several courses in France and Belgium, was commissioned to peg out his first Austrian golf project in the heart of Vienna and this course remained in play for almost fifty years before the club moved to nearby premises.

It took twenty-five years for another course to appear then three arrived in quick succession: at Semmering, Dellach and the International Country Club in Vienna. Soon after, new layouts appeared at Igls near Innsbruck, Achensee and Bad Ischl, close to Salzburg. By the end of the 1930s, there were around 800 golfers playing around the country but that number fell away to zero during World War II. Remarkably, there were still only around 700 golfers playing at the start of the 1960s so it’s really astonishing to see the extent that the game has grown in the last half a century!

Let’s come bang up to date now and the big news for Austria is that long-time #1 layout and 12-time venue for the Austrian Open, Fontana, has been ousted from its perch at the top of the national chart by the Championship course at Adamstal, with the former falling one spot and the latter rising one place. Such is the quality of both tracks, they occupy positions in our Continental Europe Top 100 and another common link is that they were both designed by Canadian-born architects, with Doug Carrick setting out Fontana and Irish-based Jeff Howes fashioning Adamstal.

Our Alpine correspondent François Gacougnolle visited both clubs last year and had this to say about Adamstal: “If you are planning to play golf in Austria, and especially if you are anywhere around Vienna, Adamstal is a must and will most probably be the highlight of your experience.” He was also impressed by what had been done to blend the course into the surrounding landscape: “the course looks and feels unbelievably natural , yet Jeff Howes caused 500,000 cubic meters of soil and rock to be moved or blasted when he added to the original design.”

Regarding Fontana, François thought: “the design is very American in style, with rather large fairways, loads of bunkers, vast waste areas and water in play on nine holes… the condition of the whole venue is impeccable… great golf in a great setting”. Unfortunately, four new holes are being constructed at the moment to allow for residential development and compromising the integrity of the golf course for a real estate project is the main reason why the layout is no longer heading up the national listings.

Only four courses make upward moves in our new Austrian Top 30 and the first of these is the 18-hole parkland layout at Golfclub Murhof, north of Graz (up two to 8), which was designed by Bernhard von Limburger in 1963 and subsequently renovated by former Nicklaus Design associate Michael Pinner in the late 1990s. More recently, it’s had a new irrigation system installed so golfers can always expect to find the fairways in top class condition during the warm summer months.

Also climbing up the new chart, we have the former Ladies European Tour venue at Golfclub Föhrenwald (up six to 13) – which is another Jeff Howes layout located south of Vienna – and a couple of courses near Innsbruck, namely the three-year-old Diethard Fahrenleitner and Barbara Eisserer 18-hole layout at Golfclub Zillertal-Uderns (up three to 14) and Golfclub Seefeld-Wildmoos (up seven to 15), where Donald Harradine set out one of his earliest (and favourite) Austrian designs back in the early 1970s.

The highest of our five chart newcomers is the Gunter and Gerald Hauser co-design of the Championship course at Golfclub Gut Murstätten, at number 9. Celebrating thirty years of operation this year, the course is situated to the south of Graz and it’s part of a 27-hole complex that also includes a 9-hole pitch and putt course, a 16-bay driving range and an extensive practice facility which also incorporates biomechanical analysis, flightscope ballistics analysis and a high-speed camera video system.


To view further details of our newly updated Austrian Top 30 rankings click the link.


The Swiss were a little quicker than their Austrian neighbours with golf development in their country, catering mainly for the influx of golfers on holiday in the summer. A short course commissioned by local hoteliers was in play at St Moritz Bad in 1890 and it was quickly followed by the 18-hole Samedan course for Engadine Golf Club just three years later.

Early into the 20th century and new courses were opened at Montreux (1900), Lucerne (1903), Bad Razag (1905) and Crans-sur-Sierre (1907). More than a hundred years later, and with almost 100 courses now on offer, Switzerland continues to charm and entertain golfers with its dazzling selection of mountain courses set in wonderfully scenic locations.

The Pete Dye-designed 18-hole layout at Golf Club du Domaine Impérial has been the number 1 course in Switzerland since we started ranking the country in 2008 and it remains top of our new chart, which we've now doubled in size to a Top 20. Domaine Impérial is also the only Swiss course to occupy a position in our Continental Europe Top 100, though it recently dropped out of the top half, falling to #67. Laid out on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, the course (along with its wonderful 158-year-old clubhouse) has to be one of the classiest spots to play golf in central Europe.

Three courses advance upwards in our new listings: the Robert Trent Jones Snr-designed course at Golf Club de Gèneve (up one to number 2) which resides on the heights of Cologny overlooking Lake Geneva, the Colt/Alison and CK Cotton nines that Peter Harradine upgraded in the late 1990s at Golf Club Patriziale Ascona on Lake Maggiore (up one to number 4) and another Harradine new millennium design at nearby Golf Gerre Losone (up two to number 6), which has hosted the last seven editions of the Ladies Swiss Open on the Ladies European Tour.

The highest new entry arrives at number 7 and it’s Jeremy Pern’s 18-hole layout at Golf Club de Vuissens, situated half an hour’s drive north of Lausanne. In truth, this course is a chart re-entry as it dropped out of our Top 10 last time around and it’s been as high as number 5 in the 2010 Swiss rankings. Our Alpine correspondent François Gacougnolle summed up a recent visit to Vuissens by saying: “this is one of the top courses in Switzerland in my opinion. Not easy, physically and mentaly tiring, but a lot of fun! Its only weakness being that it is far from just about everywhere, and not easy to find.”

Rank/ Course Move
1 Domaine Imperial No change
2 Geneva Up 1
3 Lausanne Down 1
4 Ascona Up 1
5 Crans-sur-Sierre (Severiano Ballesteros) Down 1
6 Gerre Losone Up 2
7 Vuissens New entry
8 Bad Ragaz Down 1
9 Sempachersee (Woodside) Down 3
10 Andermatt Swiss Alps New entry
11 Zurich-Zumikon Down 2
12 Schonenberg Down 2
13 Wylihof New entry
14 Basel New entry
15 Blumisberg New entry
16 Bonmont G&CC New entry
17 Lugano New entry
18 Montreux GC New entry
19 Les Bois New entry
20 Engadin (Zuoz-Madulain) New entry

To view further details of our newly updated Switzerland Top 20 rankings click the link.

We’re always keen to find out what you think of our re-ranked national listings in Europe so please make use of the “Respond to this article” link at the top or the bottom of this page if you’d like to get in touch regarding either our newly enlarged Top 20 for Switzerland or our Top 30 for Austria.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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