What are the best golf courses in Europe? From France to Spain, the Netherlands to Norway, the Golf World Top 100 panel reveals the best European golf courses that should be top of your to-visit list.
The Continental Top 100 is my favorite ranking to compile and my view has not changed after working on this 2023 update.
I relish it so much because it always feels as if there is more opportunity than in other lists to tell our readers something they might not know. Of course we pore over every position within our Top 100 Best Golf Courses in Great Britain & Ireland list, and the 100 names that make up that list are obviously important, but as many as 90 courses in it could possibly be named by many golfers.
Continental Europe is a bit different. The size of the area means that getting to the best courses in each country takes a lot of time, money, and determination. As a result, far fewer people across the whole of the continent have knowledge of a lot of the names outside those in their own country.
I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I’ve seen 122 of the top 130 and 138 of the top 150. Having this breadth of knowledge is, in my opinion, essential to meld together the various country-by-country rankings we have.
As a result, I have no doubt this list is the most accurate representation of the best golf courses in Europe we have produced.
The final 100 shows more change than I expected when I first started pulling this together a few months ago. There are two reasons for that: firstly, we have some very high new entries and when that happens everything below them is affected. Secondly, a few courses I personally played this year have made some significant moves – some have made improvements, but I wouldn’t pretend that a couple of others were modestly positioned previously.
I play a more significant role in this ranking than any other courses list but I do also have input from other, similarly well-traveled golfers, namely David Jones, Nigel Butler, Suzanne Butler, Dirk Schaeffer, Borje Laurinsson, Gunnel Laurinsson, and David Truman.
They have also helped me compile a ‘Next 100’ that, for the first time, ranks courses 101-200. That is a huge feat in itself and one that illustrates how competitive the continent’s elite golf has become. There are courses that have been in the Top 100 of previous rankings that are now clinging on to a position in the Top 150.
Indeed, the depth of golf on the continent that I have seen encourages me to think a Top 200 has merit. That’s for another day, though.
Chris Bertram, Top 100 Editor
P.S. Russian courses Raevo, Gorki, and Mill Creek were not considered for this list, for obvious reasons.
How we marked the best golf courses in Europe
There are a total of 100 marks awarded, and every golf course is marked using the following criteria:
Design [40 marks]: A key category, including landscape, green complexes, and routing.
Setting [15 marks]: The aesthetic value of the surrounding views and the course itself. And the overall ‘atmosphere’ of the course – but not the club.
Memorability [15 marks]: How easy is it to recall holes? Are they distinctive, varied, and interesting? Are they strategic and heroic?
Playability [10 marks]: Is it just too tough, possibly even unfair, for the majority of golfers? Or is it easily enjoyed by all?
Consistency [10 marks]: Does every hole deliver all of the above, or is it let down by a few poor ones?
Presentation [10 marks]: The conditioning of tees, fairways, bunkers, and greens.
Top 100 Best Golf Courses in Continental Europe
100 REAL SOCIEDAD HIPICA
Design 25 Setting 9 Memorability 9 Playability 6 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 65
A Robert von Hagge design just north of the capital that is eye-catching and always compelling. Baroque fairway composition, with lots of earth moved to create valleys for the holes to travel along. Super conditioning and a round that keeps you engrossed until the very end.
99 HOGE KLEIJ
Design 26 Setting 9 Memorability 8 Playability 8 Consistency 6 Presentation 8 TOTAL 65
Hoge Kleij demonstrates the value of a rigorous renovation. Theirs was done by Frank Pont and his nous plus the investment from the club have resulted in this debut in among the greats of continental golf. You have to say it was money very well spent. It’s going to get even better too. A fine variety of holes, most between tall pines and a few deciduous interlopers, all of which are being thinned down and drawn back from playing corridors. A handful of cool greens and plenty of heather add to the aesthetic appeal and challenge.
ALAND ISLAND, FINLAND
Design 22 Setting 13 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 5 Presentation 7 TOTAL 65
A new entry with the X Factor. Aland – on the eponymous, autonomous island – has a lakeside setting that is as idyllic as even the most breathtaking locations in the list. The water’s edge holes are predictably the most beautiful and memorable, not least the 10th – one of our Top 100 holes in Continental Europe.
An overhaul by Danish architect Philip Spogard has reaped significant reward, maximising the terrain, its epic location and adding technical merit to the holes. There are still some relatively quiet inland holes in comparison to the outstanding nature of the rest, but because the highs are so thrilling they are a nice breather. You’ll find Aland in terrific condition too. A welcome addition to the list.
97 REAL PUERTA DE HIERRO (ABAJO)
Design 26 Setting 9 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 65
The second course at Puerta de Hierro… but not by much. It perhaps lacks a touch of the finesse of the Arriba but there’s much interest as it travels across rolling terrain, with some fine green complexes. A very classy addition to the list.
Design 25 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 65
Tim Lobb designed Linna when he was working for EGD and it was here that Marco Simone architect Dave Sampson designed his first hole via a Golf World competition. A beautiful experience along undulating fairways and among classic Finnish pines.
Design 25 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 6 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 66
This Harry Colt links has some really memorable moments, including short holes at 10 and especially 16 that are pretty much as idiosyncratic as anything you’d find at Cruden Bay or Prestwick. Lush presentation reduces its linksy authenticity – it must be magical when burnt.
Design 23 Setting 13 Memorability 10 Playability 6 Consistency 6 Presentation 8 TOTAL 66
Rises a spot – no mean achievement in this list – but could easily be a good deal higher. Fabulous lakeside setting and in magnificent condition. A must for the Top 100.
93 COSTA NAVARINO (DUNES)
Design 25 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 66
A fine all-round course, as the marks suggest. Ranking the 1-4 at Costa Navarino is hard enough, never mind within the whole of Continental Europe, but we have the Dunes as the top attraction. The Ross McMurray and Bernhard Langer design certainly asks questions of your game but it also gives you plenty back, not least in the sporty par 4s.
92 ROYAL OBIDOS
Design 25 Setting 11 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 66
“A very hilly course where some wonderful – but long – holes come before an exacting back nine,” noted one panellist. “The 11th and 12th are standouts before a strategic home hole.”
91 THE NATIONAL
Design 25 Setting 9 Memorability 8 Playability 9 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 66
Expect rolling terrain, wickedly sloping greens and mature umbrella pines lining a number of your drives and also on the dog-legs of a number of the challenging holes. Expect to be impressed.
90 KYTAJA (SOUTH EAST)
Design 25 Setting 13 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 5 Presentation 7 TOTAL 67
The No.1 in Finland offers a round in a stereotypical Finnish setting of lakes and forest. Canadian Thomas McBroom did a fine job of bringing out the best of an appealing canvas for golf.
89 MARCO SIMONE
Design 28 Setting 9 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 8 TOTAL 67
Needs little introduction after it hosted golf ’s biggest event of 2023. Staging the Ryder Cup has no bearing on this ranking though, even if it did show up well there. More or less laid out from scratch (there was a course there originally) by EGD’s Dave Sampson, it was designed with the Ryder Cup in mind; from the exciting, dramatic holes to the infrastructure that comes with hosting the event.
Those aspects don’t always go hand in hand with an appealing course outside of a Ryder Cup week, but Sampson achieved that here. We were there long before the Ryder Cup rolled into town and this is a really entertaining course to play, even if you aren’t in a fourball against Patrick Cantlay.
88 VILLA DE MADRID (BLACK)
Design 29 Setting 9 Memorability 9 Playability 8 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 67
A welcome return to the list for one of the greats of Spanish golf. This public course is incredibly popular, partly on account of it being part of one of Europe’s biggest sports clubs. It’s a wonderful design by Javier Arana that is playable to all levels and incorporates memorable holes. Its footfall means it can never score well in ‘Presentation’ – but that just goes to show how strong the rest of it is.
Design 27 Setting 11 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 67
“A Tom Simpson gem on the Basque coast, a mix of links golf at its best on both nines,” said one panellist. “The standout 3rd to 5th section could belong to any of the UK’s big names. It blends perfectly with pine-lined holes, especially where elevation changes add to the challenge. The inspired routing will stay long in the memory.” It sums up this course perfectly.
86 BARSEBACK (OCEAN)
Design 26 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 5 Presentation 7 TOTAL 67
This Solheim Cup host is a fine hybrid of woodland and links holes. Didn’t receive universal love from our panel, but a strong Swedish course to add to your wish list.
85 VASATORPS (TOUR)
Design 27 Setting 9 Memorability 9 Playability 6 Consistency 8 Presentation 8 TOTAL 67
A strong, modern course in the south of Sweden. For it to hold its place in this section of the list is a real achievement and testament to its all-round appeal – led by excellent presentation. It has the ability to test all levels.
84 DOMAINE IMPERIAL
Design 25 Setting 12 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 67
This Pete Dye layout enjoys a fine setting and is predictably well designed, offering drama and memorability. Switzerland’s No.1.
83 LES AISSES
Design 28 Setting 9 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 67
A strong showing from Les Aisses, which combines a heathy feel with some clever holes. This Martin Hawtree design is gaining increasing favour.
82 HALMSTAD (NORTH)
Design 27 Setting 10 Memorability 8 Playability 8 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 68
Swedish course that appealed to all panel members who have played it. A Solheim Cup host that winds elegantly through mature woodland.
81 AROEIRA (NO.1)
Design 28 Setting 10 Memorability 8 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 68
This Lisbon course, set among towering pines, is now a staple of the Top 100. An enjoyable setting in tranquil woodland and with plenty of holes of grand scale.
80 THE NATIONAL (LINKS)
Design 28 Setting 11 Memorability 8 Playability 8 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 69
“A links feel to this Open-style course, with clever mounding used to create a sandhill vibe,” noted one panellist. “I didn’t think I would particularly enjoy it, but the focus on run-off areas alongside the undulating greens made it fun to play. Far better than the adjoining ‘Lakes’.” That view summed up the feelings of the whole panel.
79 LAS COLINAS
Design 27 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 9 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 69
A real triumph to create a course on such undulating terrain that maintains its place in the Top 100. Cabell Robinson’s design is super playable for all levels, with a lot of enjoyable holes and great presentation.
78 GOLF DU MEDOC (VIGNES)
Design 28 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 9 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 69
“Different to the Chateaux in that instead of gorse and heather there are more towering pines and perhaps more of a parkland feel,” noted one panellist, “but it’s every bit as strategic.” Less affection for the Vignes than in the previous list, but just getting in this 100 is a fine achievement for a ‘second’ course.
77 DE SWINKELSCHE
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 11 Playability 8 Consistency 6 Presentation 5 TOTAL 69
An intriguing Frank Pont course full of memorable holes with memorable features. It’s modern, hugely playable and hugely fun. The limited greenkeeping budget means that, relative to the well-manicured courses of this list, its Presentation mark costs it several places. It is still nicely conditioned and offers arguably Europe’s best-value green fee.
76 REAL EL PRAT (ROSA)
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 10 Playability 6 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 69
This modern Greg Norman design north of Barcelona has been a fixture on the list since its inception. Although it drops a few places here, it remains a very worthy entry. Some panellists found this adventurous woodland course a little exacting – that lower Playability mark costs it 10 places.
75 ROYAL ANTWERP
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 69
A small drop, but with some big new entries and high risers, falling just two places shows how much we like Antwerp. Tree clearance has made all the difference to this Tom Simpson woodland.
Design 28 Setting 10 Memorability 12 Playability 5 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 69
“A gem of a course that winds through oak, cork and the lofty pines,” said one panellist. “Strategic hazards on every hole and water hazards are well placed. The course has a brilliant flow, culminating in one of the best finishing holes in golf.”
73 ROYAL PARK (TRENT JONES)
Design 27 Setting 10 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 69
A well-rounded parkland in Turin by Robert Trent Jones Snr. Known as ‘I Roveri’ – the oaks – which gives you a strong idea of what to expect. Strategic bunkering and water hazards add to the challenge.
72 RAVENSTEIN (OLD)
Design 28 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 9 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 70
This grand old parkland requires a thorough restoration to return to the middle of the list. As it is, it remains a pleasant and privileged (this is a very private club) experience among mature trees and on undulating ground.
71 REAL LAS BRISAS
Design 28 Setting 9 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 8 TOTAL 70
A Robert Trent Jones Snr original that has been restored by Kyle Phillips, and that investment has clearly paid off. Lots of memorable holes at this prestigious Marbella venue and consistently good in terms of its presentation.
70 PENATI (HERITAGE)
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 9 Playability 8 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 70
The Heritage entered the list in 2018 and has steadily climbed ever since. Impressive, original architecture by Englishman Jonathan Davison on a course that the owner expected to be Penati’s number two, but in our view is comfortably the number one. An admirable traditional design in a tranquil woodland setting.
69 SAND VALLEY
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 70
The routing and most of the architecture were done by Lassi Pekka Tilander, with the greens sculpted by Tony Ristola, and some will find his surfaces just a little too funky. However, we’re big fans of Sand Valley and all feedback of late is of a course in superb shape.
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 70
An ‘inland links’, and while some feel it has a slightly artificial feel, others love its bold shapes and original architecture. It splits the European and Swedish panels!
67 KRISTIANSTADS (EAST)
Design 28 Setting 10 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 71
“Not a blade of grass out of place at a course that now receives huge praise from anyone who plays it,” said one Sweden-based panellist. The Pierre Fulke-Adam Mednick collab has again worked successfully in overhauling the East and it powered into the top end of our 2022 Sweden list, hence its introduction to the mainland Europe ranking.
Design 25 Setting 14 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 71
Debuted in the list last time and this jump up to the mid 60s shows what an astute new entry it was. Just 12 holes, but more fun, spectacular scenery and memorable holes than in most courses in mainland Europe. Its beauty is breathtaking.
65 PGA NATIONAL TURKEY (SULTAN)
Design 28 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 5 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 71
Belek’s No.2 layout. “I’m not keen on the overuse of water hazards, but I thought they were subtle in places and bold in others to focus the mind,” remarked one panellist. “I liked the risk-reward nature of some holes and the demanding, memorable finisher,” said another. They’re both apt descriptions and we would only add that it is impeccably manicured.
64 SON GUAL
Design 29 Setting 9 Memorability 10 Playability 6 Consistency 8 Presentation 9 TOTAL 71
“Nice, elevated tees with different choices for most tee shots,” said one panellist, “plus strategic water hazards and large, contoured greens.” Add in tour-level presentation and you have Mallorca’s No.1.
Design 28 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 71
A superb woodland experience that winds between towering pines and is delivered on a grand scale. Golfers travel across the border from Sweden to play this top 100 fixture. No move, but standing still in this uber-competitive ranking is a great effort.
62 PENHA LONGA (ATLANTICO)
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 71
“Huge elevation change to this hilly course,” said one panellist, “while the rock outcrops add to the landscape as you wind along the hill tops or through the tree-lined valleys.” The old Roman aqueduct is an unusual backdrop to the tough 6th.
61 FINCA CORTESIN
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 9 TOTAL 72
“Each hole in its own setting, with rugged terrain if you are wayward,” noted one panellist. “The hilly aspect adds to the challenge with some of the greens, which are hard to hit. A thoroughly enjoyable 18 holes.” Fine work by Cabell Robinson to route Finca on such hilly land. Exceptional conditioning.
60 REAL CLUB LA MORALEJA (NO.3)
Design 29 Setting 10 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 72
The pick of the four courses at the Spanish super-club, No.3 was laid out by Nicklaus Design and is a strong, well put-together parkland that manages to test elite players while also being playable for mere mortals.
59 HOLSTEBRO (FOREST)
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 72
Arguably the best course in Denmark for 16 holes. Playable, fun, good scale, interesting and a great environment. It was firm and fast when we visited, as this heathland should be. Loses a mark in Consistency as a result of a modest, short 17th and a questionable, redesigned finale.
58 VERDURA (EAST)
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 72
This huge jump is easily explained by the fact the resort reconfigured its two courses after a freak flood five years ago. We previously preferred the West, but after Kyle Phillips’ reorganisation of his original work, the East is now comfortably the stronger – in every respect. A wonderful course with some great holes, the 6th in particular. The East’s greens are very firm, very fast and very true.
57 GREAT NORTHERN
Design 28 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 6 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 72
A huge jump for this modern course by Nicklaus Design, and we don’t hide from the fact this jump is largely because it was poorly positioned last time. Of course an extra two years has helped it rise since opening, but this is a course that warrants being at least in the middle of the ranking rather than the bottom quarter. Exceptional conditioning and dramatic, water-framed holes that live long in the memory.
56 ROYAL LIMBURG
Design 30 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 72
Didn’t quite catch the panel’s attention as it has in the previous two lists, but this heathland woodland is on a grand scale and boasts several notable holes.
55 VILLA D’ESTE
Design 30 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 72
This wonderful old course in the hills above Lake Como is a lush parkland-woodland with stylish holes and some eccentric green complexes. Some tree management would help it back towards the top 50.
54 REAL PEDRENA
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 72
Pedrena can be commended for some much-needed tree clearing in recent years, but if more were removed to aid the views to La Reserva Club the sea, bay and river, as well as improving playability and even conditioning, it would be even better and score even higher. It boasts some fabulous holes and, yes, the ‘Seve factor’, which you simply cannot escape from – nor will you want to.
53 LA RESERVA CLUB
Design 28 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 73
La Reserva moves to the cusp of the top 50 and deserves recognition as more than a resort course. This is totally one of Spain’s finest, including being presented to an exceptionally high standard.
A Cabell Robinson design that embraces and indeed takes advantage of a hilly setting really impressively. Right from the welcoming, downhill, dog-leg opener, you feel you can score well here, but at the same time stronger players will find it a test – witness its hosting of both men’s and women’s European tours.
“It puts demands on all areas of your game and punishes errant shots so your course management radar needs to be switched on,” noted one panellist. “And the green complexes test your putting skills if you are in the wrong quadrant. It’s quite simply an excellent course.”
As the numbers show, La Reserva scores well across all categories and is heading towards the top 50, where it is likely to overtake some of European golf’s traditional superpowers.
52 REAL PUERTA DE HIERRO (ARRIBA)
Design 31 Setting 10 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 73
A pedigree course for a pedigree club. Oozes class with some stellar short holes, a variety of two-shotters and exhilarating long holes. Enjoys some expansive views over the city of Madrid.
Design 30 Setting 12 Memorability 13 Playability 6 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 73
Proper links course north of Porto with some tight holes at times because of coastal erosion but then, especially on the back nine, some impressively expansive ones.
Design 30 Setting 10 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 73
The 2026 Solheim Cup host is a fine piece of work on flat, heathy ground by Kyle Phillips. An impressive variety of greens and in absolutely wonderful condition. Only going one way in this ranking.
49 REAL NEGURI
Design 30 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 73
Some good work in clearing some trees has opened views to the sea. Magnificent Javier Arana routing on a compact site.
48 LUBKER (SAND & SKY)
Design 29 Setting 11 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 73
Trent Jones Jnr was prolific in Denmark and here he has produced three loops among the mature woodland of this super resort. There is pleasing strategy to the Sand and Sky nines, with sporty par 4s and cute 3s among the more meaty tests.
47 THE SCANDINAVIAN (OLD)
Design 29 Setting 11 Memorability 10 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 73
A little more separation between the Old and New at this Copenhagen club, but that is only because of the intensely competitive nature of the list. There is little to choose between these two Robert Trent Jones Jnr courses and the Old ticks all the boxes.
46 QUINTA DO LAGO (SOUTH)
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 8 TOTAL 74
The South deserves its ranking following a much-needed renovation. It winds through the umbrella pines with fairly generous fairways, but with tough approaches to what are often severely breaking greens.
The course builds through some big elevation changes (especially on the excellent 3rd) to a very tough back nine featuring some striking water features. These particularly play a part in the stand-out 15th and 17th. Albeit not the greatest finishing hole, an enjoyable place to play golf.
45 PALMARES (PRAIA/LAGOS)
Design 31 Setting 12 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 74
Redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, the Algarve favorite has three loops of nine, with the Alvor the one not selected for this. Praia has links holes with sandy scrapes and native vegetation on two par 3s and two par 5s, while the Lagos is highlighted by the long 8th.
44 THRACIAN CLIFFS
CAPE KALIAKRA, BULGARIA
Design 26 Setting 15 Memorability 15 Playability 6 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 74
Location, location, location. And the cliff-edge setting gives rise to some staggeringly dramatic holes. If that’s your bag, you’ll love it here.
43 MORFONTAINE (VALLIERE)
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 14 Playability 6 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 74
Nine holes of riotous fun. This is the ‘second’ course at Morfontaine, but Valliere is packed with memorable holes and the most extraordinary greens in the list. If they were designed today they’d be laughed at!
42 LE GOLF NATIONAL (ALBATROS)
Design 29 Setting 11 Memorability 13 Playability 6 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 74
The 2018 Ryder Cup host needs little introduction because we all saw on television that it is a course of dramatic holes characterized by water hazards. Lacks a bit of necessary nuance to be higher.
Design 29 Setting 13 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 6 TOTAL 74
How can a course rise 39 places? It’s a good question. In Visby’s case, it is because it underwent a significant overhaul by former Ryder Cup player Pierre Fulke and his design partner and fellow pro Adam Mednick.
We paid a visit this summer and there is no doubt it is in superb shape. There is also no doubt this is one of the outstanding courses in continental Europe, one which now maximizes its setting on the island of Gotland.
Right from the very first shot, played down towards the sea, Visby is a mesmeric experience. There are a couple of weaker holes on the back nine, but those pale into insignificance compared with the high points throughout the rest of the course.
Inevitably, the standouts tend to be those holes set hard to the sea and this is certainly a consistently Instagrammable round. But there is also real interest in the holes themselves, such as the 9th, with a bunker in the middle of the tiered green. It runs beside the clubhouse and the lighthouse, the latter making the most wonderful dormie house.
Visby is an exhilarating course that is now up to Sweden’s No.3. Its elevation will not stop here, despite this huge jump.
40 THE SCANDINAVIAN (NEW)
Design 29 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 74
Another Trent Jones Jnr design, this one on the edge of Copenhagen. We’ve consistently ranked it just ahead of its neighbor, the Old. The conditioning is frankly astonishing, given its location in northern Europe.
39 OITAVOS DUNES
Design 27 Setting 14 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 74
Views of the Atlantic, epic holes and a fast-running experience. If it was 15 places higher and you visited it, you would not disagree.
38 DOM PEDRO VILAMOURA (OLD)
Design 29 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 9 TOTAL 74
One of the great names of European golf remains one of its very best. Superbly presented by the Dom Pedro group, the Old has a pedigree and elegance among the umbrella pines which few others can match.
Design 30 Setting 11 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 74
Comfortably the top-ranked course in the Turkish Riviera of Belek, this Peter Thompson original has been nurtured astutely by Tim Lobb. A delight among pines and white-sand bunkers.
Design 31 Setting 11 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 75
Perhaps less well-known and loved than other Dutch courses, but Rosendaelsche entered the ranking a decade ago and is now consistently rubbing shoulders with Europe’s greats. Super playing surfaces on a stellar heathland – the fall is merely a reflection of the competition.
35 SAINT EMILLIONAIS
Design 32 Setting 10 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 75
A Tom Doak design near Bordeaux that starts with a trio of compelling holes that set up a round that is never anything less than gripping.
Design 33 Setting 11 Memorability 10 Playability 6 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 75
Another Dutch heathland of the highest caliber, this one a little more on the exacting side compared to some of its more gentle and charming compatriots.
Design 32 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 6 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 75
A giant of European golf that is desperate to be woken up with a thorough restoration.
Design 29 Setting 13 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 75
Some real wow moments on the seaside holes, but also those playing inland to cute green complexes. The fact it goes up in this extraordinarily competitive ranking shows it is still a terrific linksy course.
31 TERRE BLANCHE (CHATEAU)
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 10 TOTAL 76
Set among idyllic Provencal countryside and manicured to perfection, this Dave Thomas design has plenty of highlights.
30 HARDELOT (LES PINS)
Design 30 Setting 10 Memorability 11 Playability 8 Consistency 7 Presentation 10 TOTAL 76
A classic woodland course given a thorough restoration – including much-needed tree management – by Frank Pont and Patrice Boissonnas that keeps it among Europe’s finest.
29 PRAIA D’EL REY
Design 28 Setting 14 Memorability 14 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 76
Extremely hard to move up in this section because of the new entries, but this seaside course manages it as a result of its setting, dramatic holes and its wow factor.
28 ROYAL BLED
Design 28 Setting 13 Memorability 11 Playability 9 Consistency 6 Presentation 9 TOTAL 76
A breathtaking setting on the edge of the beautiful Slovenian lake town and a course that has been restored intelligently by English architect Howard Swan. A mountain course with a very rare elegance.
Design 31 Setting 11 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 76
Some of the most intriguing and fun holes in this entire list, Eindhoven is characterized by sporty par 4s and some brilliance in the green complexes.
26 ROYAL ZOUTE
Design 32 Setting 11 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 76
A classic seaside course – ‘Zoute’ means salt in Flemish – that travels over, at times, significantly undulating links terrain. Some wonderful holes and firm, fast-running turf to enjoy. Expect a pedigree experience in every way.
25 BRO HOF SLOTT
Design 28 Setting 14 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 76
If you like dramatic holes around water, you’ll think Bro Hof should be 20 places higher! This Robert Trent Jones Jnr design does not try to be nuanced – it is a bold, X Factor experience from start to finish.
24 LE TOUQUET (LA MER)
LE TOUQUET, FRANCE
Design 31 Setting 13 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 77
Another Harry Colt masterpiece among the coastal dunes of the English Channel, characterized by undulating fairways and subtly breaking greens.
Design 34 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 77
A classic Harry Colt course in the western suburbs of Paris with trademark par 3s and magnificent green complexes. One of the classiest courses in the list.
22 CAMIRAL (STADIUM)
Design 29 Setting 12 Memorability 11 Playability 7 Consistency 9 Presentation 9 TOTAL 77
The new entries and rise of Sotogrande affect Camiral’s position but make no mistake, this is a high-calibre course – and the impressive work being done there at the moment has it in its best-ever shape. A wonderful modern parkland course with memorable risk-reward holes.
Design 32 Setting 13 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 6 Presentation 7 TOTAL 77
One of the few courses on the continent that offers true links holes, the back nine being set down on superb links terrain with the sand hills shaping the play. Like those around it in this section of the ranking, it only falls because of the two very high new entries. We are huge fans of Falsterbo.
20 GOLF DU MEDOC (CHATEAUX)
Design 33 Setting 11 Memorability 11 Playability 8 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 78
A feel of Walton Heath to this Bill Coore design, which comprises gently undulating green complexes among the gorse, heather and broom. A fine all-round challenge between Bordeaux and the Atlantic coast.
19 PARNU BAY
Design 32 Setting 13 Memorability 8 Playability 9 Consistency 9 Presentation 7 TOTAL 78
Set down on the edge of the Baltic Sea by Finnish architect Lassi Pekka Tilander, Parnu has a majestic and tranquil setting that’s complemented by really interesting holes. It has sat very comfortably among the elite now for four rankings.
Design 32 Setting 13 Memorability 13 Playability 6 Consistency 8 Presentation 6 TOTAL 78
It’s hard to criticize this traditional links-style layout – especially its front nine. Small greens add to the challenge and many pine-framed holes with the sand-based turf give you great lies. Even better if you can shape your shots to the narrow fairways. A great and fair test, but it lost points for a slightly tired feel. A little love and affection are required.
COTE D’AZUR, FRANCE
Design 30 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 10 TOTAL 78
A legendarily private – it has about 30 members – Robert Trent Jones Snr design that makes its debut in the list as we now feel we have enough knowledge of it. Exceptional conditioning and has impressed all who have played it. A high position in which to enter, but expect it to only rise in future lists.
16 WEST CLIFFS
Design 31 Setting 14 Memorability 14 Playability 6 Consistency 7 Presentation 7 TOTAL 79
A spectacular seaside course north of Lisbon that would be a few spots higher if it wasn’t quite so demanding for higher handicappers off the tee. “Play off the right tees and hope your driving ‘A-game’ is with you,” warned one panelist. “And avoid the ice plants!”
15 LES BORDES (OLD)
Design 30 Setting 12 Memorability 13 Playability 5 Consistency 9 Presentation 10 TOTAL 79
A Robert von Hagge design that is the original course here. Famously exacting, it loses out in the playability category.
14 MONTE REI
Design 31 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 9 TOTAL 79
“I’m not a big fan of Jack Nicklaus courses, but wow, what a gem,” said one panelist. Every hole is in its own idyllic, natural setting, with the back nine especially strong. It falls only because of a slight drop-off in relative presentation.
13 EL SALER
Design 34 Setting 13 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 7 Presentation 6 TOTAL 79
A wonderful seaside course by the masterful Javier Arana. If El Saler was given a little TLC it would be categorically in the top 10. A fabulous location for the holes that end both nines, and bags of architectural nuance throughout.
12 REAL SOTOGRANDE
Design 33 Setting 11 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 9 Presentation 8 TOTAL 80
A notable rise for this fabled name of European golf, as the renovation of the previous decade settles and matures. Wide, inviting fairways lead to more demanding shots as you approach the subtle, breaking greens. A Robert Trent Jones Snr classic that oozes strategy and an examination that is somehow gentle yet exacting. Beautifully presented and a memorable round from the inviting first tee shot. “A classy experience, and I could sit on the clubhouse veranda for hours enjoying the local beverages,” chirped one panelist.
11 KENNEMER (B&C)
Design 33 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 8 TOTAL 80
“Although you cannot see the sea, this majestic links would fit wonderfully on the Lancashire, Ayrshire or St Andrews coasts,” said one panelist. At Kennemer you play into valleys between the dunes to tempting, slightly hidden greens, or to wonderful false-fronted and raised targets. Imaginative shot making is required throughout.
Design 33 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 8 Consistency 7 Presentation 8 TOTAL 80
“I fell in love straight away,” said one panelist of Hamburger. “The 2nd, 11th and 17th are awesome par 5s and you really wouldn’t be disappointed if you found them on Sunningdale.”
A first top-10 entry for what is clearly the best golf course in Germany, a Harry Colt heathland which is being restored by Hendrik Hilgert. If that restoration keeps progressing, higher is possible.
9 TERRAS DA COMPORTA (DUNAS)
Design 33 Setting 12 Memorability 13 Playability 8 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 81
Another continental European top 100 with a new entry in the top 10 is a real statement. Again, though, we have no doubt this new course, just south of Lisbon, thoroughly merits this sensational entry. Indeed, if it had had six more months to settle in, it may well have entered higher. Only its infancy is holding it back; if the Dunas course matures as expected, it will rise even higher. If the team there get it, running firm and fast, it could be top five.
The presentation of the course is the only aspect there is any doubt over. Fescue has been used and that is an exciting prospect. Native vegetation has been incorporated in sandy waste areas as the club seeks a sustainable, least-disturbance philosophy. Both of these aspects are commendable and exciting, but they require assiduous and even bold maintenance techniques to fully pay off.
The bones are there for a Top 100 Best Golf Courses in the World contender. David McLay Kidd was given a wonderful site and he has delivered with it. The scale is epic, the holes are varied, distinctive and memorable, the experience thrilling and playable in equal measure.
This is a modern masterpiece in the making. It will be exciting to watch how it progresses.
8 LES BORDES (NEW)
Design 33 Setting 12 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 8 TOTAL 81
The New entered in this position two years ago and we have seen nothing to suggest that was anything but correct. The Gil Hanse design winds through mature forest on gently undulating land and is packed with strategy and presented superbly.
7 CHANTILLY (VINEUIL)
Design 34 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 8 Presentation 8 TOTAL 81
“One of my favourites,” beamed one panelist. “It’s an enchanting Tom Simpson course set in gently rolling French countryside with a clubhouse to match. You can imagine the course being just the same as it was 100 years ago.” With memorable heathland and a woodland setting, expect a little taste of England in northern Paris.
6 REAL VALDERRAMA
Design 30 Setting 12 Memorability 15 Playability 6 Consistency 8 Presentation 10 TOTAL 81
Here is another bucket-list experience! Valderrama is on the wish list of many for different reasons, though. It has the prestige, the history, and even the intrigue: just how immaculate can it be, how difficult is it to score well among the cork oaks, and what can you produce on the infamous 17th? Those who revel in a pristine, X Factor experience would have it as the No.1.
5 LOFOTEN LINKS
Design 30 Setting 15 Memorability 15 Playability 6 Consistency 8 Presentation 7 TOTAL 81
Lofoten is number one on our list of continental Europe’s ‘X Factor’ golf courses and continues its remarkable rise into the top five of the main continental European list.
Yes, Lofoten’s position is boosted by its staggering setting, but rest assured, location alone would not secure a top-five slot.
There are a handful of holes that would grace anything in this list from a technical point of view and at least half a dozen others that you will never forget. One of the continent’s bucket-list experiences.
4 ROYAL HAGUE
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS
Design 33 Setting 12 Memorability 12 Playability 7 Consistency 9 Presentation 9 TOTAL 82
Royal Hague was laid out by Colt associate Charles Allison, restored by Frank Pont and is a seaside course that enjoys magnificent views thanks to a number of notable elevation changes. Hard, fast-running ground and plenty of blind shots, especially if you get out of position, and some enjoyably unique holes.
Design 33 Setting 12 Memorability 13 Playability 7 Consistency 9 Presentation 8 TOTAL 82
Another Simpson course, albeit here he was engaged to revise the initial design by Julien Chantepie. Fontainebleau winds through an English-feeling forest of pine, oak and beech with rocky outcrops and heather punctuating the holes. Fabulous green complexes, superb variety, memorable holes, sandy, soil and a wonderful finish – this is high-caliber heathland golf.
2 UTRECHT DE PAN
Design 35 Setting 12 Memorability 14 Playability 8 Consistency 10 Presentation 8 TOTAL 87
Another course which would sit very comfortably among the elite of Surrey and Berkshire’s heathlands, De Pan is well established in our World Top 100. It has holes that lose nothing in comparison with those at Sunningdale, Woking, St George’s Hill et al. A wonderful experience between the pines, heather and firm, sandy turf.
Another strategic masterpiece, this time from a different Englishman, Harry Colt. “It was a joy to play among the pines and heather of this wonderful undulating course,” said one panelist, “the flow of the holes is perfect.”
1 MORFONTAINE (GRAND PARCOURS)
Design 37 Setting 12 Memorability 14 Playability 8 Consistency 10 Presentation 8 TOTAL 89
Another year, another number one spot for the ‘Big Course’ at Morfontaine. It might not be exciting to have it as the top course on the continent once again, but we are in no doubt that is the case. Carved out of a forest, with an abundance of heather and set down on sandy soil, you feel as if you could be on one of the greats of Surrey or Berkshire when you play this Tom Simpson design.
The Englishman routed the ‘Big Course’ beautifully across this terrain, leaving many of the natural rock outcrops in place, which adds to the atmosphere of this heathland masterpiece. It is far from onerous and yet you will struggle to put a tidy score together because of the nuance, strategy and angles in the long game, and then Simpson’s cunning greens. A step back in time that it is a privilege to take.
The ‘Next 100’
Narrowing the golf courses in a country down to 100 is always tough, let alone the courses on an entire continent! Here are the ‘Next 100’, which illustrate the depth of the continent’s quality.
101 Ljunghusens, Sweden
102 Esbjerg (Marbaek), Denmark
103 Silkeborg, Denmark
104 San Lorenzo, Portugal
105 Royal Ostend, Belgium
106 Costa Navarino (Bay), Greece
107 Lykia Links, Turkey
108 Modry Las, Poland
109 Bro Hof Slott (Castle), Sweden
110 Westman Island, Iceland
111 Costa Navarino (Hills), Greece
112 Cologne Refrath, Germany
113 Adamstal, Austria
114 Quinta do Lago (North), Portugal
115 Verdura (West), Italy
116 Oaks Prague, Czech Republic
117 Biella, Italy
118 Royal Waterloo (La Marache), Belgium
119 Quinta de Cima, Portugal
120 Anfi Tauro, Spain
121 Moliets, France
122 Castelconturbia (Blue & Yellow), Italy
123 Kempferhof, France
124 Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland
125 Keilir, Iceland
126 Taulane, France
127 Quinta do Lago (Laranjal), Portugal
128 Fontana, Austria
129 San Roque (Old), Spain
130 Dom Pedro (Victoria), Portugal
131 Eichenheim, Austria
132 Oporto, Portugal
133 Amendoeira (O’Connor), Portugal
134 Kytaja (North West), Finland
135 Costa Navarino (Olympic), Greece
136 Fohr, Germany
137 Amendoeira (Faldo), Portugal
138 Dinard, France
139 Royal Fagnes, Belgium
140 Lage Vuursche, Netherlands
141 Ribagolfe (No.1), Portugal
142 Links Valley (Purple & Gold), Netherlands
143 Sevilla, Spain
144 La Manga (West), Spain
145 Emporda (Links), Spain
146 Toxandria, Netherlands
147 Alcanada, Spain
148 Bogogno (Bonora), Italy
149 Cornelia (Prince), Turkey
150 Castiglion del Bosco, Italy
151 Torino (Blue), Italy
152 Santander, Spain
153 Infinitum (Hills), Spain
154 Sperone, France
155 Oslo, Norway
156 Aloha, Spain
157 Olgiata (West), Italy
158 Joyenval (Marly), France
159 Kalakoki, Finland
160 Montgomerie Maxx, Turkey
161 Winston Links, Germany
162 Miklagard, Norway
163 Frankfurter, Germany
164 Penina, Portugal
165 Sct Knuds, Denmark
166 La Zagaleta (Old), Spain
167 Lyon, France
168 Antalya (Pasha), Turkey
169 La Cala (America), Spain
170 Camiral (Tour), Spain
171 Geneva, Switzerland
172 Nordeney, Germany
173 Diamond, Austria
174 Quinta do Peru, Portugal
175 Hvide Klit, Denmark
176 St-Nom-la-Breteche (Red), France
177 Roma Acquasanta, Italy
178 Antognolla, Italy
179 Saint-Cloud (Vert), France
180 Vallda, Sweden
181 Hossegor, France
182 Santo da Serra, Portugal
183 Casa Serena, Czech Republic
184 Estonian G&CC, Estonia
185 Estoril, Portugal
186 La Moraleja (No.4), Spain
187 Evian, France
188 Courson (Vert & Noir), France
189 Bergamo (Blue & Yellow), Italy
190 Barbaroux, France
191 Bogogno (Del Conte), Italy
192 Schloss Schonborn, Austria
193 GardaGolf (Red & White), Italy
194 Gloria (New), Turkey
195 Winston (Open), Germany
196 Zala Springs, Hungary
197 BlackSeaRama, Bulgaria
198 Fano, Denmark
199 Rinkven (Championship), Belgium
200 Terre Blanche (Le Riou), France
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.