Golf World Top 100: Best Golf Courses in Continental Europe
What are the best golf courses in continental Europe? From France to Spain to the Netherlands and Norway, the Golf World Top 100 panel reveals the places you have to play 18 holes.
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This was one of the first Top 100 courses rankings I compiled for Golf World, just over a decade ago now.
I’d played a fair bit of golf on the continent and we had a wide array of correspondents in each country who would feed back their views on the best courses on their doorstep.
Comparing that list with this one is chalk and cheese, however. There are courses in the 2012 list that really aren’t anywhere near being contenders now.
What’s changed? Well, a few things, actually.
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First, not only have several outstanding courses opened in the last 10 years, many historic courses have also undergone thorough and highly successful restorations.
Second, not only have I travelled extremely widely in search of the best golf courses continental Europe has to offer, I’ve also been fortunate enough to put together a panel who have done similarly.
Third, I also think what constitutes ‘good’ to us (and I naturally include myself here) is also a bit different now; we have moved away from perfectly nice, manicured parklands with a few holes being made dramatic by water as being good enough for this list. Rightly or wrongly, we now tend to reward courses that are a bit different over more standard fare. We aren’t intentionally contrarian or provocative, but distinctive courses are doing well in this and our other rankings.
That means some big names from the past miss out altogether or are much lower down the list than they are used to. It also means tremendous variety within the 100, so there is plenty for golfers of all tastes to enjoy.
Well, I hope so anyway, because identifying the best courses around – whether those in England, Scotland, for £60 & Under, or that offer the most fun – is the entire point of us producing these Top 100s.
As I’ve said before, every place in every ranking is decided with one motivation in mind; that what you find when you play a course we have included tallies with where we have ranked it and how we’ve described it.
I’ve played 91 of this 100 and 26 of the 40 that also got down to the final cut – it would have been more but for Covid – and I’m confident that we are identifying the very finest courses in continental Europe. We’ve also identified the best golf resorts in continental Europe to help you plan your next trip.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on the ranking. Get in touch via email, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
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What is the Golf World Top 100?
How we rank the best golf courses
This continental European Top 100 follows the format of the English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh equivalents from earlier this year. But there is no harm in recapping the methodology used in creating this refreshed ranking of the elite courses on the continent.
A panel of readers and experts continues to rank the contenders. We started this approach in 2015 and remain certain that it offers the most accurate reflection of the best courses for you to play.
Of course it’s still acutely subjective, but we believe the cross-section of views we get from golfers – of all tastes and abilities – who have travelled so widely, is priceless. In addition to their extensive knowledge, the fact they’ve paid their own way round all these great courses and are thus not beholden to any club should not be underestimated.
Each course is ‘marked’, which we believe adds ballast to the ranking by explaining more clearly how we arrived at our decisions and highlighting a course’s relative strengths and weaknesses more effectively to you.
We have simplified the marks by dispensing with decimals and rounding up instead. It means many more ‘ties’ – and thus positions decided by the Top 100 editor – but it feels easier to digest that way.
Meet the Golf World Top 100 Continental Europe marking panel
We assembled an exceptional panel with a vast knowledge of continental Europe’s courses. In addition to this panel, which marked courses across the continent, we have also leaned for years on the insight of experts in all the key countries to ensure we left no stone unturned.
These included: Spain, Alfonso Erhardt; Portugal, Sean Corte-Real; Netherlands, Ruben van der Zaag; France, Jean-Francois Bosse; Sweden, Olle Dahlgren; Denmark, Thomas Vennekilde; Finland & Estonia, Teemu Tyru and Switzerland, Franco Carabelli.
Chris Bertram: The Golf World Top 100 editor has played 91 of the 100 and 26 of the 40 contenders.
Joerg Beringer: The German is a travel industry professional and has played more than 60 of the 100.
Peter Bjerkeseth: The Norwegian is a Scandinavian expert but travels widely to southern Europe too.
Nigel and Suzanne Butler: Brussels-based duo run Where2Golf.com and have played more than 80 of the 100 courses.
Xavier Champagne: The Belgian has played almost all of the top 50 – plus has the best name!
Peter Gammie: Lives in France and is an expert on its courses in addition to the key contenders in Spain and Portugal.
David Jones: Well-travelled Scotsman with specific expertise in France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands. Also Twitter’s UK Golf Guy.
Darius Oliver: Australian architect and writer who has been to almost every corner of the continent.
Dirk Schaeffer: A German who loves travelling to Europe’s lesser-trodden courses.
Hans-Joachim Walter: Another German, who has played 95 of the 100 and is an assiduous documenter of his verdicts.
Would you like to be on our panels? Get in touch with us, here
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 to find the best:
Design [40 marks]: A key category, split into three sub-sections: Does the course take advantage of its landscape ; the green complexes ; the routing .
Setting [15 marks]: The aesthetic value of the surrounding views and the course itself. And the overall ‘atmosphere’ of the course – not the club.
Memorability [15 marks]: How easy it is 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? 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]: Two aspects: is maintenance at ease with its surroundings, and the conditioning of tees, fairways, bunkers and greens.
Best golf courses in Europe: FAQs
What if there is a tie?
In the event of a tie, Golf World Top 100 Editor Chris Bertram decides the positions based on breadth of opinions from the panel.
Do you consider anything other than the layout itself when scoring the best golf courses?
Off-course facilities, customer service or tournament pedigree played no part in deciding any of our Golf World Top 100 Courses rankings. We care about the best golf courses, not about who has the best clubhouse, has hosted the most tournaments or provides the best lunches. In the event of a tie, the Top 100 editor.
Are there any golf courses you haven’t considered?
Yes. Vidauban, located in the heart of the Massif des Maures, in Provence would be a contender but we do not feel enough panellists have played it to rank it properly. This will be rectified for 2022. We don’t like to guess about courses…
We did not consider Lykia Links in Belek, Turkey, due to operational issues we are uncertain of. Under normal circumstances it’s a Top 100 course.
Which golf courses narrowly missed out on a place in the Golf World Top 100 Continental Europe ranking?
Narrowing the golf courses in a country down to 100 is always tough, let alone the courses on a continent! Here are the continental Europe golf courses that narrowly missed out on a place in the coveted main list, ranked in order of how close to inclusion they were…
Granville, France; Crans sur Sierre, Switzerland; Esbjerg (Marbæk), Denmark; Adamstal, Austria; Castelconturbia (Blue & Yellow), Italy; Royal Waterloo (La Marache), Belgium; Anfi Tauro, Spain; Sevilla, Spain; Royal Fagnes, Belgium; Quinta do Lago (North), Portugal; Moliets, France; Sperone, France; Mill Creek, Russia; Oporto, Portugal; Gorki Golf, Russia; Dreamland, Azerbaijan; Joyenval (Marly), France; Pestovo, Russia; Fontana, Austria; Sporting Club Berlin, Germany; La Manga (West), Spain; Montgomerie Maxx, Turkey; La Moraleja No.4, Spain; Lyon, France; Kristianstad, Sweden; Tseleevo, Russia; Miklagard, Norway; Winston (Championship), Germany; Kytaja (North West), Finland; Tbilisi Hills, Georgia; Zala Springs, Hungary; Diamond, Austria; Quinta do Lago (Laranjal), Portugal; PGA National, Czech Rep; Zurich, Switzerland; Albatross, Czech Rep; BlackSeaRama, Bulgaria; Taulane, France; Estonian G&CC, Estonia; Pirin, Bulgaria.