location: Knokke, Belgium
designer(s): Harry Colt, Col. Allen
A links in the middle of a charming village. A flat, but technically highly interesting, early Colt layout from the days when he was Sunningdale secretary. This historic club – whose name translate as ‘Salt’ – allows its rolling seaside course to run pleasingly fast in the summer. A handful in anything more than a gentle breeze.
location: Valencia, Spain
designer: Javier Arana
One for architecture connoisseurs, El Saler makes excellent use of its natural features. Some minor concerns over conditioning but still a delight – the seaside holes, in particular offer fantastic views. A fantastic flow of front-nine holes and marvellous green complexes. Some say it’s Scottish golf with a Mediterranean flair.
The Kennemer (B&C)
location: Haarlem, Netherlands
designer(s): harry Colt, frank Pennink
An interesting rise for The Kennemer in what is a much-changed order in and around the top 10. Whereas it had fallen slightly in the previous two rankings, our panel really liked its rolling seaside terrain and its enduring Colt legacy. More hilly than some classic links and has some forest sections for a visual and strategic change of pace.
PGA Catalunya (Stadium)
location: Girona, Spain
designer(s): angel Gallardo & neil Coles
The closeness of the marks illustrate that despite this small fall for the Stadium, it remains one of the continent’s elite. A super course it vies with Valderrama for the status as Spain’s No. 1 course. A beautiful and challenging course set amid a sprawling estate a on a grand scale. Lots of water, raised greens complexes and steep runoffs to keep you honest. It is very difficult, but gives true pleasure and excitement.
location: Paris, France
designer: Tom Simpson
This beguiling pine and heather course has now enjoyed two consecutive rises. With a sympathetic restoration, it could be top three. With great variety among the trees and heather, it’s not long and so eminently playable. Reminds us of Swinley Forest and The Berkshire. While some critics claim the course is a little tired and overgrown, this is a level of heathland class rarely witnessed.
location: The Hague, Netherlands
designer(s) harry Colt, frank Pont
A lot of affection from this panel for this stringent seaside examination sees the only ‘Royal’ course in the country back in the top five. A robust, deluxe experience, it’s our No.1 in the Netherlands and one of the few classic Continental links.
location: Sotogrande, Spain
designer(s): Robert Trent Jones, Kyle Phillips
Regains its position as Spain’s No.1. The ‘experience’ factor here, although prohibitively expensive for some, cannot be underestimated. Yes, it is tight, exacting and, at times unfair. And yes, many visitors will be beaten up by it... but there is also a very good chance they will still absolutely love it. Conditioned to perfection, the golf experience oozes quality.
location: Orleans, France
designer(s): robert Von Hagge & rick Baril
A small fall for this epic modern classic, which was built to the highest specifications. With more than a touch of an American feel, Les Bordes is a demanding, bucket-list experience. It’s very tough but, in our opinion, is close to being the very best in Europe. Arguably the best strategic course in this ranking, Les Bordes is even very difficult for skilled players.Having said that, it is very special – a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a very private club.
Utrecht de Pan
location: Utrecht, Netherlands
designer: Harry Colt
Up to No.2 for this charming heathland. Yes, it lacks the length and challenge of yesteryear but it is heather and pine heaven that everyone can adore. The Royal family is a member, and no wonder. It’s a orgeous forest course with a touch of inland links. In our opinion, it’s the only course that realistically challenges Morfontaine for the top spot.
designer: Tom Simpson
In all honesty, it is difficult to imagine Morfontaine not being No.1. As tedious as it might seem for it to be right there at the top again, we don’t compile rankings to be interesting, we compile them to be accurate guides to the best courses in each respective area. The ‘Grand Parcours’ (Big Course) of Morfontaine is, in our considered opinion, the best in Continental Europe. Tom Simpson at his best – it is a classy, serene heathland. Extremely private, we hope you find a way to get to the 1st tee!