10 Great European golf trips
We might be divorcing mainland Europe politically, but the British golfer has never had closer ties with the continent. Whether Brexit is hard or soft and whatever shades of red, white and blue it turns out to be, the British golfer is not going to turn their back on the continent. Why can we be so sure? Because record numbers have just enjoyed a golf break in the Algarve, Lisbon is one of the boom cities of Europe, and Spain (and its many golf-packed islands) is as popular as it has been since its 1980s heyday. France, boosted by its Ryder Cup duties, is only going to attract even more visitors.
But those three big guns – plus Belek, not inside the EU and having a relatively dip in popularity – are not the only reasons British golfers will keep packing their new blue GB passports when Brexit does eventually mean Brexit. There are so many other attractive options in continental Europe that are only going to become more popular. Not all guarantee sunshine – initially the key reason for us heading to Iberia. In fact, several have climates that are only marginally better than our own. But they have something different, something unique to their own country – from incredible value to outstanding courses, to potent beer to spectacular landscapes. Some have all four. We’ve selected the top 10 continental European countries that you ought to be at least considering a trip to in the coming year – even although you might never have given it a passing thought in the past. Trust us, there is much to savour...
Not exactly a newcomer to the golf scene – more of you will likely have visited Cyprus than any of the rest of our selection – but the island’s golf offering has improved markedly in the very recent future, making
it an even more appealing option. Underpinning the allure of a golf holiday here is the climate, which is arguably the best in the whole of the continent. October? Glorious – fact. April? Ideal for golf. Aphrodite Hills has been the standard bearer for years and continues to be, but in the revamped Secret Valley and Minthis Hills – in addition to Sir Nick Faldo’s Elea – it is a well-rounded option. The much-improved courses mean Cyprus has a very even golf offering, any month of the year.
OK, it doesn’t have quite the obscurity of the countries that follow, but we are in no doubt that more golfers should travel to Italy from Britain than is currently the case. Sicily, through Verdura and Donnafugata, is increasingly popular, and so is Sardinia, which has just joined the Italy Golf & More group that is trying hard to expose more golfers to the appeals of an Italian golf holiday. Both areas have especially good year-round weather in addition to their widespread tourist appeal and Top 100-class courses. Tuscany, too, attracts its fair share of Brits to its golf courses, notably the super Argentario Resort that is one of the most stylish in Europe. Further north, Castelfalfi has just added a new hotel and will likely join Argentario in becoming a Top 100 Resort in time. Uber-trendy Puglia in the south has, in Acaya and San Domenico, resorts oozing class. Two areas we especially like are the northern powerhouses of Piedmont and Lombardy, around the cities of Turin and Milan. Royal Park (with two courses) and Biella in Piedmont make for an idyllic long weekend, with easy flights to Turin. And in Lombardy, base yourself at Bogogno (two courses) and also play at Castelconturbia and especially Villa d’Este on Lake Como – if you’re disappointed, let us know (you won’t be).
Yes, Belgium. Seriously. If pedigree courses are your top priority on a golf trip, there are few countries on the continent that can match Belgium. Lots of them are at private clubs (basically like our Troon and Sandwich) so you need to plan and arrange in advance, but there is some tremendous fayre here. It’s more varied than in most countries too, ranging from the woodland-heathland of Limburg to the seaside tracks of Royal Zoute and Royal Ostend, the latter with stretches as close to a GB&I links as you’ll find on the continent. Ravenstein is a classic short parkland and Royal Antwerp a delight for architecture buffs. Take the overnight P&O ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge and you’ve got all your gear with you, with the driving all very do-able.
Slovakia gets a mention as a result of one resort, because we believe Penati offers the best quality-to-money ratio in Europe. It is not an exaggeration to suggest for the same level of golf and accommodation elsewhere in Europe, you would pay three times more. With one Continental Top 100 course and one in the Next 100, plus on-site villas, it is perfect for a group who want to play 36 a day then pore over the play with a very cheap, potent beer in their hand.
5. Czech Republic
The Prague area has been on the radar for a little while actually, but the Czech Republic as a whole is really stepping it up now, and offers a delightful golf break of beauty, value and excellent golf.
The Cape Kaliakra area is a contender for best value in Europe, and also boasts some really hot summer weather too. The three courses there are, as you will have seen, perched on cliffs and offer spectacular views and edge-of-the-seat golf holes. It hasn’t quite cracked the UK golf market as Belek has, despite providing much the same offering other than the weather. Don’t let that slower take-up put you off though, because Cape Kaliakra has all that’s required to get more of a foothold on the market.
Estonia GC has long been a fixture in Golf World’s Continental Top 100, and now you have double the reason to visit this famously beautiful Baltic country. Parnu Bay opened in 2015 and is a visually sensational woodland-seaside hybrid. It is a strong contender to enter Golf World’s Continental Top 100 later this year, and with the well-documented attractions of the capital Tallin to consider too, this is a very attractive golf break for non-sun worshippers.
To suggest ‘Sweden’ as a whole is a bit of red herring actually, because you’d need a week to play all of the really high-class stuff there. Better to focus on either the central section or the south. The star attraction in the south is Falsterbo, a traditional links that no-one ever has a bad word about. Team that with Ljunghusens and the Kyle Phillips-designed duo at PGA National. Fly in and out of Copenhagen – while you’re there, you could tick off the duo at The Scandinavian – and drive across the bridge to Sweden. If you can add a day or two on, you can venture up the west coast to play Vasatorps plus two Solheim Cup venues; Barseback – a woodland-seaside hybrid, and Halmstad. Further north-east, Bro Hof Slott is the magnet, but don’t forget about Sand.
Like Sweden, to play the best of Denmark requires a bit of patience and determination. If you want a one-base golf break, this isn’t for you. But if you like the adventure of careering round a beautiful country ticking off its best courses, you’ll love it. The Scandinavian’s Old and New are easily accessible via Copenhagen (along with Royal Copenhagen) but you’re actually better to
fly from Stansted into Billund and tackle Esbjerg, Holstebro and Lubker from there... and for serious hipster credibility, Budersand (which is actually German) on the island of Sylt.
More specifically, Munich. There are loads of great courses, of various characters, from classic parkland to mountainous scenes. The golf is really good and there is also a chance to explore a fantastic city, from gastronomy and sightseeting to going to watch Bayern Munich or attending the beer festival.