Prince de Provence:
An incredible mix of soothing lines and ruggedness, it
unfurls over rocky scrub and through umbrella pines in
the hills above the Riviera. It was the baby of both Robert
Trent Joneses, but sadly is totally private with just
a handful of members. Possibly the best course in Europe.
Sporting Club Berlin:
On quite unpromising terrain, Nick Faldo has pulled out
a hummocky and beguiling inland links, a ball-striker’s
paradise. Pot bunkers and clever contouring throughout
mean there is no letup for mind or body. A thrilling test.
Shockingly on the edge at times, Trent Jones really put
the drama into Valderrama. The greens are severe, fraught
with danger, and move like greased lightning. It is as
exacting a mental challenge as one will find, but stunningly
Praia d’El Rey:
Often spectacular, never boring, it is a brilliant use
of the wild natural terrain near Lisbon. Some holes weave
over sandhills in a forest of fragrant pines, while a
few are exposed among a delicious dunescape above the
Atlantic Ocean. Villa building has taken some of the gloss
off the serene ride through nature, but the course is
still a major player in European golf.
For a routing that traverses such varied terrain—forest,
lakeside and heath—it is a wonder that the Robert
Von Hagge course works at all. But it does work, and spectacularly.
A beauty and a beast.
Set on a pine studded Swedish peninsula within earshot
of the sea, Halmstad sweeps and bursts through the trees
seductively, and relies on the spindly trunks to create
fear rather more than any bunkering or water. A very calming
place to play unless one gets stuck playing "pinball"
among the firs.
A links style course in Belgium among pines and gorse
just inland of the North Sea, and another Harry Colt masterpiece.
It bears all his classic trademarks, and trundles elegantly
but dangerously over the gently creased landscape. As
expected, the bunkering is visible, attractive and strategic.
PGA Golf de Catalunya:
Holes swoop through umbrella pines and natural waste grounds.
Cleverly, despite the big elevation changes, only one
drive is uphill whereas nine give the rush of firing downhill.
Water intermingles with several holes on the valley floor,
making for inspiring golf.
Outside of the U.K. it is about as good a links as one
will find. A crumpled and wild Dutch dunescape hosts a
thought-provoking course that constantly tests shotmaking
off sloping lies and firm fairways. The rough is tough,
but the tranches of wild buckthorn are altogether more
impenetrable. Wonderfully wicked.
Le Golf National (Albatros):
The place lacks a little soul but the golf on this French
track is staggeringly good. It is as much a feat of engineering
and logistics as just grand design. Flat fields were transformed
into a lunar landscape by truckloads of builders’
rubble from around the city. Now huge "dunes"
shelter fairways and add bite to the green surrounds.
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