Europe’s best golf courses

By Matthew Dunn for British Airways High Life Magazine

Main photograph courtesy of Bro Hof Slott Golf Club © Lennart Hyse

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August 2016

Far from being a good walk spoiled, a world-class golf course can make a great holiday really go with a swing. Matthew Dunn, sports reporter for the Daily Express rounds up six of the finest in Europe.

Clube de Golf Santo da Serra, Madeira

Madeira is such a tiny speck in the ocean that it looks as though the only golf course it could house would have one of those windmills on it. Yet hidden within the clouds of the mountainous interior is a surprisingly hospitable gem that hosts the Madeira Open. Visitors are allotted two of the three nine-hole course at the club, with each boasting lightning fast greens and a challenge for any ability. And if those clouds do blow away? The panoramic view of the whole island should be enjoyed further from the balcony of the clubhouse, over a meal from the surprisingly comprehensive menu.

Where? Santo António da Serra, Madeira, Portugal (+351 291 550 100;

  • Panoramic putting at the Clube de Golfe Santo da Serra, Madeira

    Not to be missed…

    This 27-hole course has been described as one of the prettiest in the world and is becoming an established spot on the Tour Schedule.

    Escape to Madeira

Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, Spain

Golf should always be played in short sleeves with the sun on your back, no matter what time of year. They get that in Alicante, which is why it is a land of so many courses. For Las Colinas to stand out, then, you know it has to be something special. It is set up in the hills away from the bustle of its noisier neighbours and offers a quieter, more relaxing round of golf on a championship golf course designed by Cabell B. Robinson. A stay in the luxury villas perched on the hills above the course makes an idyllic break with the clubhouse as immaculate in presentation as the 18 holes themselves.

Where? Orihuela Costa, Alicante (+34 965 32 40 04;

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Golf should always be played in short sleeves with the sun on your back, no matter what time of year

Bro Hof Slott, Sweden

Recent Ryder Cups prove that no European line-up is complete without a Scandinavian influence and this is no exception. From its opening in 2007, the Robert Trent Jones-designed Stadium course has been considered the best in Sweden. The relatively flat fairways make this an easy-walking round so it is the glistening lakes that take your breath away instead – not to mention your golf ball if you are not careful. An interesting additional feature is the inclusion of four completely separate tees on each hole, so different challenges await you according to your ability. Play off the hardest black tees, for example, and you have more than 8,000 yards to negotiate.

Where? Bro, Stockholm (+ 46 8 545 279 94;

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Oceânico Vilamoura Old Course, Portugal

The mature and majestic trees that line the fairways are a major blessing of this course, but can also be responsible for a curse or two if you tend to be somewhat wayward off the tee. Very few courses in the Algarve are as well-established or, for that matter, as tight. At least if you hit the fairways you are rewarded with the same manicured surface that the Oceanico group prides itself on throughout their resorts in the area, which include separate courses devised by Sir Nick Faldo and Christy O’Connor among others.

Where? Vilamoura, Faro (+351 289 310 333;

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  • The verdant green fairways of Europe attract golfers from all over the globe © Halfdark / Getty

    Golf adventures

    A golfing holiday is the ideal way to experience nature, enjoy stunning scenery, get fit and let off some steam.

    Inspire me
  • Coastal course Dunluce Castle near Royal Portrush © Getty

    Tee time?

    The dramatic medieval castle of Dunluce provides the dramatic backdrop for Royal Portrush Golf Club and is only accessible by a footbridge from the mainland.

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Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland

After a campaign involving Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, the foremost links course in the whole of Ireland has finally been inked back onto the Open Championship roster for 2019. The reason that the Royal and Ancient have turned up their noses consistently since 1951 is simply because it is so remote – which conversely makes it perfect for a golfing retreat. Spectators may struggle to get there in their droves; after all, even golf carts are banned. But for the humble foursome plodding its way along the fairways that snake below the remains of Dunluce Castle, this course is recognised as providing one of the greatest golfing challenges in the world.

Where? Portrush, Northern Ireland (+028 7082 2311;

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The Belfry, England

Talk about driven bats at the Belfry! Having smote mightily from the tee of the signature par 4 10th on the Brabazon course, I watched my golf ball clear the water, thud onto the front of the green… then trickle off the back and into the moat there. Sculpted by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas from humble farmland into the only course to host the Ryder Cup four times, each hole presents a challenge but none higher on a golfer’s bucket list than successfully driving the 10th green, just as Seve Ballesteros did in 1985 for European glory.

Where? Coldfield, West Midlands (01675 238 600;

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