Our knowledge of the courses of Continental Europe has expanded a bit like it has with regard to footballers. Two decades ago, before every World Cup there was great excitement at watching for the first time the latest striker to play for Brazil or the new star in Italy's midfield. Now these players are on our screens at least once a week. The same is true of Continental golf courses. When we first started compiling these lists, I suspect only a few of you will have been familiar with more than a handful of names.
The proliferation of media and golf travel means you will now have heard of over half at least. I like to think this means this biennial ranking has increased in importance and interest in the past 20 years. But even if you are not desperately eager to find out what has come in/dropped out/moved up /moved down, hopefully you find interest and insight in the pages that follow. None of us will ever agree on a Top 100 ranking of course, but what I can say without fear of contradiction is this is the most thoroughly-researched Continental Top 100 we have ever produced. In previous lists we have relied broadly on the contributions of correspondents in each country. While these remain, we have a second layer of assessment; input from golfers who have played widely across many countries. I am one of those fortunate to have done so and am joined by a group of other similarly well-travelled panellists.
I thank them for their efforts in helping mould this list, which we believe is the most authoritative you will find by virtue of the panel's ability to compare courses across several countries. So, for every course, we have a verdict from an expert based in the country to which it belongs and also from a panellist (often panellists) who has played across many countries. [NB No panellist commented on their 'home' course] We don't have anyone who has played all 100, as we do in our GB&I lists, but we are getting close.
Clearly, it is a significant undertaking to play everywhere from Lykia Links to Hardelot (Les Pins). I hope you enjoy discovering our refreshed ranking and look forward to your views on our selections. I hope we have played a part in highlighting to you the finest courses in Continental Europe – all 200 of them in fact, including our enhanced 'Next 100' – as you weigh up your golf breaks for 2016 and beyond. I especially hope when you play the courses, what you experience matches up with what we suggest you will encounter.
The 2015 Panel
Chris Bertram Golf World's Courses & Travel editor has played 65 of the Top 100.
Borje Laurinsson With wife Gunnel, this Swedish couple have played our Top 100 courses with real devotion!
Hans-Joachim Walter A German with a French home, he's an expert on both.
Nigel Butler and wife Suzanne are separate panellists. In 2002 these Brussels-based golfers set up Where2Golf.com, covering 4,000 of the world's best courses on five continents, aiming to provide a wealth of information on 'the best'.
Peter Bjerkeseth Widely travelled Norwegian with expertise in Scandinavia.
Peter Gammie A particular font of knowledge in his new home of France, plus Spain.
Country-by-country panel: Spain, Juan Lozano; Portugal, Joao Vieira Pereira; Denmark, Thomas Vennekilde; France, Jean-Francois Bosse; Sweden, Tommy Jeppsson & Olle Dahlgren; Germany, Heinz Knebel; Netherlands, Ruben van der Zaag; Finland & Estonia, Teemu Tyru; Switzerland, Franco Carabelli.
Their initials will precede all their contributions.