Are there enough really good resorts to make it a worthwhile Top 100?
That was the question we asked ourselves when we sat down to discuss a project that has been over a year in the making. The conclusion back then was an uncertain “pretty sure there is”. The answer now, having finished the project, is a categorical “yes”.
And as you read through this inaugural Top 100 ranking of the finest resorts in Continental Europe, we will be surprised if you don’t agree with that assessment.
The depth to the quality of venue is patently impressive; from the day when we wondered if it was possible to maintain quality from 1 to 100, we ended up with 10 very strong contenders immediately outside the list, and another 20 that would have been seamless additions too.
That is testament to the high-class options available to the travelling golfer these days – as is the fact they stretch across the continent. The 1-100 map indicates just how wide-reaching golf has become, with options from Slovakia to the Canaries and Belek to Denmark.
We have a reason behind every choice, so please let us know your thoughts on this inaugural Top 100 via Twitter.
Our guide is split into five easy to digest section so please scroll through and use the links above and below to find your next destination:
A course-side, six-bed villa, this European Tour Properties member features 27 holes of Top 100-ranked Sea and the nine-hole Stone, being extended by Annika Sorenstam.
GW verdict: Will go higher with second course and very high if they added to accommodation.
Holiday villas and townhouses for rent along with a Donald Steel-designed course in a beautiful part of the Obidos countryside.
GW verdict: European Tour Properties member offers a peaceful break now – the five-star hotel being built will see it leap in the next ranking.
A 'Next 100' course on sandy soil that looks like a Scottish links. The 65-bed hotel is 150 yards from the 1st tee.
GW verdict: Distinctive course allied to a low-key hotel makes this one for the golf enthusiast with only a sauna and gym as amenities.
Two courses among skyscraper pines led by Top 100-ranked No.1 by Frank Pennick. Overlooking Aroeira II, a selection of one and two-bedroom apartments and villas.
GW verdict: Lovely golf, nice accommodation but limited facilities. Terrific value, incidentally.
96 Diamond Country Club
Its No.1 course, the Diamond has hosted the European Tour since 2010 and the luxury Aparthotel rooms and clubhouse rooms offer style. A European Tour Properties member.
GW verdict: Miguel Angel Jimenez's remodelled course is the key attraction of a slick venue.
A Top 100-ranked course among mature woodland with a magnificent set of par 3s and a sumptuous 16th plus a stylish golf hotel.
GW verdict: The hotel oozes class but lacks the amenities to go higher. Very good for traditional golf and magnificent food and wine though.
Onsite country house hotel and golf apartments that total 198 beds.
A member of European Tour Properties, the course has long been Top 100 ranked.
GW verdict: The 30 rooms and four luxury suites in the historic Vanajanlinna Castle Hotel are now complemented by modern two-bedroom Vanajanlinna Villas to give an accommodation offering superior to many similar rivals. The gently undulating course winds between pine and birch and among rocky outcrops and lakes. A delightful natural experience and while, relatively speaking, it lacks facilities it has much to enjoy.
There are 45 holes here, two 18-hole championship courses – as well as a nine-holer. There are 100 double rooms in the 'Castle' hotel and four adjacent similarly stylish quarters.
GW verdict: Lots of solid golf and characterful castle rooms. Another to offer terrific value.
The hotel has 53 beautiful rooms and two suites, haute cuisine, and an exclusive Wine Spa. It overlooks the pleasant course.
GW verdict: A course of lakes and mature trees but barely 6,600 yards so this resort – host of the 1995 Catalonia Open – is easy to savour.
91 Royal Zoute
One of the finest courses in Europe plus an Executive course, super practice facilities and an elegant but small dormy house.
GW verdict: For serious golfer. No amenities but the rooms overlooking the links are of highest spec... and residents pay half the green fee.
Two Arnold Palmer-designed courses as well as charming accommodation within centuries-old, renovated buildings.
GW verdict: The on-site American-style courses are better than you might imagine, the rooms are spacious and charming, and the food is divine.
89 Kaya Eagles
A course designed by David Jones within 650,000m² of pine forest. Plus the predictably comprehensive luxury hotel offering.
GW verdict: Might not be a star name in Belek but the course is fine – not a big name, but nicely conditioned. Needless to say, the hotel is superb.
88 Palazzo Arzaga
A 15th Century palace that is now a five-star resort near Lake Garda. An 84-room Blu hotel with a renowned wellness centre, 18 holes by Jack Nicklaus Jnr, nine by Gary Player.
GW verdict: Plenty of pleasant golf but an emphasis on the elegance of the hotel and spa.
87 Himmerland Golf & Spa
A Tour-calibre course that hosts the Made in Denmark event plus 27 other holes and a hotel with a large spa, three restaurants, fitness centre, pool, bowling. Cottages too.
GW verdict: Lots of hearty modern golf on-site yet the spa and hotel are the highlights.
A 1990 Robert von Hagge track that is very close to our Top 100. Sixteen exquisite suites in the heart of the castle.
GW verdict: Oozes class, whether in the immaculate woodland course or in unique rooms that boast four-poster beds and bay windows.
85 Poggio Dei Medici
Sophie Gustafson is among the four Solheim Cup players to win tour events here. Also a UNA hotel within a restored farmhouse.
GW verdict: Nice course in the Mugello valley is overlooked by a hotel with spa, outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, hence a higher ranking than its profile.
La Gomera, Spain
Hotel Jardín Tecina overlooks the Atlantic and the Donald Steel course also has such views as it winds like a ski run down a hill.
GW verdict: Canary Island La Gomera is hard to get to but the clifftop course is thrilling while the hotel sits in gardens of rare plants and flowers.
Views of the sea of Sardinia and the hills of Sulcis, a 75-room hotel and a 27-hole course that has hosted the Italian Open. The base for England's Italia '90 World Cup squad!
GW verdict: Sardinia's first course has matured nicely. The hotel offers typical Italian elegance.
A resort course that's better than it is credited with, plus a large, well-equipped hotel with separate villas for peace and privacy.
GW verdict: A likeable course is backed up by an even better hotel in a peerless location. The ideal base for Valderrama et al on a Sotogrande trip.
81 Dolce Fregate
Mediterranean views, superb courses and four-star accommodation with a renowned food and beverage offering.
GW verdict: Ronald Fream designed the 18 and nine-hole courses among pine trees and rocks. The four-star hotel has five-star hints to it.
80 El Encin
A Robert Von Hagge course that has hosted the European Tour. Superb practice facilities. A well-appointed 39-room hotel on site.
GW verdict: This a slick base for a golf break to under-appreciated Madrid. Sports facilities galore and very good, well-priced food too.