Golf is a truly international pastime and with few exceptions, you can play in almost any country in the world. There are so many courses to choose from across the globe it is hard to choose.
Below I have highlighted five of the best destinations to consider for a golfing break in Europe with suggestions of some of the top courses to play.
The Algarve is considered as the home of Portuguese golf and is, in golfing terms a relative newcomer. The first golf course was built in Portugal in 1966. Designed by Henry Cotton at what is now the Penina Hotel and Golf Resort it still sees plenty of golfing action. Over 50 years on and the Algarve is awash with golf courses and resorts. Many of them have two or three separate courses to play.
Some of the more popular and highly rated courses in addition to the Penina Hotel and Golf Resort mentioned above are Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo both on the Algarve. For something a little different try the Portuguese island of Madeira in the mid-Atlantic which has 3 courses and some spectacular scenery.
Spain was the first place UK golfers looked to for a winter break and still remains the favourite destination for golfing holidays. Across mainland Spain and the Spanish Islands, there are a plethora of courses to choose from. A mild Mediterranean climate, plenty of choices, readily available accommodation and terrific value for money continue to make Spain a popular destination for golfers.
It’s difficult with so many courses (40 plus on the Costa del Sol alone) to pick out the best but those that consistently make the various top ten lists are the PGA Catalunya Resort, Los Flamingoes, La Manga Resort and the Marbella Club Resort.
Scotland is the birthplace of golf and all serious golfers should play there at least once in a lifetime. Golfing heritage comes in bucket loads and it is home to the oldest golf courses in the world. Apart from its heritage, Scottish golf courses have some of the best scenery and plenty of meteorological challenges.
With over 550 to choose from Scotland has the highest number of golf courses per head of population anywhere else on Earth. There is something for everyone and every ability.
It is possible to play on some of the top championship courses but you do have to plan ahead.The Old Course at St Andrew’s is in such demand that who plays there is determined by ballot. Trump Turnberry Resort, Gleneagles or Carnoustie Golf Links are all highly recommended.
Like Scotland, Ireland has a long and distinguished golfing heritage and has produced some of the world’s top golfers. Ireland is known for its ‘links’ courses with 50 of the 200 plus courses being classified as ‘links’. The weather in Ireland presents its own challenges particularly along the coasts which can be buffeted by strong winds straight off the Atlantic. However, the plentiful rainfall does ensure the greens are verdant all year – Ireland is not called the Emerald Isle for nothing.
Highly recommended courses are the Royal County Down Golf Club, Tralee Golf Club and Waterville Golf Links in County Kerry and the K Club in County Kildare just 30 minutes from Dublin.
The first golf course in mainland Europe was laid out close to Pau in France in 1856 after a Scottish doctor declared the climate around the town ideal for both body and soul. Now there are 550 courses across France and the country is experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity for those wanting to take a golfing break. A short hop across the English Channel brings you within easy reach of a huge variety of courses in Northern France. There are plenty further south too where the climate is milder.
Highly recommended are the Terre Blanche Golf Club in Provence, Les Aisses, 150km south of Paris and Golf de Fontainebleau, also close to Paris. The Chateaux course Medoc north of Bordeaux is in the middle the wine region of the same name. Each hole appropriately enough is named after a Medoc vintage.
Two things to consider when travelling with your own set of clubs are:
Many airlines charge extra to carry golf clubs and this is invariably cheaper if booked online and not at the airport.
Insurance for your clubs. Are they covered by your policy?
This is an edited version of a post I wrote for the Avanti Travel Insurance blog where I regularly write on the subject of travel. You can read more of my posts by clicking on the link.