This week’s blog is a guide to nine tricky golf courses for those who like a challenge. It is fair to say that golfers often do not tend to go after the easy option; they would much rather seize the opportunity to show off to their fellow players. Here, we have hand-picked some of the most challenging golf courses in Europe. All nine of these fantastic golf courses offer a stern test of golf that can be best appreciated by players that like to be kept on their toes, and those that ultimately search for an invigorating challenge.
The Espiche Golf Lagos is a hidden gem in the Algarve, one of the most popular golfing destinations in Europe. Players must navigate around the 18 holes here, through a unique layout with a challenge characterised by the strategic placement of greenery and fauna. While the fairways may appear to be on the generous side, with dense forestry lining the edges and subtle contouring, golfers are guaranteed an unforgettable test of golf. This par 72 golf course has been designed to incorporate most of the landscape’s natural features, which in turn creates a stunning landscape, and of course a fantastic challenge. Not only must golfers anticipate masses of greenery and fauna to manoeuvre their shots around; the layout is also rife with bunkers and water features that run their natural course throughout the course. Despite the Espiche Golf Lagos being a relatively new golf course in the Western Algarve, it has already established itself as one of the most challenging and unique golf courses in the area. With this layout, players will find they will succeed more in course management if they prioritise accuracy over the length of their shots. There are some truly tricky tight spots throughout, therefore the general line of advice for those that want to attempt the Espiche Golf Lagos is to take plenty of spare balls! Golfers must anticipate the challenge at the par-4 3rd hole as it is widely considered to be the most difficult on the course with a 409-metre-long uphill fairway. Whilst the fairway here appears to be generously wide, the subtle undulations are sure to trip up even the most experienced player.
The Dolce Campo Real Lisboa golf course is situated just half an hour’s drive away from the centre of Lisbon. Here, golfers can enjoy an invigorating round of golf across a unique terrain with rolling hills and valleys. The challenge does not end here; not only is the landscape truly unique with consistent elevation changes, but there are also dense areas of greenery and forestry throughout. Golfers must play with the perfect balance of accuracy and length in order to manoeuvre their shot across the many water hazards and some tricky doglegs which demand a blind shot. Even the most skilled players will find every element of their game challenged at the Dolce CampoReal Lisboa as they must overcome the natural terrain of the original landscape. Donald Steel, one of the most famous golf architects in the world, has created a fantastic golf course built on the natural beauty of the former terrain. The golf course that stands today is rife with the original landscape’s features, including the natural greenery and fauna weaving in and out of the stunning valleys and hills. Players are wrong for assuming they have an advantage with an anticipated view from the elevated tees; the greens are subtly undulating, creating a surprising challenge.
The Shire is widely considered to be among some of the best golf courses in the UK, as well as one of the most challenging. Designed by the leading golf architect Seve Ballesteros, the Shire golf course is guaranteed to keep golfers on their toes throughout their game. Players can enjoy a fantastically varied round of golf; at this golf course, no hole is even remotely similar. The golf course comprises of six par threes, six par fours and six par fives, all of which offer a unique layout and a stern test of golf. Long hitters will feel right at home here as their skills will be utilised best with the challenge to overcome the many large water hazards. They can reap the benefits of the risk-reward system at this golf course, and those that cannot rise to the challenge will be penalised. The challenge here does not just end at the strategic placement of the water hazards and the sheer size of them; there are over 10,000 trees at this parkland golf course just waiting to swallow any wayward shots. Furthermore, the greens are unbeatably fast and feature subtle contours to trip up even the most skilled golfer.
The Salobre New, formerly known as the Salobre North, is a distinctive golf course that is guaranteed to set the hearts racing of all players, regardless of their skill set or experience. This golf course offers a unique round of golf to its players with an original landscape that is sure to be remembered for years to come. Despite the fact that this par 69 golf course is not nearly as long as its sister golf course, the Salobre Old, nor the other golf courses in the surrounding area, that is not to say that golfers will find a round of golf here a walk in the park. The Salobre New was designed with the emphasis on the use of accuracy instead of length, meaning golfers must be sure to play with their A-game throughout their round. Despite only opening in 2008 as a new addition to the huge variety of golf in Gran Canaria, the Salobre New has already created a steady reputation for itself as one of the most challenging golf courses on the island. A highlight of the stern test of golf on offer at the Salobre New includes the par-4 10th hole where players must utilise the use of their iron in order to cross an undulating fairway to reach the multi-tiered green.
One of the most unique golf courses in the Algarve includes the Monte Rei, which has accurately been labelled as “the jewel in the crown of Portuguese golf”. Conveniently for players, the Monte Rei is home to a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere to soothe any tempers raised from the challenging layout they have to overcome. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, one of the most famous golf architects in history, at the Monte Rei, golfers are guaranteed to have an unforgettable round of golf. Despite the huge range of golf in the Algarve and its constant expansion, the Monte Rei has continued to maintain a big name for itself in Europe. The main challenge here is characterised by the nature and placement of water hazards and bunkers; in order to maintain a steady scorecard, golfers must play with the perfect balance of length and accuracy across the 7,224-yard-long layout. Nicklaus certainly did not hold back in the use of water hazards for this layout, as they feature in eleven out of the eighteen holes here. The challenge does not simply end here; with original fauna and greenery, strategic bunkering and undulating terrain, the Monte Rei is not a good golf course for players to choose if they want to show off to their fellow players.
The par 73 Alferini golf course is a stand-out course in the midst of all the classic Spanish layouts in the Costa del Sol. Instead of just providing an attractive layout and a pretty scenery, the architect of the Alferini, Antonio Garcia Garrido, has succeeded in striving to create a fantastic golf course that offers a great challenge. Many of the golf courses in the Costa del Sol are typically attractive, and some might say they lack a certain edge to them. However, the Alferini puts this preconception to waste with a truly unique layout that is sure to provide a stern test of golf to all those that attempt it. The golf course was designed and created with its natural features in mind in order to preserve its original beauty and to maintain the landscape’s unique features. The par 5 16th hole is a particular stand-out to all of its players. At this hole, long hitters may initially revel in the lengthy and seemingly straightforward fairway. However, as any experienced golfer can advise – looks can often be deceiving! As the fairway approaches the green, it narrows significantly, therefore the element of accuracy must be focused in on as players soon find themselves surrounded by bunkers. With a unique layout that is sure to make low handicappers break a sweat, it comes as no surprise that Michael Campbell has labelled this hole as his favourite across the entire golf course.
The Le Golf National Albatros is known as the most challenging golf course in the surrounding areas around the French capital, therefore it hardly comes as surprising that it was selected as the 2018 Ryder Cup venue. It is fair to say that this golf course has lived up to each and every one of its expectations, and this has been shown to be the case as players return year after year. Golfers push their skills to their limit to make the most out of the risk-reward system the golf course operates on. Golfers are thrown into the challenge here from the get-go; however, the real challenge lies right at the end of the round at the par 4 18th hole. This is the hole to make or break an unforgettable round of golf with a huge water hazard positioned to the left side of the fairway and areas of dense bunkering on the right side. Here, the determinant of success lies in the approach shot. Whether players are happy with the end result or not, their round at the Le Golf National Albatros is sure to be a memorable one.
The La Manga Club West is the perfect golf course for any golfer looking for a challenging yet varied round of golf. The front and the back loops of nine differ in both their characteristics and the skills that they demand. The front nine holes demand golfers play with precise accuracy, and while the back nine appear to be more open, any decent player knows never to take anything at face value. The back nine might comprise of a more open layout in comparison to the narrow and compact front nine, however that is not to say that they are any less challenging. Golfers will find themselves thrown into the challenge from the very first hole, and they must do their best to play consistently as the course rapidly changes in elevation. If players are able to focus on anything but the challenge at hand, they should take their time to appreciate the immaculately kept landscape here; spectators frequently comment on the fantastic condition of the West golf course. At the La Manga West, the best is saved until last at the final 18th hole. Here, golfers must push themselves for one last time in order to give a half-decent tee shot. If they cannot do this, then there is usually some leeway due to the width of the fairway, but golfers should not count on this.
At the Acaya Golf Club, the challenge lies in the difficulty of club selection. If players can manage this, then they have a chance to do well here. There is a huge range of challenges to be met at the Acaya Golf Club, therefore golfers must choose their club carefully. Players must overcome strategically placed bunkers and water hazards that come into play at many of the holes here in order to score well. Whilst the Acaya Golf Club is undeniably one of the most challenging golf courses in Italy, it is also one of the most breath-taking due to its stunning location in the heart of the countryside. The architects of the Acaya Golf Club sought to incorporate the features of the natural landscape with their vision to create a fantastic golf course that forces players to use all of the clubs in their arsenal. It is certainly a unique aim to want to encourage players to use all fourteen of their clubs, however it is fair to say that this has been achieved, and it simply adds to the challenge. With three huge lakes and dense green areas consisting of olive groves, players must anticipate a testing round of golf that they are sure not to forget any time soon. The main challenge here is characterised by water hazards as the three lakes at the golf course come into play mainly in the back nine holes. The 16th, 17th and 18th holes comprise of tricky par fours; therefore, players must be sure to save the best of their game until last.
We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s blog, and hopefully, we have inspired you to push beyond your boundaries to truly test your golfing skills on your next golf holiday in Europe.