The culture and customs of golf have translated readily to regions where Britain’s ancient game has caught on. Still, there’s pleasure in the subtle differences a traveler will find on a tour of European courses. Here are some Continental outposts to consider, along with icons ofIreland andthe UK, eachchosen for their quality as well as their proximity toExclusive Resorts residences in the area.
St Andrews: Kingsbarns Golf Links, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
No golfer planning to spend time in The Cradle of Golf needs any prompting to play The Old Course. Even the choice offered here, Kingsbarns, is self-evident. An instant classic when architect Kyle Phillips gave it his sign-off in 2000, the course is one long ode to the sea. There are ocean views on every hole and the very ground you walk on mimics the rolling, cresting contours of the briny deep.
Drive time from residence: 25 minutes
Tuscany: Royal Golf La Bagnaia, Siena, Italy
The finest courses in the portfolio of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. combine strategic challenge with a painterly beauty, and this 6,600-yard layout hits on both attributes. Lightly treed, it qualifies as an “inland links.” The soft-edged pot bunkers and views of medieval Siena above golden, knee-high fescue rough merely add to the experience.
Drive time from residence: 20 minutes
Paris: Golf de Morfontaine, (Grand Parcours) Senlis, France
Considered one of the world’s finest and most picturesque parkland golf courses, the “Grand Parcours” 18 at this historic, 27-hole club was carved from rolling woodland in the 1920s by Cambridge-educated Tom Simpson and brilliantly restored some 80 years later. The look and feel of the golf landscape is all of a piece, while the hole variety and the array of shots you’ll need to score well are manifold.
Drive time from residencse: 50 minutes
London: Walton Heath (Old Course), Tadworth, Surrey, UK
This romantic, heath-country landmark is famed for patches of heather in a deep amethyst hue, stacked-sod bunkers of lovely proportions, firm fescue to hit off, and a wide Surrey sky above its tree-dotted landscape. Walton Heath dates to 1904, hosted the memorable 1981 Ryder Cup, and owns a long tradition of warm welcomes to the visiting golfer.
Drive time from residence: 60-75 minutes
Ireland: Golf the Emerald Isle (Experience Collection)
The best way to offer golf guidance for this beloved destination is from Lahinch and Ballybunion down through Tralee, Dooks, Waterville, and Adare Manor. It’s all the golf and dune-topped beauty a lover of the game could wish for.
Barcelona: Royal El Prat Golf Club (Pink Course), Barcelona, Spain
Located a half-hour north of the city, Royal El Prat is a 45-hole complex whose 18-hole Pink Course is the star of the show. Its dramatic mounds and dazzling bunker patterns are the work of Greg Norman, who brought a visually bold design approach. Attention to fine detail is obvious throughout, even in the course’s grooming and maintenance.
Drive time from residence: 35 minutes
Cote d’Azur: Golf Course du Roquebrune, Roquebrune-sur-Argens, France
Routed in skillful fashion over a relatively compact parcel of excellent terrain, this Michel Gayon-designed course provides plenty of challenge to go with its inspiring vistas. Well located between Cannes and St. Tropez, Roquebrune’s fairways have good bones and nice movement, with many of their centerlines pointing to alluring distant features, framing a golfer’s targets gracefully.
Drive time from residences: 40 minutes from Villa la Colline; 60 minutes from La Retraite
Lake Como: Golf Club Villa d’Este, Montorfano, Italy
While the challenges of this tree-shaded hideaway derive not from length but from narrow corridors, Golf Digest has ranked the course No. 2 in Italy and players across the skill spectrum sing its praises. Take in your Lake Como views from the clubhouse and surrounding lawns, because the golf experience is woodland all the way.
Drive time from residence: 45 minutes
Prague: Karlstejn Resort (Red Course), Liten, Czech Republic
Site of both a Czech Open championship and a Czech Ladies Open, this brawny but refined course has the look of rumpled farmland converted to inviting fairways and greens. Though there’s plenty of trouble in the form of sand bunkers, lush rough, and greenside run-offs, when winds are light, a course like this will bring out the aggressive, birdie-seeking player in all of us.
Drive time from residences: 40 minutes
Provence: Pont Royal Golf Club, Mallemort, France
There are views of craggy peaks and a broad river valley from this handsomely contoured and tournament-tested course. Designed by Seve Ballesteros and opened in 1991, it’s the centerpiece of a former private estate covering some 450 acres. Pont Royal has been developed into a versatile golf destination, including a six-hole short course and a golf learning center with three practice holes.
Drive time from residence: 30 minutes
Island of Brac: Golf Club Adriatic, Savudrija, Croatia
There’s an artistry to the features of this charming but formidable course, first opened in 2009. One particularly impressive touch is the use of white-stone lining along the banks of a long water hazard protecting the par-5 13th hole, which actually features water on both sides off the tee. This is a golf destination you could spend the day at, making use of its grass-tee driving range, putting green, chipping green, and practice bunkers.
Drive time from residence: 4 hours