Some time ago we discussed what elements are needed for a course to be called a true links course. In this post we want to talk about another great type, the heathland course. And more important, which heathland courses you should play in Europe. But first, a bit of history and then some explanation what a heathland course actually is.
The move towards the ‘heathlands’
At first golf was only played on the vaunted ‘links lands’ on the shores of Scotland, but as golf became more popular the demand for golf courses grew and expansion began across Europe. Inland courses started to crop up away from the traditional ‘links lands’. A number of golf courses were first built on impenetrable clay soils with poor results. Golf architects of that era, like Willie Park Jr, Harry Colt and Abercromby began to look for well drained soils. Heathlands were very suitable as they had fast draining, sandy soils with gently rolling terrain. Heathland courses boast the kind of firm, sandy turf present at all classic links courses which is perfect for golf (fiarly similar to the soil on links courses).
Besides the sandy turf and good drainage, heathland characteristics include swathes of heather, devilish gorse, rhododendrons, pine trees and firs.
The combination of the perfect soil, the great surroundings, the blossoming heather and other scenic vegetation have led to the growing popularity of heathland courses and quite a few of them are amongst the best in the world.
So, what makes a heathland course different from a parkland course? A heathland course is a more open, less manicured inland course with gorse and heather and typically less wooded than parkland courses.
Some courses, for example Sunningdale Golf Club and Liphook Golf Club, are referenced to as heathland courses although they have quite an abundance of trees. The explanation that they are still considered a heathland course is that neither of those courses had many trees when they were first laid out. The trees have been added later on as part of the strategy of the course or to provide shelter from the wind or the sun.
Hopefully now it’s more clear what a heathland course exactly is and how they originated. Below we have gathered some of the best heathland courses in Europe. If you miss a heathland gem, then do not hesitate to comment to this post!
The best European heathland courses for your bucket list
We have only added courses which you are able to play without the need of being introduced by a member. Therefore, for instance, Golf de Morfontaine (France) and Golf De Fontainebleau, although beautiful and both a must-play, are not in the list below.
Sunningdale Golf Club – New Course (England)
Sunningdale New course was created by Harry Colt in 1923 to cater for the increasing needs of members and is friendlier than the Old Course. It is more open, encourages driving and the trees are not too close to the fairways. The New Course is perhaps a bit more rugged than the Old one, a bit more masculine, if you will. The par three fifth is one of the most attractive holes with idyllic views. In 2015 Sunningdale was awarded our ‘outstanding‘ seal of approval.
Hindhead Golf Club – Hindhead Course (England)
One of the founding fathers of ‘The Hindhead Golf Club’ was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Hindhead, being 750 feet above sea level, was called ‘Little Switzerland’ for its clean air. Eight of the holes at Hindhead sweep through majestic high sided valleys formed 2 million years ago. The course is situated close to the A3, just an hour’s drive from London. In 2015 Hindhead also was awarded our ‘outstanding‘ seal of approval.
Hamburger Golf-Club e.V. Falkenstein – Falkenstein Platz (Germany)
Falkenstein was laid on a vast area of nearly 175 acres, so there is a sense of spaciousness to Falkenstein. In addition, its practise area is one of the best in Europe. The course was designed by Harry Colt, who also designed another great heathland course in The Netherlands, De Pan. In 2015 Falkenstein was the nr 1 course in Germany according to golfers on our site. The course is quite hilly, more than heathland courses around Londen.
Golf & Country Club Limburg – Championship Course (Belgium)
Limburg Golf & Country Club, also known as ‘Houthalen’, was founded in 1966 by a group of golfing friends who were members of Sart-Tilman. The course was laid out partly in a nature reserve Tenhaagdoornheide and partly in pine woods. Fred Hawtree designed the first nine holes in 1968. In 1971 seven additional holes were finished and two years later the 18 holes were completed. The course is the nr 1 course in Belgium according to our members.
Utrechtse Golfclub ‘De Pan’ – U.G.C. ‘de Pan’ (The Netherlands)
The Utrechtse Golfclub ‘De Pan’ was founded in 1894. The Pan was designed in 1929 by architect Harry S. Colt and is considered one of the most beautiful courses in the Netherlands. The course lay-out is compact, set in a tranquil forest and the routing is close to perfect. The course can be played in less than 3 hours. Hole 10 is the signature hole, but the three finishing holes are great as well. The course is obviously also ‘outstanding’ on Leadingcourses.com.
Walton Heath Golf Club – Old Course (England)
The Old Course, opened in 1904, has hosted several major golfing events, most notably, the 1981 Ryder Cup and The Senior Open Championship in 2011. The Old Course was designed by Herbert Fowler. Tom Weiskopf reckons the closing sequence of the Old Course is as good as any.The club is full of heritage and tradition, course maintenance is good. Walton Heath has the ‘recommended’ seal of approval.
Europäischer Golfclub Elmpter Wald – West Rhine Golf (Germany)
The course was initially built by the British Army and if you want to access to the course you need to get through some administrative hurdles (like providing them with your passport and license number). It’s still a 10 min drive from the entrance to the golf club itself. The course really is a hidden gem although it currently needs some attention. If quite some trees are removed, this can be one of the best heathland courses around.
Want to add your personal favorite heathland course? The just write a comment below!