How is difficulty determined?
Golf is one of the few sports where you can play against someone who has fewer skills than you and where you might still lose a game. It's unclear who came up with the idea to add strokes for poor players, but the concept has changed the game forever. This idea to level the playing field made it possible to compete against anyone and it enabled people to place bets.
In the beginning, a handicap was based on your ability compared to the best player of the club. But, when playing against someone of another golf club or on a different golf course, things became complicated. Course ratings - the score a zero handicap player should be able to make on a course - tried to solve this problem. But, researchers eventually found out that the scores of high handicapped players increased significantly when a course became more difficult (so, the steeper the slope of the graph). Slope rating - an invention of Dean Knuth - acknowledged that effect and tried to compensate it. A slope rating adjusts a golfers' handicap to the course being played and takes into account that some courses are much more difficult for 'poor' golfers.
So, the course rating is a number, close to par for the course, indicating the difficulty of a course for a scratch (0 handicap) player. It is expressed with a single decimal digit. For example if the par for a course is 72, the course rating might be 72.4 (so slightly more difficult). The slope rating is a single number indicating the difficulty of a golf course to bogey golfers, so someone who has a handicap of around 20. The slope rating value always lies between 55 and 155, with 113 being the average or 'standard' value. A slope rating of 155 means this is the most difficult course (for a specific tee) you can imagine. The higher the course and slope rating, the more strokes will be added to your handicap.
The most difficult golf courses in Europe
Now that we know how to spot a difficult course, let's make a top 10 of the most difficult golf courses in Europe based on the slope rating for 18 holes from any tee. Quite some unusual suspects made the list and probably some are fairly unknown to the general public. And that is exactly why we love to make such lists! Have you played any of these courses? Did you enjoy them or did you lose a lot of balls and a lot of self-confidence in the process? Tell us all about it by sharing your review(s) on Leading Courses!
1. Le Golf National (France) - slope rating 155 (black tees)
2018 Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National has proved to be difficult, even for professional players. The Albatros Course has a hefty slope rating of 155, which is the highest slope rating a course can receive. If you do not want the challenge, then head over to the Aigle course, which is a bit more friendly and forgiving. The course is owned by FFGolf, the French Golf Federation and will also host the Olympic Games. If you are a member of FFGolf, then playing here is relatively cheap. Otherwise, your green fee will be considerably higher.
2. PGA Catalunya Resort (Spain) - slope rating 155 (black and white tees)
The land on which PGA Catalunya Resort lies was originally set aside for a Formula 1 racetrack and then a purpose-built venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup. The latter did not happen, but PGA Catalunya Resort did host the Spanish Open golf tournament and the Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School several times. The Stadium Course is the most difficult of the two golf courses at PGA Catalunya Resort. It has an impressive slope rating of 155 for both the black and white tees. Even from the yellow tees, the slope rating is high: 151. This might explain why so many golfers have a difficult time here at the Stadium Course.
3. Black & White Golf Resort Bratislava (Slovakia) - slope rating 155 (white/yellow tees)
The Black River golf course has a course rating of 79.5 and a slope rating of 155, which makes it the toughest golf course in Europe and a real challenge even for the experienced golfer. The Black River course is part of the Black & White Golf Resort Bratislava.
4. Postolowo Golf Club (Poland) - slope rating 155 (white tees)
The Postołowo course is a spectacular course with a magnificent lake offering breathtaking and dramatic golf holes according to its architect Jeremy Turner. It is the second longest PAR 72 golf course in Europe with a length of 7101 meters (7766 yards) from the back tees. It is a very challenging golf course with a slope rating of 155 for the back tees. Several of the new back tees in Postołowo were constructed on the recommendations of Mr. Mikael Ericsson, tournament director of the PGA European Tour who visited the course in 2004.
5. Woodhall Spa Golf Club (England) - slope rating 152 (blue tees)
The National Golf Centre at Woodhall Spa, also the home of England Golf, offers world-class golf courses and an impressive Academy. Woodhall Spa is home to two magnificent courses – the Hotchkin and the Bracken. The Hotchkin Golf Course (blue tees) has a course rating of 75.3 and a slope rating of 152! Impressive.
6. Rosa Private Golf Club (Poland) - slope rating 152 (white tees)
Rosa Private Golf Club is located 14 km south of Czestochowa and is one of the biggest golf investments in Poland. The championship golf course meets all of the USGA standards. The course consists of small hills, valleys and large lakes (with 8 meters difference in the water level). The lakes are connected by cascades and cover over 14 ha and combined with 117 bunkers and dense rough this is a challenge even for the most talented golfers.
7. Golf du Chambon sur Lignon (France) - slope rating 152 (white tees)
The great thing of making such top 10 lists, is that golf clubs come up which are relatively unknown. This also goes for Golf du Chambon sur Lignon, which is located close to Valence and just on the border of the natural park of the Ardèche. The golf course of Le Chambon sur Lignon, is often called "La Pierre de Lune" (the moonstone) and lies at the foot of Mont Mézenc. The designer, Michel Gayon, wove the course up and down the slopes, in and out of the trees and lakes.
8. Toscana Resort Castelfalfi (Italy) - slope rating 151 (white tees)
The Toscana Resort Castelfalfi is the largest golf resort in Tuscany and is home to two difficult golf courses: The Lake Course (9-holes) and the Mountain Course. The Mountain Course is an 18-hole Championship Course and has a slope rating of 151 from the white tees (and still an impressive 150 for the yellow tees). The Lake course - if played twice - has a slope rating of 152. As we focus on 18-hole courses, this rating did not count in the order of Castelfalfi.
9. Golfclub Anderstein (The Netherlands) - slope rating 151 (white tees)
Probably not very well-known throughout Europe, but Anderstein offers three nice and challenging 9-hole loops, which cut through the Anderstein Estate. The Heuvelrug-Heide combination (hills and heather loop) has a slope rating of 151 from the white tees. The club is located in an ecologically interesting place: Anderstein lies partly on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and partly in the Gelderse Vallei. If you visit the Netherlands, then this course should be on your play list.
10. Meland Golfklubb (Norway) - slope rating 151 (white tees)
Meland Golfklubb is known for being one of the most challenging golf courses in Scandinavia. Meland Golfklubb is located only 20 minutes from the city of Bergen. Situated in the Norwegian fjords the views are specular and the challenge to play this difficult course offers a special experience. A green fee will set you back 480 nkr (48 euro) during the week and 580 nkr (58 euro) during the weekend. The course was designed by Robert Hunt and you need a club handicap of 45 to be admitted.
Other difficult golf courses in Europe
It has been quite a journey to provide you with an accurate list based on slope rating. It's often hard to find reliable scorecards and very often the course rating and slope rating are not even mentioned. The list has been put together by our own experience, by checking our site and data and by verifying it again through our network of Ambassadors throughout Europe.
The following golf clubs (slope rating 145 and higher) just missed the top 10 list of toughest golf courses and we felt they deserved a special mention:
If you know of any golf courses in Europe which should have been listed in this top 10, then please let us know. From experience, we can say that it is quite difficult to retrieve the course and slope ratings of each course in Europe. We hope to solve that problem soon, so stay tuned! Note
: We assume that the Ryder Cup course of Marco Simone
will make it to the list, but right now no slope or course rating of this newly constructed course is available.