By Tiffany Ryes, International Banker
Golf holidays in Europe’s top destinations are always a treat. After all, they are not just for golfers who are planning to practice their swings but also those who are looking for outstanding accommodations hand in hand with excellent dining and leisure activities.
From enchanted castle facades to modern Mediterranean vibes, Europe’s high-caliber golf breaks are indeed special. The sensations of the warm sun and the sights of endless stretches of well-manicured greens that stop to give way to tree-lined scenery or aquamarine coastal horizons—it’s pure bliss for an avid golfer. Whether it’s a serious golf pro out for practice or a weekend golfer on a once-in-a-lifetime spree, these European golf destinations offer the best greens along with five-star hotel amenities and luxurious suites that will make each stay an absolutely perfect golf getaway.
Vidago Palace Hotel, Portugal
Travel back to a time of magnificent nobility, plush elegance and elaborately detailed workmanship unique to the Belle Époque era, a style superbly preserved in every nook and cranny of Vidago Palace Hotel in Chaves, Portugal.
An opulent pink palace built for royalty, Vidago Palace is the perfect European destination for those looking to combine golf with historic luxury accommodations. After extensive refurbishment work in 2010, Vidago Palace takes on a revived charm that still harks back to its heritage and history. Rich in resplendent details from the imposing entrance, through the ornate corridors and into the exuberant suites, the Vidago Palace Hotel is breathtaking in its grandeur. It boasts of vintage interiors and period accents that can make any guest feel like nobility. Still, it never ceases to amaze and provide luxurious comfort with its range of expertly handpicked modern luxuries.
While the hotel itself can utterly impress even the most discerning and critical guest, the gem of the property sits among its expansive greens, in its 250 acres of pristine woodlands. Opened in 1936, the Vidago Palace Golf Course was designed by the infamous Philip Mackenzie Ross. It was renovated in 2010 by the Cameron Powell golf design company and now offers an all-new 18-hole championship course. The redesign made the 6,308-metre course more challenging while still paying homage to the magical setting among lush, centuries-old trees. Still, golf enthusiasts of all levels will enjoy teeing off on the fairways while looking off to the panoramic views of the valley in which the estate is nestled. Indeed, a classic golf course for the 21st century.
Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, Italy
A prized gem of the Rocco Forte Hotels group, Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in the inspiring town of Ribera in Sicily, Italy, is a sight to behold—but even more impressive once visited for a luxury golf holiday.
Verdura is a destination for discerning travelers looking for a fitness and wellness getaway. What sets this five-star resort apart from the rest, however, are its exceptional golf courses. Designed by architect Kyle Phillips, Verdura boasts of two 18-hole championship and one 9-hole golf courses that astonishingly work together with Sicily’s sweeping and romantic verdant landscapes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. These courses afford a spellbinding sensory treat as surrounding olive and orange groves provide enticing smells that definitely make Verdura an unforgettable Sicilian oasis. A modern Mediterranean property, Verdura affords guests with the utmost in luxury and comforts through its state-of-the-art amenities. Meanwhile, its large indoor and outdoor spaces contain contemporary details in a brand of modernism that perfectly fits into the landscape. The resort’s 203 rooms and suites are large, bright and minimalist, but still radiate an air of opulence and craftsmanship that is distinctly Italian.
After teeing off on the greens, guests can enjoy a walk on the private beach or retreat to the Wellness Centre, in which the spa is among the best and most cutting edge in Europe. And if that’s not enough, the resort also offers four gourmet restaurants run by Michelin Chef Fulvio Pierangelini, with locally sourced dishes and superb wine pairings.
Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort, Ireland
For an enchanted golf vacation, the legendary Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort takes things to new heights. Nestled on a private 310-acre island along the River Suir, Waterford Castle is a truly enchanting setting for the most discerning luxury vacationer and golf enthusiast.
A short ferry crossing transports you back in time as you travel the fine beech-lined path to the castle. Ahead, the massive 500-year-old oak doors open to wood-paneled halls accented by Jacobean antique decors that are impressively juxtaposed against the best in modern comforts. This island resort combines opulent living, which echoes Ireland’s rich Medieval history, making it one of the most prestigious luxury retreats in the world today. The castle provides superb accommodations and utmost privacy, with only 15 deluxe rooms and five suites, all fitted out to the highest standards that will definitely make any guest feel like royalty. What attracts golf enthusiasts to the place, however, is its magnificent 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course. Spanning across the expanse of the Waterford countryside, this golf course was designed by no less than Ireland’s own legendary golfing hero Des Smyth, who was also a two-time Ryder Cup player.
Aside from the glorious golf course, Waterford Castle is also legendary for its award-winning dining. The castle’s Munster Room is a critically acclaimed spot in the Michelin Guide, satiating not just the palate but all the senses with its memorable dishes. Afterwards, guests can sit back at the Fitzgerald Bar and enjoy the most excellent Irish whiskey collection.
The Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland
Home to three highly lauded championship golf courses, Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland, is every golf lover’s paradise. With lavish fairways, expansive greens and challenges for all handicap levels, it’s no surprise that Gleneagles was chosen as the venue for the PGA National Golf Academy for Scotland and also the home of the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Built in the 1920s as a respite for travelers taking the train to and from the Scottish highlands, Gleneagles’ façade reflects its baronial roots and French influences in a chateau-like country house that is by all means far from humble. From the get-go, as you drive up its perfectly manicured driveway, the exclusive resort exudes elegance and a sense of enchantment that seems to make time slow down. However, the atmosphere is far from stuffy. Doormen wearing kilts provide a brand of hospitality that is uniquely Scottish. While Gleneagles is so utterly enormous that guests are provided with a map, the ambiance remains private and the service personalized so guests feel right at home. All 232 rooms, including the 26 superbly appointed suites, grandly reflect its impressive reputation as a century-old luxury destination. Each room provides a delightful retreat as it showcases breath-taking views of the resort gardens and the tranquil highlands beyond.
For the discriminating traveler and golf aficionado, Gleneagles is a wonderland. The courses are tough enough to test the world’s top professionals, yet still playable for the weekend golfer. Add this to the fabulous, state-of-the-art spa combined with the two-starred Michelin restaurant helmed by Chef Andrew Fairlie to offer sumptuous treats—and you have Gleneagles as, without a doubt, a piece of heaven on earth.
Indeed, Europe has a place for every golfer—and for every discerning luxury traveler. Combining the rolling greens and generous fairways with five-star accommodations and superb dining, these golf destinations are definitely each a hole in one.