Robert Trent Jones Sr is among the most influential golf course designers of all-time. The architect boasts an incredible 500 courses in over 35 countries in his impressive portfolio.
The philosophy of “hard par, easy bogey” transcends his designs, and perhaps explains the USGA’s propensity to select his layouts for their flagship tournament, the US Open.
Here are six of the best Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs in Europe:
Real Club Valderrama
This fabled venue is bucket-list material, and is arguably Continental Europe’s most famous layout.
The first venue in mainland Europe to host a Ryder Cup in 1997, the event would prove be to among the most exciting in the tournament’s history. Seve Ballesteros would lead the European team that year, a thrilling contest that would come down to the very final hole.
The spectacle that Sunday is fitting of a dramatic layout that will keep you mesmerised from the moment you step on the first tee.
Valderrama‘s narrow, cork-lined fairways, will necessitate pinpoint accuracy throughout. Small greens will ask questions of your approach game, while the numerous doglegs will be sure to keep you on your toes.
Already Spain’s shining star, a €3 million make-over in 2015 has raised the bar even higher. This work focused mainly on the front-nine and the irrigation system. The team at Valderrama hold the course to the highest environmental standards. After these recent changes it is now the only course in Europe to have Audobon Certification, other than Loch Lomond.
Whatever time of year you choose to play Valderrama, you will be guaranteed a course in tip-top condition.
Real Club de Golf Sotogrande
Ranked #3 in Spain on All Square
Real Club de Golf Sotogrande was Trent Jones Sr’s first European design, and may well be his finest. Despite opening in 1964, this Spanish gem has withstood the test of time remarkably well.
Today, visitors will find a test as relevant as when golf in the region was still in its infancy.
Golfers must plot their way around the course with considerable care. The fairways appear deceivingly wide from the tee. Nonetheless, stray from the short stuff, and the variety of wonderful trees that line each hole will soon make their presence felt. Succeed in pitching onto the elevated greens, and you will find beautiful manicured, and particularly difficult to master putting surfaces.
Trent Jones Sr selected Sotogrande as one of his top-five designs. With the sheer natural beauty of the land it is easy to see why. Sotogrande is one of these courses that just seems to effortlessly blend into the land on which is was crafted to create a truly magnificent golf challenge for players of all levels.
Real Club de Golf las Brisas
Ranked #12 in Spain on All Square
Trent Jones Sr made quite a habit of moulding exceptional golf courses on the Costa Del Sol. Designed following the inspired creation at Sotogrande, Las Brisas is another layout in the sun-soaked corner of Spain that is out of the very top draw.
The course is more of an American-style layout than the other prestigious layouts in the region. As a result, water hazards abound throughout, bunkering that is more for guidance than for strategy, while there’s plenty of room to manoeuvre.
The courses oozes style and quality from start to finish, with plenty of risk and reward holes to keep you entranced.
Some of the biggest names in golf have walked Las Brisas’ picturesque fairways. Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Walker would win the World Cup of Golf here shortly after the venue opened. Meanwhile Nick Faldo would claim the Spanish Open at Las Brisas in the late 80’s.
A facelift in 2014 by Kyle Phillips has enhanced what was already an unforgettable layout.
Ranked #6 in Portugal on All Square
Troia Resort, with exceptional views of the ocean on every hole, is among the country’s, and Europe’s, finest courses. Accessible by ferry, the layout enjoys a magical location, wedged between the Atlantic Ocean, the Serra da Arrábida Natural Park, and the Sado Estuary.
The par-four 3rd is the highlight of the round, offering magnificent ocean views. Trent Jones Sr named the hole as one of the best he has ever designed. He also included it in his list of ideal 18-hole courses.
An oasis drawing inspiration from a beach lifestyle, the resort itself is equally splendid. A European Tour property, Troia houses extensive Roman Ruins. Guests can also see dolphins frolicking in the waves, wine and dine at the selection of fantastic restaurants, or enjoy the area’s outstanding biodiversity on a variety of beach and dune trails.
Golf de Sperone
Ranked #18 in France on All Square
The only golf course on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, Golf de Sperone is quirky and enchanting to the extreme. It is also a complete joy to play. Plotted across undulating and rugged coastal terrain, the course offers awe-inspiring vistas throughout. This is particularly the case over the final stretch of holes, played against the backdrop of the dazzling turquoise waters with views across to Sardinia.
Testing at the best of times, the relatively short course can be brutal when the wind is hollowing, with several shots requiring long irons to cliff-top greens protected by ravines and gorse.
The 16th hole may well be the par-5 in Europe. Played from a tee jutting out precariously into the Ocean, the hole carves it way along the clifftop. Walk away without losing your ball, and it will feel like a job well done.
An utterly unique challenge, a round at Golf de Sperone is a once-in-a-life experience.
Golf De Moliets
Ranked #22 in France on All Square
While not a links layout, this unique and varied course offers a collection of outstanding seaside holes. Winding its way through dense pines over the opening nine, the course then opens up to contrasting dune land before heading back to the woodland setting for a narrow, tree-lined finale.
While the course is a fantastic choice for those vacationing in the region, it is no push over. Built on sandy, free-draining soil the layout has played host to the Challenge Tour.
Regularly voted among the top-20 courses in France, the resort also has a 2,000-yard practice nine-hole course.