June 8th, 2010

France’s Top 5 Golf Courses

by Don

France is famed for many things, from a colourful history of revolutions and guillotines, to legendary emperor Napoleon and more recently, the not quite so robust but perhaps now equally legendary, Miss Carla Bruni, now Madame Sarkozy.

Countless visitors flock to France each year to sample the wealth of museums, art galleries, theatres, gastronomic delights and free flowing wines and champagnes. With assets in such abundance, you’d be forgiven for not realising that one of the other attractions is golf in France.

Blessed with over 700 golf courses, golf in France is as popular as its European neighbours Spain, Portugal and Ireland. With the advent of the Channel Tunnel and Eurostar, France is more accessible than ever and with courses in every region, it’s even feasible to pop over for the day for a quick round. Selecting the top five courses for golf in France is wholly subjective and depends upon what you’re expecting to find.

Les Bordes

If, like many golfers, you’re looking for a challenge, Les Bordes in the Loire Valley cannot fail to make an impression. A comfortable pair of golf shoes is a must here, as at over 7000 yards and covering an area of more than 1500 square kilometres, this course requires stamina. It also requires patience and skill to negotiate the water hazards posed by Sologne’s lakes, which come systematically into play on twelve of the eighteen holes.

Thankfully if you are truly exhausted after completing your walk through acres of lakes and woodland, Les Bordes offers luxurious accommodation to rest the weary head and feet for the night.

Golf de Chantilly

Considered one of Europe’s, let alone France’s, most prestigious clubs is Golf de Chantilly, around 30 miles north of Paris. A home to golf in France for more than 100 years, Chantilly has played host to several French Open championships. Recommended for the serious golfer, its Vineuil Course has a challenging layout designed to test even the most adept of championship golfers. At a little under 7000 yards, the layout reflects English style courses, with areas of woodland and open fairways. Chantilly is also home to a second course and whilst no less charming and challenging than its neighbour, the par 73 Longeres is a touch more forgiving for those seeking a more genteel test.

Le Golf National

Heading South West of Paris by around 20 miles will take you to Le Golf National, where a links-style aptly, if somewhat dauntingly, named Albatross course, was completed in 1990, a venue which has also played host to the French Open. With countless bunkers, an array of water hazards and rolling fairways, this course proves an uncompromising test of nerve and endurance to any golfer. Not for the faint hearted, Le Golf National also offers a further 18 holes on its Eagle course and a more sedate, though no less testing assessment of skills on the enchantingly named 9 hole Sparrow course.

Golf de Moliets

Though few serious players will admit to being fair-weather golfers, it’s hard to deny that the pleasure of chasing that little white ball around is enhanced not only by the beautifully manicured surroundings but the satisfying feel of the sun on your back. In the warmer climes of the south west coast, bordering the Bay of Biscay lies the Biarritz region of France, home to Golf de Moliets. With a pine forest backdrop across vast areas of the course, straying from the fairways on this 27-hole creation could lead to some time consuming searches, whilst part of the course hugs the coastline, bringing with it a host of distinctive challenges. That said, the atmosphere is refreshingly relaxed and part of the allure of Moliets, along with its year-round climate, is its accessibility to golfers of all standards.

Sperone

America has long been internationally renowned for its array of golf courses, combining absurd complexity with breathtaking beauty. Not surprising then that American architect Robert Trent Jones Senior should chose the island of Corsica on which to design one of the most spectacular settings for golf in France. Sperone is comparatively short at 6500 yards but commands almost unrivalled views of the Mediterranean. Set across cliff tops, the terrain is both as undulating as it is unforgiving, requiring some inspired club selections and sheer acts of bravery in equal measure.

Sperone’s mixture of splendour and intricacy combine to offer an unforgettable experience of golf in France, whatever the final numbers on your card.

Golf in France is accessible for golfers of all ages and abilities and should be acknowledged as a serious contender for a stimulating and enjoyable golfing break. And if, as Mark Twain once observed, golf really is just a good walk spoiled, at least you’ll never be short of somewhere to drown your sorrows – or just maybe, celebrate that elusive hole-in-one.

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