Golf in France

Golf and France

FROM the revered Arnaud Massy, the hapless Jean Van de Velde to current US LPGA player Karine Icher, France has, despite the bemusement of many, contributed much to the history of golf yet somewhat surprisingly remains sadly neglected for those seeking a green-based mini-break or holiday.

Massy and Van de Velde are remembered for wildly contrasting reasons, Massy as the only Frenchman to win Hoylake’s Open Championship in 1907 and Van de Velde for committing golfing suicide at Carnoustie’s Open Championship in 1999 where, in a comedy of errors played out in front of a worldwide audience of millions, he wasted a three-shot lead to card a triple-bogey seven at the final hole before losing to Paul Lawrie in a dramatic play-off.

From its beginnings as an elitist sport, golf now flourishes in France with almost 700 courses (more than the combined total of the remainder of mainland Europe) at the mercy of the visiting player situated in some of the most beautiful parts of the world including the Loire Valley, Alsace, Limousin, Brittany and my favourite, the breathtaking Robert Trent Jones Sr designed course at Chamonix Golf Club at the foot at Mount Blanc.

Five years after Massy’s win the Fédération Française de Golf (FFG) was created and the following year France entertained the USA at La Boulie Golf Club, near Versailles.

Somewhat surprisingly, today France is one of golf’s top 15 European nations in terms of clubs and players with over 400,000 regularly taking to the greens, including 120,000 ladies, probably after Spain.

And with such a diverse landscape coupled with cuisine of the highest quality it cannot be long before France becomes Europe’s number one destination for a golf-based mini-break.

Another joy of seeing the sun reflect off your club in France is a more laid back, although no less committed, approach to the game with certain selection rights applying to tee-times and a welcome, relaxed attitude to speed of play and a genuine opportunity to integrate golf into your holiday plans.

In the majority of French clubs you will be classed not as a visitor but handed membership for the day with the added bonus that you may be able to play a further 18 holes, for free, later in the day.

Gary Player (Taulane, Provence) and Jack Nicklaus (Golf de Paris International Club) have both designed courses in France along with Tom Simpson and Peter Alliss while four French courses were included in Continental Europe Golf Magazine’s top ten courses of 2000.

If you are considering taking your clubs on holiday then we do recommend a visit to the first golf club in France at Pau, which boasts 18 and 9 hole courses. Golf de Moliets (near Biarritz) is considered to be one of Europe’s top 25 courses while Les Bordes Golf International has been ranked as one of the top 50 courses outside the USA. American visitors may also like to visit Golf Club de Nimes whose 1897 clubhouse is a replica of the White House.

Courses to suit all players, a climate enabling play throughout the year, the difficult choice will be deciding where to play first.

  • Recommended reading: Le Petit Fute, 52 weekends de Golf, Fabian Frydman & Jean-Francois Labourdette. July 2010.