Travel Guide: FranceJanuary, 2013
The best of British but wuth a subtle Gallic twist
You might be forgiven for thinking these images are of a classic Surrey heathland but we are in France or, to be more precise, at the delightful Chantilly. We are constantly reminded of the quality of golf in certain parts of continental Europe but, for whatever reason, the French are less inclined to sing their own praises. Which is strange, given it is generally the most accessible while also possessing a collection of incredible courses and a cuisine which has few rivals.
In the next five years, with the Ryder Cup on its way to Le Golf National 20 miles outside Paris, that will surely change. And rightly so. Morfontaine is generally regarded as the best in the north but you will need to befriend a member to enjoy a game here. The next best is Chantilly, 30 miles north of the capital.
The clubhouse is worth the visit alone with records of 10 French Opens. George Duncan won the first one held here in 1913 while Nick Faldo captured two of his three French crowns in the late 80s. And it is easy to see why with the championship course, Le Vineuil, requiring some very precise play in surroundings – the course is set among the forest of the Ile de France – which bear a striking resemblance to the likes of Sunningdale and Walton Heath.
La Mer is one of Harry Colt’s finest, a classic links and another to have staged various national Opens. There is also a second course, Les Longeres, which, while not quite reaching the magnificent highs of its sibling, would well complement any day spent here.
Heading north, Le Touquet isanother with strong British connections. La Mer is one of Harry Colt’s finest, a classic links and another to have staged various national Opens. Seve won the first of four titles here in 1977. These days the greens have been restored to their glory days while the La Foret course, the older of the two, provides a calmer, less wind affected test, being set among pine trees.
There are over 500 courses in France but we will finish on Hardelot (Les Pins), the more senior of two courses on the seaside town.
Just 30 miles from the Channel Tunnel this is a welcome stop on many tourists from over the way. It is another former tour spot and another to enjoy sandy soil and a setting among the pines and dunes. The start may be gentle but the finish will ask plenty of searching questions. Such as why many of us have never been before.
YOUR QUICK GUIDE
When to go: Varies with each region, for the north of the country April to September is ideal
Time difference: GMT +1
Must-play courses: Chantilly, Le Touquet, Le Golf National
WHERE TO STAY & PLAY
Dolce Chantilly is in a magnificent setting with a Michelin-starred restaurant and 18-hole course to savour.