It looks an obvious choice now, but when Bill Coore was appointed to lay out a course on the outskirts of Bordeaux in the 1980s it was an inspired, left-field choice. Back then, the American had nothing like the reputation of today, given he is now one half of arguably the most feted designer firm in the world. His partner Ben Crenshaw was then still a leading Tour player and indeed still had a second Green Jacket to claim when Coore began working on his first European course. But equally, Coore was hardly a rookie architect having worked for a decade with Pete Dye’s firm from 1982.
Still, he was a brave choice by well-known French professional Bernard Pascassio, who advised the owners of Golf du Médoc to select an American most had never heard of in France.
This is legendary wine country, so Golf du Medoc would not have been created if the soil at Pian du Medoc was the chalk-on-limestone base that dominates the region and is so conducive to growing vines.
Stands of mature pine trees as well as heather and gorse decorate the challenge while Coore has also cleverly incorporated ditches that carry away collected water on this gently undulating site while also add to the strategy.
Here, though, 10 miles from the coast, there is sandy turf on which pines, heather and firm fescue grass flourishes; in short, the perfect destination for a heathland.
What Golf du Medoc got in employing Coore was a course that went back to the future, ahead of its time. Now, all architect’s are creating designs that are really all about expansive fairways and sandy waste areas, about firm surfaces from tee to green and wild, rough-edged bunkers.
That’s what the Châteaux offers, and has since 1995… a time when the many courses that were still being built were bold and sinewy rather than cute and clever.
In this particular example, stands of mature pine trees as well as heather and gorse decorate the challenge while Coore has also cleverly incorporated ditches that carry away collected water on this gently undulating site while also add to the strategy.
Measuring 6,946 yards off the championship tees to a par of 71, and further complicated by numerous clever doglegs, it was a stern examination for European Tour pros – even those of the calibre of Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy and the victor Retief Goosen – in the 1999 French Open.
Coore returned to the Chateaux – Golf du Medoc’s Vignes is also in our Continental Top 100 – before that tournament to rework its bunkers, raising their profile and swapping their uniformity for jigsaw-shaped traps.
Its highlights include the sporty two-shot 2nd that longer hitters will fancy but which naturally has its dangers and the expansive scene from the par-4 7th tee, offering a magnificent driving hole where bunkers, pines, bracken, heather and sandy scrapes are all in your calculations.
It is so reminiscent of Walton Heath and is replicated regularly, notably at 11 and 14 – majestic long holes that are the trademark of the Golf du Medoc resort.
Of the short holes the gorgeous 12th – played slightly uphill to a green overlooked by a sprinkling of tall pines – is a beauty and would not look out of place at any of Surrey’s glitterati. Ditto the short hole at 17.
The 18th is a fine climax, in front of the neat clubhouse-cum-hotel that – in tandem with the Vignes – makes this one of Europe’s finest resorts as well as one if Europe’s finest individual courses.