The influence of Englishmen has given France arguably the greatest collection of courses on Continental Europe. While Tom Simpson’s considerable legacy is evident at the likes of Morfontaine, Fontainebleau, Chantilly and Hardelot, Harry Colt also bequeathed world-class courses at Le Touquet and here at Saint Germain. It is quite a tally, forming the backbone of our Continental top 30. Devotees of Colt’s work will undoubtedly lap up this pedigree course on the western outskirts of Paris.
Here, Colt – who worked with great success in the Netherlands as well as prolifically in Britain and Ireland at Portrush, Hoylake et al – squeezed every last drop of inspiration from the site he was given.
As a result, it is arguably one of his most admirable pieces of work. The land with which he was given to work was flat and featureless, leading Colt to use the ‘fill’ from the construction of the railway line that runs through the course to add interest to the terrain.
The green complexes are brilliantly funky and a real feature of Saint Germain. There are no sea views here, but the eccentric greens and their surrounds have a beauty of their own, as well as being so entertaining to play on.
There are some classic scenes among them, and some of my favourite green complexes on the continent. Looking at what Colt did in those primitive times for digging, pushing and shaping, one wonders how courses in the latter half of the 20th Century got things so badly wrong.
In addition to greenside contouring, Colt also incorporated many more bunkers than he usually would – here there are more than 100 bunkers – to add definition, visual interest and strategy.
It hardly needs saying – given Colt began his designs by finding the prime locations for his par 3s and consequently they are often his course’s highlights – but that is certainly the case here.
The 5th is a particular high, the kind of hole you want another go at if you’ve made a mess of it the first time. Saint Germain is a traditional but friendly club and they are encouragingly keen to emphasise their Colt heritage.
A sympathetic tree management programme has given the course a more open feel – though still not to how it was when Colt left here – and as a result the turf has improved further owing to better air flow and light.
It is a rock solid top-20 entry in Continental Europe and for that France, Paris and Saint German can give thanks to the great Englishman who created it in the 1900s.