Hardelot (Les Pins)

Hardelot (Les Pins)

If evidence was ever required as to the worth of a course undergoing a through renovation, Hardelot Les Pins would be a prime candidate. Pines trees have, as one might guess from its name, been a theme of Les Pins since Tom Simpson created it in 1931 and, located within a mile of the sea, the sandy site gave it a highly desirable heathland feel. However, with a forest generating as much as three per cent of new wood every year – over eight decades, that is a huge amount – if its growth is unchecked as it was at Les Pins, it affects the course's character and look dramatically.


The fast, firm test Simpson envisaged had developed into a lush, soft course whose playing corridors had been narrowed by branches. Poa dominated these slim fairways and maintenance practices over time had left greens and bunkers out of shape.


The golf and hotel business Open Golf Club, which operates Hardelot among many other courses in France, Belgium and Morocco, realised one of their prime assets was punching well below its weight and engaged designer Frank Pont to renovate one of Continental Europe's classic courses.


The Dutchman – a specialist in restoring the courses of golden age architects – was assisted by Patrice Boissonnas, whose family owns Open Golf Club.


Pont initially closely mentored Boissonnas – who worked for L’Oréal and Louis Vuitton before giving in to his desire to pursue his teenage passion for course architecture – but the master-apprentice dynamic eventually became more of a partnership on the three-year project.




The pair used 90-year-old old photographs and sketches to return Les Pins back to Simpson's original intention, with only the greens remaining untouched.


The duo believe the English architect's typically funky surfaces are the essence of Les Pins so nothing other than aiding drainage to get them firmer was actioned.



“Entertaining but challenging” is a decent summary of the new-look Les Pins as a whole. It is a fun course but also one good enough to host European Tour Q School.

Elsewhere, the story is very different. It is estimated more than 3,000 trees have been cut and the undergrowth it revealed scraped back to create the sandy blowouts patently evident in old images of Les Pins.


Every bunker was rebuilt in Simpson's preferred lace-edged style and 11 new ones built – including five on the flat par-5 13th to add visual definition and strategic choices. Four elsewhere were filled in.


Mis-shapen greens have been returned to their original size and some run-off areas created around some – especially on holes 1, 2, 6, 8, 11, 13 and then the three from the 15th.


Hardelot les Pins

The 1st and 10th were switched back to Simpson's routing to avoid crossing having been swapped when a road was built between the 9th green and 1st tee. The 2nd and 16th became par 4s and the overall par dropped to 71 while short two-holes at 11 and 15 were tweaked to ensure they remain entertaining but challenging.


“Entertaining but challenging” is a decent summary of the new-look Les Pins as a whole. It is a fun course but also one good enough to host European Tour Q School (winning four-round totals are generally single figures under par).



Les Pins will only improve further through agronomic improvements which, allied to potential further tree management, could give it the firm, bouncy experience it originally was in the 1930s.

It is not gargantuan by modern standards and the fairways are now much wider following the Pont overhaul, but there is plenty of subtle challenge around the greens.


The variety is exceptionally good given the scenery is similar throughout – albeit the terrain ranges from gently undulating to more pronounced elevation change – and is witnessed in a fine collection of short holes, which gradually increase in length as the round progresses.


While the much-improved 5th – surrounded by rebuilt bunkers - is just 120 yards downhill and the similar 7th 150 yards, by the time you get to the 17th you could need a hybrid to cover its 180 yards. In between, the 12th is a cute downhiller, but it is overshadowed by the all-world 14th.




Les Pins will only improve further through agronomic improvements which, allied to potential further tree management, could give it the firm, bouncy experience it originally was in the 1930s.


The town itself was established in 1905 by Yorkshireman Sir John Whitley, who owned the local chateau and had also built a golf course in another new town he built on France's 'Opal Coast', Le Touquet.


While he commissioned Harry Colt to lay out La Mer for him there – which is also part of Open Club, as is Les Pins' sister the high-octane Les Dunes – he opted for another Englishman in Simpson for Hardelot.


The town was immediately and enduringly popular with Britons, helped by its location just 40 minutes from Calais – King George V among their number – the Channel Tunnel makes that journey notably easier these days. That journey now takes golfers to one of the most impressively restored course in mainland Europe.


Chris Bertram