The Second Coming
Part way through its renovation, Chris Bertram offers his take on Le Touquet’s famed La Mer course.
In the Continental Europe Top 100 Courses ranking that we released in September, there were joint high-climbers; Carya in Belek and Le Touquet (La Mer) in Northern France.
They rose a noteworthy 35 spots, but for very different reasons. While Carya’s conditioning is now sufficiently consistent for it to warrant the position its design has long merited, the French venue in contrast made the notable leap for more deep-seated reasons. A popular destination for travelling British golfers for decades, La Mer is now being manifestly transformed. To those already familiar with it, the work will be conspicuous – yet this is just the start of the restoration of a course built by the famed Harry Colt in 1931.
It is also likely to be merely the start of its move up our ranking, because while codesigners Patrice Boissonnas and Frank Pont must adhere to environmental sensitivities, if they can proceed as they wish, they could turn La Mer (which rose from No.66 to 31 this year) into a top-20 course – at the very least.
The work of Boissonnas and Pont, who combined to great effect on Le Touquet’s neighbour Hardelot (Les Pins), was essential; largely as a result of the area being fortified and bombarded during WW2, four of Colt’s holes were lost and trees and bushes were allowed to dominate and frankly ruin the beautifully raw linksland.
The architects have used old aerial images and plans to guide an assiduous yet sensitive renovatation; the change between our visits in 2014 and 2017 was stark.
Three years ago it felt like a
parkland-woodland had been lifted and placed by the sea, which you could barely see. Now, space and views abound, evident as early as the majestic short 2nd, now opened up to be the hole Colt envisaged.
The far end hosts the most dramatic revisions: the 14th has a new green, the 15th (formerly a par 3 and a short 4) is back to the sporty par 5 Colt (and his rival Tom Simpson) loved, and there is a majestic new par 3 at 16. The 17th is the next priority and, together with more tree clearance, La Mer will be bested by very few on the continent.