BRITTANY & NORMANDY
Easily accessible and boasting no fewer than 50 courses , the regions of Normandy and Brittany have plenty to offer the travelling golfer.
Easily accessible via ferries to Saint-Malo and Roscoff and regular flight routes into a number of airports, most British golfers’ first taste of French golf will come on the Opal Coast. And with good reason. All too often overshadowed by the capital an hour south and the sunshine of the French Riviera, France’s northern corner deserves deeper exploration. In many ways, what you will find is oddly familiar. With its gently undulating terrain rolling over lush meadows, rural farmland and rolling coastal dunes, Normandy has the feel of Devon, a region of grand, dramatic coastal landscapes, while the craggier, harsher-edges and undiscovered feel of Brittany bear comparison with the landscape of Cornwall. Imagine both blessed with a more clement climate than we enjoy, courtesy of the Gulf Stream, and you have a compelling reason to visit, play and explore.
If you’re visiting the region by car – highly advisable, given how convenient it is to do so – one of the easiest ways in is via Calais, just over 90 minutes by ferry across the Strait of Dover. Alight on French soil and you’ll soon discover that Brittany is blessed with three coastlines, a variety of dramatic coastal landscapes, numerous fine pebbly beaches and plenty of very good golf. That golf takes second billing to those beaches for most visitors is no bad things – the courses are usually uncrowded and the green fees affordable.
St Malo Hôtel, Golf & Country Club, Pléneuf-Val-André, Dinard Golf and Golf des Ormes are four of the region’s standouts. The upmarket St Malo is a fine example of the new generation of French golf clubs, a sprawling affair
whose principal 18-hole parkland Surcouf course covers 250 acres of land on the edge of the Mesnil forest and borders the picturesque Mirloup Lake. Designed by Hubert Chesneau, architect of Ryder Cup venue Golf National near Paris, the 6,700-yard course was created in 1986 but has the feel of an old established estate. And like Le Golf National, Surcouf features heavily.
Complemented by a restored 18th century priory hotel (see box) and with an excellent, nine-hole par-36 course, St Malo is the type of place you’ll want to enjoy at leisure, ideally overnight.
Founded by a group of British settlers in 1887, making it France’s second-oldest club, Dinard was designed by the Scotsman Tom Dunn who was clearly influenced by the courses of his homeland. Oozing quality and sophistication, it delivers everything you would expect of a commanding links – sandy turf, rolling fairways, classic pot bunkers, superb sea views, heather, gorse and some small and well-guarded greens. What’s more, at less than 6,000 yards, it’s the perfect example of how a shorter course can still present a stiff test.
By contrast, some 40 minutes south east, Golf des Ormes is a pretty parkland course played out through rolling woodland. It’s laid out over the grounds of a private castle in the heart of a 370acre estate, and is every bit as enchanting as that sounds. Stay on site at the hotel, apartment/studios, nature lodges, tree or raft houses and enjoy a variety of family activities.
Nearby, Pléneuf-Val-André is more spectacular clifftop than traditional links, and none more spectacular than on the par-5 11th, one of Europe’s most spectacular holes, played out alongside the cliffs. The challenge you’ll encounter
changes drastically when the wind whips in off the Emerald Coast.
Resist the overtures of Paris and drive west through Brittany and you’ll soon find yourself in Normandy. If this is your first port of call, it’s easy to enter Normandy via the port of Cherbourg, via a ferry from Southampton or Portsmouth. Normandy is also just an hour’s drive from the northern fringes of the capital and an even shorter jaunt from the Loire Valley, making this a golf destination that can be enjoyed and reached in several ways. Whichever route you take to get here, though, you will have a wide variety of top quality golf courses from which to choose.
In this region, famed for its camembert, apples and cider and the fresh seafood, there are more than 40 courses spread as far afield as the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel at the south-west corner to the Seine Valley to Pourville in the northeast.
Many of the best courses are located in the Deauville area, including the historic Golf Barrière de Deauville and its sister course, the picturesque Golf Barrière Saint-Julien. Founded in 1929, Golf Barrière de Deauville is located just a couple of minutes from the centre of the trendy, well-to-do seaside town and enjoys three nine-hole loops (red, white and blue) crafted by Tom Simpson and Henry Cotton. The widely preferred red/white 18-hole combination mixes parkland and woodland, and also delivers some magnificent coastal views.
The 27-hole Golf Barrière Saint-Julien is just a 15-minute drive away and while it lacks a little of its big sister’s sophistication and character, it’s an enjoyable heathland test of golf. The Valley is a demanding tree-lined layout with plenty of water hazards to hold your attention, while the Woodland is a scenic and altogether more comfortable nine-holer that the less accomplished golfer will relish.
Continuing the heathland theme is Champ de Bataille, located 15 miles from the Gallic town of Evreux. Set within the estate of the Chateau du Champ de Bataille, the 6,600-yard par 72 flows through avenues of mature trees, simultaneously evoking thoughts of Woburn and Wentworth.
Heading out towards Paris from Deauville, Golf d’Evreux is framed by naturally rolling land and is noted for the year-round quality of its greens. Other notable must-plays include the stunning 109-year-old Etretat, which starts inland before taking you on a spectacular five-hole stretch of cliffside golf, the classic links at Granville in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, Willie Park’s Dieppe-Pourville, one of the oldest in France, Omaha Beach, and Golf de la Presqu’Ile du Cotentin on the edge of Cherbourg & Bessin Natural Park.
110 Golf World The Open Issue 2018
The sprawling St Malo resort course is set on the edge of the Mesnil forest and plays around the beautiful Mirloup Lake.
Golf de Pléneuf Val André is clifftop golf at its very best. Dinard Golf Club is a strong links that enjoys a stunning coastal location.