FOR me, the best part of a golfing trip to France is the off-course activities. I love the countryside, the cities, the beaches, the markets, making puny attempts to speak the language, the food and the wine! If you make any effort to speak a little French, the natives respond and are very helpful.
Availing of the convenient and cheap Aer Lingus Dublin-Bordeaux service earlier this month, I popped over for a few days of golf followed by some touring around to see parts of France that I had not seen before. Two days at a seaside resort called Arcachon was the highlight where the most fabulous collection of holiday homes, a superb beach, interesting boutique shops selling regional products and restaurants specialising in scrumptious seafood made life very pleasant indeed. If I had young children to entertain on holiday, I wouldn’t think twice about taking them to Arcachon. There is a golf course there too but I was too busy to take even a quick look at it - golf nut sacrilege, surely?
One reason for eschewing golf was I had earlier in the week played the best new golf course I have seen in a long time at St. Emilionais. That satisfied my appetite. Owned and developed by the Mourge D’Algue family, surely French Golfing Royalty (equivalent to Ireland’s Carr’s), about 75-minutes east of Bordeaux and right in the middle of some of the world’s most famous wineries. One month old when we played it in early June, the course is cut out of a forest by the renowned, American architect, Tom Doak, who intends it to be a fast running, heathland course with its own distinct personality, Augusta-like elevations and proportions, winding streams and babbling brooks. It is a blissful place and a good value €95-green fee currently for playing a course that is destined to become a world top-100 candidate. A clubhouse and housing for rent and sale on a hill overlooking the golf course are planned but the owners are concentrating their full attention on getting the course ‘right’ first.
On the other hand, if you want a French golf resort vacation with a high tech practice area, spa, swimming pool, tennis and the best of gourmet dining - Hotel Golf du Medoc, north of Bordeaux and 45-minutes from Merignac Airport, meets the criteria. Two golf courses, Les Vignes and Le Chateau, neither of them too hard or too easy, are conveniently on site. This ultra comfortable hotel is the perfect launching pad for a golfing vacation in the Gironde Region. Accommodation with two sharing a double room, including buffet breakfast, 1 green fee per person on either the Châteaux or Vignes course, free access to the Spa & Fitness area (heated pool, hammam, solarium, relaxation patio, cardio fitness area) is excellent value at €147 per person. There is also a golf pass arrangement with Golf de Lacanau, in the nearby forest but only a few steps from the Atlantic Ocean and Golf de Margaux bordered by the formidable Gironde River. This package (€387 per person) includes: 3-nights in a double room with breakfast, 3-golf green fees on a choice of 4 courses plus free access to the spa and its facilities.
In France, golf is particularly enjoyable because the courses are invariably well-designed and well-maintained but French courses are extremely busy especially at weekends. Instead of playing in competitions, French golfing families like to play socially or just practice together and dine in the clubhouse afterwards. The French are very dedicated practicers. Every course has extensive practice facilities and practicing in groups, often with a professional overseeing the proceedings is a common sight. French golfers are courteous and knowledgable. Traditionally, French golfers have looked on golf as a relaxing walk in a beautiful garden rather than the self-flagellation and that can arise from playing in tournaments. Regarding the golfing dress code: it seems to be quite laissez-faire. Although, the majority of French golfers dress tastefully, every now and again one runs into a French golfer who dresses like a tramp. I can’t quite figure that one out! You get them everywhere.
For generations, those who could afford to play golf in France kept it a closely guarded secret by making the game invisible, expensive and inaccessible because it probably suited the exclusive image they wanted to project. If the Ryder Cup in France in 2018 can help to change that disposition it will be no bad thing because the French do love being on their golf courses and, to the extent, they take their time. So much so, they happily spend up to 6-hours surveying their putts. When I’m on a family holiday, the last thing I want is to spend a whole day golfing when there are so many other novel things to do. While I don’t want to miss my game of golf, I don’t want to miss family activities either. The solution, therefore, is to play 9 or 12-holes early and fast!
Words of the Wise:
The single greatest destroyer of good technique is tension but the good news is - you can learn how to control it and even exploit it. More poor shots are caused by a jumbled mind and unclear focus than poor technique. Bad thinking causes bad swings. Think clearly and your poor shots under pressure, or otherwise, will decrease dramatically.