The 18-hole layout of first choice at l’Hôtel Barrière de Deauville comprises the Rouge and Blanc nines, with the 9-hole Bleu as an additional playing option. Tom Simpson set out the fairways for the original 27-hole complex on land owned by the Marquis de Lassay in 1929 and the club subsequently hosted the French Open here in 1931 and1956.
Aerial photos from just after the end of World War II show that there was only an 18-hole course in operation at that time but further overhead images from 1961 prove that a refurbished 27-hole layout was back in play before Henry Cotton was called in to carry out a course upgrade.
The modern day Deauville is a magnificent golf facility, comprising a mix of tree-lined and open parkland holes that are draped over beautiful, rolling terrain, with a recently renovated clubhouse – stylishly designed in a neo-Norman manner – situated in front of the imposing 250-bedroom hotel.
I was not really tempted to play Deauville after I checked out a course vlog on YouTube, but the fact that the ladies tour will visit this venue in September this year changed my mind. Deauville offers a - rather compact - 18 holes parkland course. For me the second nine (Blanc) felt slightly better than the first (Rouge), and my take is that there are to many average holes overall.
On the positive: Deauville did offer the best putting surfaces this trip.
With hindsight: I would rather have tried my luck at Omaha Beach or pick up a second serving at Étretat.
For those who intend to play (some of) the top tracks of Normandie: During our trip we found out that there is a golf pass ' Prestige Golf in Normandie' available. Valid for: Amirauté, Barriere Deauville, Barriere St. Julien, Champ de Bataille, Cote d’Albâtre, Dieppe, d'Etretat, Granville, Omaha Beach and Vaudreuil. Check it out, it's a really good deal.
The provenance of the course at Deauville is somewhat shrouded in mystery – not helped in any way by the conflicting signage on the display boards at the start of each nine, which make mention of Tom Simpson and Henry Cotton on different loops. I’m indebted to Stéphane Rouen from GK Consult, who is currently working at the club, for sending me a .pdf document that sheds some light on the matter.
It looks like Tom Simpson planned a 27-hole layout in 1929, though the actual configuration of the three nines ended up slightly different to what he first envisaged. An aerial photograph from 1947 shows that the layout had contracted to an 18-hole set up but by 1961 – three years before Henry Cottton is widely touted as adding a third nine – another overhead picture proves three 9-hole layouts were already back in play!
One can only speculate as to exactly what Henry Cotton did, apart from lend his name to the resort. Simpson currently gets all the credit for the Red and White nines, while Cotton is mentioned in dispatches in relation to the Blue nine. In all probability, both men may have had a hand in all three circuits but how much of their handiwork remains in place is anybody’s guess as I was told an extensive bunker renovation was also carried out in the 1990s, conducted by an enthusiastic former estate manager (some of the sand traps are absolutely massive) with a renovation budget to match.
I liked the heavily sand-protected par threes at #3 and #8 on the Rouge, while the toughest hole on the Blanc, the 366-metre 13th, rises gradually up and right towards a green that’s benched into the hillside next to the hotel – there’s also an interesting old gable end ruin situated to the right of the tee box on this hole but I couldn’t find out anything about the original historical building.
There’s plenty of movement in the land – in fact it’s quite hilly in places – so there’s lots of variety here, with no two holes even remotely the same. I also loved the closing hole, with the home green right up close to the hotel, and that has to be a design from way back in 1929 as you’d never design something like that in the more modern era.
Mentioning the hotel, I stayed there the previous evening and if there’s anything to heighten the playing experience at Deauville, then having dinner and spending the night in the Barrière hotel is just the very thing!