Coming from old, compact, hemmed-in golf courses in London, I felt at home at once when I played Biarritz the first time. As is the case with many clubs in such settings, “Le Phare” as the locals call it, has lost out to urban developments, but somehow manages to hold on to two pieces of ground barely big enough to squeeze in 18 holes. When you see old photos from before WWI you appreciate that this was once, at least partly, a seaside links course. Today, it is surrounded by the city of Biarritz on all sides and with tree-lined fairways it is managed more as a parkland course. Therefore, the sandy nature of the ground that Harry Colt wrote about 100 years ago (the club proudly quotes from his letter on its home page) is no longer apparent. What is very apparent is that neighbouring streets quickly come into play if your aim is wide and you take leave of your senses. We quickly abandoned driver and 3-wood, just as you are obliged to do if you visit the small practice ground beforehand.
Leaving the big stick in the bag most of the time is actually a great idea, because the course rewards brain over brawn and placing your tee-shots not only avoids the bunkers but enables your approach, putting and recovery play to be up for scrutiny with a score still to play for. Despite this, most people in our group were surprised at the grim reading of their scorecards afterwards.
By the way, if you come to see the original “Biarritz” style green (a concept better known in the U.S. than in France) you are too late. The original par-3 3rd hole by the ocean is long built over.
Date: April 15, 2017