Le Phare is a coastal course but there’s nothing links-like about the conditions – it’s parkland golf all the way on a tight track that extends to less than 5,400 metres from the back tees, with half a dozen par threes in play, three on each nine. Most of the fairways are laid out within one large property but holes 4 to 9 are located across the main road in their own little compartment.
I really liked the uphill short hole on the 5th, followed by a devious short par four with a couple of bunkers placed well in front of the green to try and fool you into thinking the hole is even shorter than you might think. The long uphill 8th was a rather bland par three (even with its delightful half-moon-shaped bunker to the right of the green).
Architect Stuart Hallett, who has been working on the course for several years now (filling in waste bunkers, cutting down trees and planting others) has told me there are plans to remodel holes 8 and 9, “with the addition of a Biarritz green to reclaim some lost history” – and that feature alone would make it well worth returning to see!
Back into the main parcel of land for the remainder of the round and things really step up here. There’s a really unusual big pit to be carried in front of the 10th, followed by a cracking, newly upgraded par four hole at the 11th, which now boasts a wonderful two-tiered green with new bunkers etched into the front of the putting surface.
I also liked the unusual par threes at the 14th and 17th, played close to each other across the same little land depression, but in opposite directions. The round then concludes with a solid par four back to a slightly raised green in front of the magnificent old clubhouse, with a sneaky, long coffin bunker at the back of the putting surface to prevent over-hit shots ending in the hedge that runs along the back of the home green.
I’d wanted to play the course at Biarritz for a long time as one of my golfing heroes, Arnaud Massy, learned to play the game here. Unfortunately, there’s not much of the course remaining from the 1890s when the great man was starting out in the game (nor is there a lot left of the Colt-designed layout from the 1920s, either), but it’s still a thrill to tee it up at such an historic old club.
Date: July 10, 2019