Allée de la Ménagerie,
- +33 (0) 3445 70443
45 km N of Paris
Allowed Monday through to Friday afternoon
According to the old Big Bopper song, “Chantilly Lace had a pretty face and a wiggle in her walk”. Golf de Chantilly is far more than a pretty face; it’s one of Europe’s most glorious courses.
Chantilly is set amidst the forest of the Ile de France, approximately 30 miles to the north of Paris. The club was originally founded in 1909 and it has played host to numerous French Opens, the first of which was the 1913 edition, won by George Duncan. His score of 304 is the highest in the competition's history, which bears testament to the Chantilly challenge.
The very best have teed it up at Chantilly, including the great Bobby Jones and Nick Faldo (who won the French Open here). The flamboyant English architect, Tom Simpson, laid out the course and he utilised penal bunkering in the extreme. Measuring 6,444 metres from the back tees Le Vineuil is an exacting test. You’ll not only need length from the tee but also accuracy to avoid the forest. You’ll also need to keep out of those menacing bunkers to score well.
The whole Chantilly experience is distinctly traditional and some say that it has a definite British feel. With 36 holes (Le Vineuil and Les Longères) and a clubhouse that is very reminiscent of that at Sunningdale are we sure we're in France? We are certain that the spirit of Tom Simpson and his silver chauffeur driven Rolls Royce lives here.
Chantilly has a very famous castle (seen in Bond’s A view to a kill), world renowned pure breed horse races and a very fine golf course. Chantilly, alongside Morfontaine, St Germain and Fontainebleau form what I would call the “Paris’ Majors”. Positioned 6th for France here on the new rankings, Chantilly is a tough course for big boys. Morfontaine is more exclusive, St Germain more pretty, Fontainebleau more fun but Chantilly feels like a bigger place and definitely offers the toughest challenge at 6400 meters from the black back tees (the one I played), so one could wonder if 6th is high enough?
Of the 5 courses ranked above, only one thing is indisputable: conditioning in Les Bordes is unbeatable. My Pro and board members from St Germain (incidentally ranked far too low in my opinion) told me Chantilly is the best course in France: they might be telling the truth… Chantilly has recently or will host big tournaments (Qualifier for the French Open on the Longères course, incidentally won by Spaniard Larrazabal on 10 under after he went to win the French Open at L’Albatros, and The European Young Master) so the course was really at its best.
The big and undulating greens were like velvet and the rough (my-knee-high!) very penal (at best a wedge out, more often a lost ball if you are in it) and underlining beautifully the contours of the fairways . Some tee boxes could have been flatter, but that’s only if I want to be picky. As at least 80% of the members are Parisians, the course is mostly empty during the week which is a real joy for the visitor (visitors allowed from Monday to Friday noon).
Just to correct a point concerning the layout: holes 9 to 11 on the actual Vineuil Course used to belong to the Longères course, which inherited instead of 16 to 18 from the “Old” Vineuil layout with a routing differing a little. Apparently, this was done to create 2 loops of 9 on the Longères course and facilitate return to the club house. Older members that I met were not really fussed about it; I haven’t seen the “Old” 16th to 18th so I won’t judge. Only the Club Championship and some corporate events are played on the original “old” layout. As always with Simpson’s courses, bunkering is formidable.
Back to the course itself now… As a welcome, the first is a 412 meters par 4! Told you it was tough! 2nd and 4th are the only holes where you can relax a little. Stroke index 1 par 4 5th is relatively easy and straightforward; 2 par 3s complete the first 3rd of the round, par 3 6th being 196 meters long! 7th is a tough driving hole as it is difficult to picture the landing area when you play here for the first time. 8th is a beautiful par 5, with loads of bunkers (cross-fairway bunkers are always in play from the back tees!) and measuring “just” 566 meters! 9 to 11 are the newer holes mentioned above, which I didn’t know before starting the round, but could see it while playing as they felt a little immature, with the par 3 11th being almost weak. 13th, my personal favorite, runs opposite 7th and is another tough driving hole for the same reasons. 14th looks a bit bland off the tee, but at 408 meters par 4, is by no means a poor hole; and the green is wonderful, well defended by huge bunkers. Then I am not quite sure about the last 3 holes. Quite unexpected is the presence of a 90 meters or so wide ditch (or should I say ravine?) that you have to cross on 16th and 18th, and that hosts the 17th green, a 199 meters par 3.
From what I have heard and read, my wish is to return to Chantilly to play the “Old” Vineuil layout, as I am pretty sure this layout would deserve the rank 1 in France. Cédric