I wasn’t quite prepared for the topography at Fontainbleau. Even sitting in front of the charming old clubhouse, there’s no real hint of the roller coaster ride that lies ahead – mainly due to the trees screening the course beyond the 9th and 18th fairways. Now that arboreal canopy is something of a worry but more of that later in this review.
The short par four opener gives due notice of what lies ahead for much of the round with a rolling, tree-lined hole, three cross bunkers set into a ridge in the fairway and a green nestled into the foot of a small hill with huge rocks at the back threatening to tumble down onto the putting surface at any moment – talk about thrilling golfing terrain!
After a semi-blind par three at the second hole, you’re then standing on a very elevated tee box at the 3rd, waiting to fire a tee shot down and over a long heathery carry onto the fairway… and so it continues in unrelenting fashion, with hardly a pause for breath until the short par four 9th – with one of the wider fairways on the card – brings us back to the clubhouse at the halfway stage.
The back nine, if anything, is an even wilder trip across an undulating landscape with the par five 12th one of the most memorable holes you’ll ever play, avoiding first a set of three cross bunkers and then a large collection of boulders that lie strewn in front of a green that sits at the base of yet another hill – it’s bizarre but brilliant at the same time.
It wasn’t my favourite hole, right enough, as that accolade goes to the par three 14th, which plays slightly downhill to a 2-tiered, back to front sloping green with a bunker-studded ridge running fifty yards in front of the putting surface to fool you into thinking the hole is shorter than it really is – it’s one of the best par threes I’ve ever come across, as a matter of fact.
The 18th is actually a relative disappointment because it’s the weakest of the final four holes, all of which are par fours, but after what’s gone before during the round, it’s probably best to be let down gently at the last before returning to normality in the clubhouse.
I loved the course routing, the fairways were in great condition with some lovely areas of heather flanking the holes and the greens were nicely contoured without being too flat or too turbulent. The trees are a definite issue that could/should be addressed. All in all, Fontainebleau is all you might expect of a top course with a very high European ranking.
Other reviewers have mentioned the trees and I have to agree with the assertion that some proper pruning needs to take place to let in light and air to improve the agronomy and allow the remaining trees to flourish. I don’t know how much control the club has over this matter as the course lies within a protected area but surely somebody in authority has to do something about the situation sooner rather than later.
Date: August 01, 2018