Fontainebleau is generally regarded as one of the top 5 courses in France, and top 10 or so in Europe. It is a special course.
Dating from 1909, the course as we know it now was largely the work of Tom Simpson, and is set in Fontainebleau forest, near the town. Tom Simpson came to fame with a body of work that includes some of the best in France in Chantilly and Morfontaine, the funky Cruden Bay in Scotland, and work on Muirfield, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Ballybunion amongst others.
Fontainebleau's narrow fairways are bordered by pines, silver birches, wild cherries, beeches and centenary oaks. Also dense outcrops of broom, lilacs, ferns and other thick undergrowth make straying from the straight and narrow a real headache.
Located in what was the ancient imperial hunting ground, you have to shoot straight to hit the targets at Fontainebleau. The terrain is unexpectedly undulating with a number of very elevated tees. And the sand base makes the course playable year round. The biggest surprise for me was the rocky outcrops that came in to play a number of times during the round – most obviously on the par 5 12th "signature" hole.
Other than the rocks the course has the look and feel of some of the famous London heathland courses – particularly Swinley Forest. The course is in great shape, but not highly manicured – it just has a comfortable class to it.
I loved this course - I loved the heathland feel, the soft colours of the myriad of shrubs and trees and undergrowth surrounding you, and the challenge of the course itself.
The long tee shot on 15 out of the longest, narrowest "chute" I can remember was a real challenge. And I loved the run of holes from 14 through to 17 which to me were the cream of a pretty nice crop.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Date: June 11, 2019