Open Golf Club’s current complement of French golf courses numbers twenty-one, with no fewer than eight of those layouts situated within the Provence-French Riviera region. Set in the foothills above Cannes, Golf de la Grande Bastide is located five and a half kilometres to the west of another Open Golf Club facility at Golf Opio Valbonne.
Designed by Cabell Robinson, a former associate of Robert Trent Jones Snr, the course at Golf de la Grande Bastide lies close to Grasse, the town that’s world famous for its perfumes, and the wide, gently sloping fairways are set out around a number of ponds and lakes. Greens have been sensibly contoured and they’re protected in the main by large, intimidating sand traps.The 507-metre 4th is by far the most difficult hole on the front nine and it plays to a wide, shallow green that’s benched into the opposite side of a blind gully – golfers marking a par “5” on the scorecard here will definitely walk to the next tee with a satisfied smile on their face. On the inward half, the par fours at the 15th and 18th are really strong holes, where water must be avoided on both the right and left side of either fairway.
Opened just over 20 years ago in 1992, this course has now matured nicely into one of the outstanding parkland tracks in the region. There’s a few water hazards around the place – particularly on the back nine – but you’ll have to be rather wayward to get your ball wet during a round here. Similarly, fairways are generally wide and forgiving so you shouldn’t lose many, if any, balls due to errant shots off the tee.
The par five 4th is easily the best hole on the front nine, with approach shots having to fly a hidden ditch that runs along the front of the raised green. I loved the wild contours of the putting surface on the 11th and the multi-tiered green of the doglegged par five 8th but I wasn’t so enamoured with the funky layout of the 14th green, which is linked to the 6th by a little strip of mown grass to create a somewhat contrived double green.
That’s a very minor quibble though as Grande Bastide – with a slope of 133 off the back markers – offers a fine test of golf which culminates in a really tough closing hole at the 18th, where the tee shot has to steer clear of water on the right and the approach shot must keep away from the small lake to the left of the green. It’s rather an enthralling way to end a round that should bring back memories of a good day’s golf played in very pleasant surroundings.