Les Dunes is the younger of the two courses at Hardelot and, although it’s set approximately one kilometre apart from the brilliant Tom Simpson designed Les Pins course, Les Dunes is by no means inferior.
Designed by the Belgian, Paul Rolin, Les Dunes opened for play in 1990 and it’s nestled on undulating terrain, hidden amongst the sand dunes of Mount Saint Frieux.
With a few blind drives and several doglegs, it helps if you know your way round the Dunes course and you’ll probably card a better score the second time of asking.
Hardelot is a popular venue and it’s especially loved by visiting Brits who pop across (or under) the Channel for a change of scenery, especially during the winter.
Les Dunes was the biggest surprise of my recent 13-course trip to France. For a start, I’d presumed the course was located next to Les Pins but it’s not, as Hardelot’s two clubhouses are positioned more than a kilometre from one another. You should never pre-judge a layout by its ranking spot in the national Top 100 but a current position of 60 had me comparing it in my head beforehand to others I’d played around that mark – big mistake, as Les Dunes is way better than that!
It’s also not always a good idea to make direct comparisons with other courses but I had this marked down in my notes as “a hilly Queen’s at Gleneagles” very early on in the round – shorter and more intimate than its older sibling, an ideal members’ track and lots of fun to play. The only downside to the tortuous terrain is that a buggy is probably the best way to get around, especially if you’re walking Les Pins the same day, as I did.
I loved the fact it had six very good par threes, a couple of interesting short par fours on either nine, and a closing hole that wraps itself around a small lake – which is not usually a favourite design trait of mine but it fits the bill perfectly in this instance, with the impressive clubhouse terrace peeking through a gap in the trees beyond the 18th green.
Conditioning may have been an issue in the past but it’s certainly not the case now as the course was in excellent shape from tee to green on very hole. I particularly liked the occasional use of railway sleepers embedded in bunker walls (like a toned down version of Lykia Links in Turkey), along with the wooden buttressing fronting the water-protected greens on the lovely par three 11th and the par four 18th.
The playing experience on Les Pins and Les Dunes are quite different and if you’re looking for a day’s golf with lots of variety between two 18-hole layouts at the same club then look no further than Hardelot and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the excellent quality on offer for the green fee paid. I can totally understand now why savvy golfers cross the English Channel to tee it up here.
Just quickly the facilities here out strip the Pins by a country mile. That being said as 18 holes of consistently good golf I would just give this to the Pins, however while not as consistently good this has the better holes.
1 is a lovely starting hole and then 3 is a great risk reward hole, take the bunker on. 4 is also nice, however then the course becomes more mediocre until the 13th, which lookes like a simple par 5 dog leg left. On this hole pick how much tree you can take and then make sure you hit it that far, if you don’t you are in trouble. The approach is then a cracker to the top of the hill.
The 13th is followed by the 14th par 3 which is a lovely hole and the 15th is a short par 4 but not easy, not at all. 16 and 17 are nice and then you hit the 18th, a down hill par 4 that the longer you hit he easier the shot over the water is.
I holes 5 through 12 were stronger I would be pushing this to be better than Le Pins however while still a 5 ball for me, I would put it slightly behind it’s sister course.
Les Dunes is a really enjoyable course which is much more in the mould of a Sunningdale than a Royal Birkdale. Dunes to me indicate a links course and that it is not. It is however very undulating and if this is your second round of the day you might do well to consider taking a buggy unless you are really fit. Was most impressed with the variation of the holes which keep changing and hold interest all the way round. It a good test of golf for all levels and the layout was immaculately maintained when I last played here. You do need pinpoint accuracy to score well, so use the driver with extreme caution! All in all, Les Dunes is a tough course to categorise it’s close to the sea but there are no sea views, neither is it heathland or parkland. One thing is for certain – it’s worth playing.