Close to the Edwardian seaside resort of Hardelot in the Pas de Calais northern region of France lies the beautiful golf course, Les Pins. The course is delightfully set amongst the dunes and a glorious pine forest. The club was originally founded in 1905, but today's golf offering was re-imagined by Tom Simpson in 1931.
According to Fred W. Hawtree, who authored Simpson & Co. Golf Architects: "Philip Mackenzie Ross was in charge of detailing Simpson's plans on the site at Hardelot. He was now a director of Simpson and Ross Ltd. A cutting from Golf Monthly, December 1929, says: 'Messrs Simpson & Ross have now commenced work on the new course at Hardelot'."
Hawtree continues: "All the references to Hardelot in the golfing press refer to a 'new course'. This suggests that, in a developing resort, the usual process occurred where the old course became more valuable for other purposes, besides being useless for attracting visitors. However, the old nine holes were kept in play until the new eighteen opened in 1931."
Les Pins hosted the Nations Cup in 1972 and the Philip Morris International in 1974, and whilst it no longer features on the professional circuit, it presents a good test for all levels of golfer. The course rewards careful golf and although the 1st provides a deceptively wide fairway, the following holes become more testing as the pine forest, through which the course meanders, encroaches.
Hardelot brings to mind the classical era of British golf architecture and Les Pins has a very similar feel to the Red course at the Berkshire. An additional benefit at Hardelot is the climate, which is warmed by the Gulf Stream. This ensures enough rain to keep the fairways and greens in glorious condition, but enough mild weather to ensure enjoyable golf all year round.
The sandy soil provides perfect drainage and the bunkers are deep and full of fine sand. The natural contours presented by a proliferation of sand dunes add a distinctive charm to an already attractive course.
Dutch architect Frank Pont and Patrice Boissonnas, whose family own Open Golf Club, the company that operates Hardelot, spent three years reworking the course at Les Pins, using old photographs and drawings to breathe new life into this Tom Simpson design.
More than three thousand trees were removed, greens were enlarged to their original dimensions, fairways were widened and all the Simpson bunkers rebuilt to “honour the artistic vision of the great architect and create a stronger, more strategic defence,” according to Patrice Boissonnas.
The course now plays to a par of 71, after the 2nd and 16th holes were reduced to par fours, though a more subtle change sees the short holes now play longer as the round progresses: the downhill 5th measures 120 yards, the 7th is a bit longer at 150 yards, the downhill 12th now requires an exacting 160-yard tee shot, the beautiful 14th is a strong 175-yard par three and the 17th requires a hybrid or wood to carry the 180 yards from tee to green.
Hardelot has a lovely clubhouse and the location is ideal for travelling golfers, especially those living in the South of the UK. The club lies only 30 minutes away from the Channel Tunnel terminus, providing the perfect opportunity for a day's golf.
Les Dunes, which opened for play in 1990, is the second course at Hardelot. Located a mile or so up the road, it is definitely worth playing alongside the highly French polished Les Pins.
I started a recent 13-course trip to France at Les Pins and didn’t find a better layout until a week later when I played the New course at Les Bordes. I’m so glad I took the time to visit the northwest of the country (which was a big gap for me) as the four 18-hole courses at Hardelot and Le Touquet are well worth a visit.
Les Pins stands above this quartet of top tracks in the Pas-de-Calais department and rightly so. I loved the understated nature of the clubhouse, which sets the tone for what is to follow. I also thought I might be put off by the housing that lies beyond many of the holes but they’re set back quite a bit and low enough in density to be largely inconspicuous.
If this is a good example of what a modern restoration can achieve then other clubs of a similar vintage could do worse than have a look at what’s been done here. Was it Tom Simpson or his design partner at the time, Philip Mackenzie Ross, who re-designed the layout in the early 1930s? It doesn’t really matter as they were both brilliant architects with similar artistic objectives.
Laid out less than two kilometres from the sandy coastline, the course weaves through the pine forest in two loops of nine, with many of the atmospheric holes played in splendid isolation. It opens out a little bit more on the back nine, between the par three 12th and par four 16th, but you’ll only get glimpses of other holes from many of the other fairways.
I loved both the par three holes on the front nine, at the very short 5th and slightly uphill 7th (where both greens are surrounded by acres of sand). Short par fours at the 8th and 11th show how easy it can be to make uphill holes attractive, with the right doglegging, split-fairway 15th an even more appealing short two-shotter.
Exposed sandy waste areas in front of the tee box on both the 17th and 18th holes serve to remind golfers of the underlying ground composition, allowing the ground game to flourish with firm and fast playing conditions. Les Pins might not be regarded as a links but it plays as much like a links as a few others that revel in that classification!
I observed a couple of minus points during my round: I couldn’t understand why a collar of rough currently protects the front side of the greenside bunkers – surely the sand traps are designed to allow balls to feed into them but the thick grass won’t allow this? And a few trees (already badly tilted) need to be felled, even though the vast majority of pines within the property are beautifully maintained.
They’re only minor issues anyway, and in no way do they cloud the big picture: Les Pins is a wonderful course fully deserving its current national Top 10 status.
The Pines course at Hardelot is one of my favourite courses and has only improved with the renovations carried out by Frank Pont. The course winds its way through pine trees and has the added advantage of having a sandy subsoil which enables great drainage. Hardelot is relatively tight in places so accuracy from the tee is vital to navigating the course and if you can move the ball in both directions this will be an advantage. The bunkering is excellent, well placed but not overly penal and the greens have enough movement to keep you concentrated. Hardelot has many noteworthy holes, the 1st is a nice opening Par 5 which gives the player the chance to get off to a good start. Hole 5 is a fun short par 3 and the 9th is a tremendous par 4 with a well protected plateau green. The course finished with 3 great holes, the 16th a long par 4 with a raised green is a cracker and 17 is good par 3 set in the pine trees with a huge drop off on the left…this is tough hole to pick the club when windy. The tee shot at 18 sums up Hardelot, played though a narrow corridor of trees before a long iron to an undulating green set in front of the clubhouse. This is a wonderful golf course and well worth a visit.
Tom Simpson may well be the best British export to France since the humble Croissant. His gallic efforts of note include Chantilly, Chiberta, Fontainebleau, Morfontaine, and this one. Despite being relatively well known in the UK, he seems to have done his best work in France - which must make him the Chris Waddle of golf course design.
Morfontaine is the one most golfing dirty stop outs would drop their plus fours to play. But good luck getting on what might legitimately be the Augusta of Europe (in terms of the golfing public’s right to roam). Although right now might be a good time to sneak on. Anyways, Hardelot might be the poor relation, but as I was pleased to discover, we’re still talking Pippa Middleton.
This course scythes its way through a majestic pine woodland. The land is sand, the terra firma, and it rolls like a rolling pin. Occasionally it’s narrow, but more often it offers width with open arms. As conditions were hard when we played in June, you had options in shot selection and in particular needed to control your tee shots. Les Pins has sufficient scale to satisfy its design ambition - it’s relatively Grand & Flamboyant if you’re used to the forested old timers in Holland & Belgium. The routing twists and turns enough to leave you, now a bemused defender, with twisted blood. Only a couple of holes run back & forth. The visuals & placement of the bunkers is excellent and reminded me of those Simpson courses I’ve played in Belgium. But as mentioned, this course feels a tiny bit bigger.
#1 is nothing special as a getaway hole, although a cross bunker and the hard undulating fairway serve as a decent pre-match warm up. You need to get a few holes in before the land starts to get even more rumpled at around #4 or #5, the odd landform sneaks into view, and with this the holes immediately become more interesting. Driving the ball at angles over dune like banks at #9 & #10 is a joy & a pleasure. The par 3’s are great, especially #7 & #17 (I think). You’ll surely enjoy the puzzling fairway #15, which essentially gives you two routes to the green. I chose the racing line and it didn’t end well. The final hole is a fitting finish. After holing out, your thoughts drift to Agincourt - less than an hour away and the scene of a similar resounding British success on French soil.
This course is deservedly popular and draws an international crowd - as evidenced by my own group first bumping into a colleague on one fairway - despite us both being 400km from the office, and then hearing the cockney birdsong in amongst the trees throughout the round. Any golfers hoping for a diamond lights out experience should check this place out. Hardelot Les Pins is well worth your effort. And while you’re here, perhaps hoddle down the road to nearby Le Touquet La Mer - it’ll be a collaboration you and your mates won’t soon forget
30 minutes from Calais, only an hour from Kent if you hop on the Eurotunnel shuttle, however this course feels like a classic from the Surrey sand belt. Lovely sandy turf, we played in warm September conditions but I imagine this course drains well all year.
The course provides a really tranquil experience as you wind your way through the pine forest, with many holes beautifully isolated, but thanks to the tree clearing programme it never felt claustrophobic.
The course is certainly a challenge, and you need to shape it both ways to find the ideal lines, although there is more space than you think. A lovely experience, very different from La Mer at Le Touquet but together they are a top class 36 hole combo.
Hardelot (Les Pins) 18-hole course, built in 1934 by the renowned British architect, Tom Simpson, simply must be experienced. Rated in France’s top 10 courses, Simpson’s forest masterpiece is a challenge and a joy. Accuracy and distance are keys as you navigate the high tree-lined fairways and big bunkers well-guarded greens of this stunning championship course. Was played two times from white tees in the middle of July. At first look it‘s an old golf course with old club house and training facilities...and for sure with seniors golf players also. Golf course and surroundings have history and spirit. Very good feel to play here...from first to last hole. Views of surroundings are magnetic for eyes and calls to take a picture. Condition and maintence was high level. It‘s very challenging golf course except few holes (was played from white tees). Some par-4‘s holes have distance to pin more than 400 metres. Lovely 16th and 18th holes with ~428-430 metres from white tees! To make par is not easy here. My personal favorites was deceptive (distance sense) 7th hole, blind 9th hole and definitely 12th with downhill green, 15th with dogleg to right and options to play in various scenarius. At the finish is long par-4 hole and after that cozy restaurant (or looks like more pub) with tasty cold beer (Irish dark‘s was the best).
Concerning prices it is not cheapiest golf courses (you can use Open Golf Club Pass to save money), but worth all paid moneys! Service is average, buggies could be more modern (GPS and etc.). Actually buggy is not nessesary here, but pleasant in game.
As every golf course rating is always a subject with a lot of subjectivity, depending on various criteria and personal point of view to importance things, my personal opinion depends on following criteria: course complexity or challenging, fields condition (especially greens & fairways), service (only what you can get: buggie, club rent, condition of clubs, the amount of choice and etc. except staff and other subjective things that depends on your or staff mood), surrounding views or pleasure to the eyes and definitely value for the price. All criteries will be rating from 1 to 5 stars. My priority is challenging and value for price criterias. Les Pins gets:
1. Challenging - 5*
2. Condition - 5*
3. Service - 4*
4. Surroundings - 5*
5. Value for the price - 5*
Definitelly will be back next year.
The work done on improving the golf course has truly paid off.. this is an excellent course to play and, being close to Calais, well worth a quick hop across the Channel. Add Le Touquet Le Mer and Wimereux perhaps?
Firstly this is a lovely course. The tee boxes, fairways and greens are in immaculate condition. There are some really great holes here my favourites being 1, 9, 15, 16, 17 and 18. The course runs as you would expect, it flows like a course that knows what it is.
I would challenge anyone who plays here not to enjoy themselves as it is a set of 18 good holes.
I know we shouldn’t talk about the club house, but once you are finished jump in the car and pop up to the Dunes for a beer.
Playing the renovated Les Pins course at Hardelot earlier this month was without doubt one of the unexpected highlights of my golfing season. By recreating Tom Simpson's masterpiece, Patrice Boissonnas and Frank Pont have delivered one of the most successful renovation programmes ever seen in Continental Europe. The clever bunkering and superb original routing on this perfect piece of tumbling, sandy real estate is a fine example of Simpson at his brilliant best. Old photographs and drawings were used to recreate the shapes and contours of greens and their surrounds and an extensive tree clearance programme has created fairway width as well as the occasional tantalising view. The course agronomy has also benefitted from fewer trees as the finer grasses find it easier to become established, the only downside being the nearby housing which has become a little more obvious.
The feeling of being in golf heaven is there from the very first shot as the opening par-5 delivers magnificent strategic bunkering set amongst towering pines. As one dramatic hole follows another you soon begin to realise that this is no average golf course as there isn't a single weak hole to be found.
The collection of five par-3's which increase in length as the round progresses are particularly memorable and the variety of the par-4's is impressive to say the least. An outstanding run of holes commences at the 5th and continues to the turn, the attractive 8th may not play much over 300 yards but a large fairway bunker and small slippery green make this a much tougher prospect than it really ought to be. We then hit over a marker post, hopefully carrying a ridge to an angled fairway at the blind 9th. This is a wonderful hole where misplaced shots can easily be blocked out from a challenging approach to a plateau green.
Personal favourites on the back nine would include the 11th, a short par-4 playing uphill to a green protected by huge bunkers and the 15th which gives us the option of playing either side of a tall stand of pines. The tighter route to the right offers the easier approach but bunkers must be avoided, whilst the easier option to the left leaves a more demanding approach to a sloping raised green.
The European Tour Qualifying School has visited Hardelot between 2011 and 2017 suggesting that this is a beauty that can show its teeth when needed. Thankfully the average golfer will find it not only very playable but also great fun.
A big move forwards in the Continental Europe rankings during the next few years is all but guaranteed. Brian W
First class golf course. The site is fantastic, best sandy subsoil you can dream of for a track, the trees are majestic, the fairway grass leaves are so fine they would put to shame most greens in France, bunkers are perfect even if a bit firm.
The main thing is that there is not a single bad hole, every tee shot is well thought, the greens well contoured, bunkers cutting beautifully into them. This is heaven!
My only criticism is the green speed. There is plenty of grass, no problem getting the blades down to 4mm so that customers enjoy a proper championship course!
We played it twice, first from the whites, then from the tips... This is quite something!
Another recent renovation by Frank Pont and Patrice Boissonas who have also recently tackled Le Touquet La Mer. At Hardelot they also took on an extensive renovation with many challenges involved including removal of many thousand trees. The result is fantastic. The entire course has been opened up and Simpson’s genius has been brought back to life. Both 9’s are excellent but my personal preference goes out to the land movement and variation on the front 9. There are many excellent holes and the course is a blast to play. The run from 7 to 9 are among the best holes on the property. 7 is a short uphill par 3 with a wild green and surrounded by bunkers. 8 a short drivable par 4 with a wonderful raised green and 9 the number 1 hcp hole with a blind drive over bunkers and a waste area that highly rewards a risky shot to the left side of the fairway with a much better look at the raised green that moves away right to left to the angle of play.
The back 9 covers slightly less dramatic land after the drop shot par 3 12th but possesses excellent holes. 15 is a rather quirky short par 4. Feeling wise I struggled with the look of this hole and it’s slightly unclear choice of left or right fairway separated clumps of tall trees. In the end I took driver and swung full tilt. That worked fine as well.
16-18 are very strong finishing holes and do a superb job of completing the routing. It’s an excellent course, simply another demonstration of Simpson’s genius and fortunately for us a thoughtful renovation.