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.
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.
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.