Tucked away in the south west corner of France, near the Spanish border, Golf Club d'Hossegor is the perfect venue for golf and it is reminiscent of the sparkling heathland courses, which are in abundance to the west of London. With sandy subsoil, it’s a perfect all-year-round venue that winds its way across heather and through avenues of trees in a large pine forest.
Designed by Englishman John Morrison in 1930, this is a classic and historic Basque course that was frequented by the greatest French golfers of yesteryear. One of France’s all-time sporting greats, Arnaud Massey, was involved in the creation of Hossegor and he brought a wealth of golfing knowledge to the construction. He won the French Open for the fourth time in 1925 and was the first overseas Open champion in Britain – and one of only five men to claim the Claret Jug between 1894 and 1914 when the Great Triumvirate of Vardon, Taylor and Braid won the championship an astonishing sixteen times.
Cabell B. Robinson, an American designer and former Robert Trent Jones employee who broke away to set up his own golf course design company in 1987, has been involved in remodelling work at the course since the start of the new millennium. These changes – mainly to improve the visibility of fairway and greenside bunkers – have, in the words of the architect, “rendered the course less penal and more enjoyable for the general level of play of the resident members and visitors.”
The short par five 15th has been radically altered with the construction of a new, elevated putting surface at a slight angle to the fairway. As Cabell says, “three large bunkers to the left of the green must be carried if attacking the green in two, but there is an open entrance albeit narrow if a player chooses to lay up down the right side on his second or third shot. The overall effect was to create a more exacting par five where length was not a real factor.”
Further modifications to holes 16 to 18 are due to be carried out on an ongoing basis, certain tees are to be reconstructed throughout the course and all putting surfaces will, in the fullness of time, be revamped – all under the watchful eye of Cabell B. Robinson.
Residential development is changing the look and feel of Hossegor, but it will always be a timeless course.
They close the club at Hossegor every Wednesday, allowing only juniors to play, so I was very fortunate to be allowed on after fronting up here in the middle of the working week, thanks to the intervention of my friend, journalist and author Roland Machenaud, who accompanied me for the front nine before heading off to a golf show in Paris.
I say the front nine, but there are actually ten holes playing away then returning to the clubhouse, leaving eight to complete the requisite eighteen holes. I don’t know if it’s always been like that but it struck me as a bit odd at the time.
Having had time to reflect on my round, what appears even stranger now is the manner in which the holes are laid out: mainly straight on holes 1-10 but nearly all doglegging right to left between holes 11 and 18. They’re also a good bit flatter on the early holes, probably because they’re laid out on the flood plain of the narrow river Bouret, which runs alongside the opening five holes.
There’s no denying this is a charming course, with mature trees bounding every fairway, though they’re set at a fair distance from the line of play so there’s never a feeling that they’re intruding. Bunkers are deep and plentiful, with just the right degree of semi-ragged edging, though the greens were a bit of a disappointment, with contouring that could best be described as subtle.
I loved the way the tee for the short par four 3rd is set on one bank of the river with the fairway on the other side and the par three 5th into the most easterly part of the property was an absolute delight, featuring an eye-catching plantation of heathers in front of the tee box. The other short hole on this stretch, the 185-metre 8th, also plays over a patch of heather to a heavily sand-protected volcano green.
By far the best holes on the layout are played back-to-back at the par three 14th and par five 15th: the former sits in a narrow little dale, requiring a slightly uphill tee shot to a green that’s benched into the hillside at the back; and the latter starts with an intimidating blind tee shot over bushes to a fairway that then heads down and left to a terrific offset green.
In reality, you must combine a visit to Hossegor with an outing at Seignosse –they’re less than ten kilometres from one another – giving you a great 36-hole day of golf that will live long in the memory.
Hossegor GC is a wonderful members course that has long been rated as one of the top ten courses in France.
Although it is sited near the sea, Golf d'Hossegor is essentially a heathland course with a sandy base, heather and gorse skirting the playing surfaces which are framed by dense tracts of pine forest.
A par 71, Hossegor is tight off the tee, but offers decent variation in lengths off different teeing grounds- thus catering for all. The course will suit the player who is reasonably straight, but not necessarily long.
The bunkering is attractive and strategic, and the more difficult rated holes require good control of line and flight to avoid hitting the sand on both tee shot and approach.
With large mature trees overhanging both sides of the fairway on all holes, the course is both protected, and a bit of a golfing sanctuary. It really is a lovely golfing experience and a really wonderful members course.
Favourite holes include the lovely uphill par 3 14th in its own little valley, the downhill turning par 5 15th, the classic par 3 second hole, and a number of dogleg
par 4 holes that required an accurate tee shot to give a clear shot at the classically styled greens.
The look and feel is very much London Heathland, and while I would not classify Hossegor as a championship course I cannot think of many courses that would be more enjoyable to play on a regular basis.
My only criticisms are minor. A lot of the par 4's were right to left dog legs requiring a mid iron second shot – I constantly hit 6 iron approaches.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
What a gem of a course. Sheer class, simply stunning. Should in my opinion be ranked higher, and clearly above St Emilion in the SW corner. It really is on par with the top UK heathland tracks. Tough to pick a favorite hole as they are all good. Quite narrow and a real test. Loved it !
Quite liked this course but the pace of play is so so slow especially if you play in the afternoon. Very tight.....