Le Breuil is the longer, more popular of the two 18-hole courses at Domaine du Gouverneur. Brought into play in 1992 by French architect Dider Fruchet (who masterminded the revamping of the Etretat golf course in Normandy the same year), and later modified by George Will, the course winds its way around a number of water hazards, which is no great surprise given its location in the Dombes region known for its numerous ponds and lakes.
The land on which the Domaine du Gouverneur was developed used to be the property of the Governor of the Dombes region; the older buildings of the resort were erected in the 14th century, and used to be surrounded by a moat and accessible over a draw bridge. More modern features include the complete overhaul and expansion of the clubhouse in 2015, boasting now what could be the largest pro shop in France, as well as a fitting centre manned by Loïc Monchalin, who travels regularly to European Tour events for Srixon / Cleveland brands.
The layout is fashioned in two returning nine-hole loops, but what seems to make it more popular than the other course at the resort (Montaplan) is that it is easy to go back to the clubhouse not only from the 9th and 18th greens but also from the 6th and 12th, thus affording more opportunities for players to take a drink or snack (or full meal) break. If the first few holes (1st through 4th) can appear somewhat easy, the course toughens up and the last 5 holes are definitely testing while also very different one from the next.
This resort is quite extensive: not only does it include a total of 45 holes (with the Montaplan 18-hole course and a 9-hole training course), but also a hotel at the heart of the property.
The Open de Lyon (a European Challenge Tour event) was played on Le Breuil for five years between 2008 and 2012. The respective winners were; David Horsey, Alexandre Kaleka, Bernd Wiesberger, Julien Quesne and Chris Doak.
The fairways are usually in very good condition and quite lush; the greens are large, keep a good speed throughout the year and can be tricky as their slopes are not obvious to read. Bunkers are not too deep but some guard the greens quite efficiently while keeping the balls out of the water (9th, 13th). I played this course under trying winter conditions: a cold day with gale force winds. It made me appreciate the layout which varies the orientation of the holes sharply without ever doubling back. If the rough was sometimes very wet and soft, the fairways kept the balls bouncing.
After a few warm-up holes, things get serious on the par four 5th, which is not only long but also proves to be narrower than appears at first as a row of trees halves the width of the fairway just where the ball will come down. If your drive leaves you behind these trees, there is no way to reach the green in regulation. The 6th hole seems straight, but prevailing winds will slow your drive making the second shot at least a mid-iron approach. Then the 9th will remind you sharply that the water hazards are a main feature of the course and you need to be careful if you want to cut this dogleg’s corner.
The 14th hole is the hardest on the score card, and deservedly so as it is a long (393 meters from the tips) and narrow par four, winding around a large lake, with the green protected by trees on one side and the bank of the lake menacingly close on the other. However, the next hole, a 472 meters par five, can feel just as long and lonely with a head-on wind, a big old tree in the middle of the fairway making the landing of the drive a more serious affair and the fairway being then squished between two water hazards for the second and third shots. I also liked the finishing 18th, which needs two really good shots to reach the elevated green with the very friendly yellow walls of the old manor beckoning in the background.
One is glad to reach the bar at the clubhouse after crossing the inner courtyards, while there lingers a general feeling of both accomplishment and pleasantness about the course. I was told that the pros have found Le Breuil lacking great difficulty, but for the leisurely golfer dangers abound without being overwhelming.