Set in the very quiet and wildlife-friendly region of La Dombes, Montaplan is the second course of the Domaine du Gouverneur. Designed by Didier Fruchet, it opened in the early nineties and offers a slightly more understated golf test than its championship sister course Le Breuil. On slightly undulating terrain, there is a mix of forest and water landscapes, offering both a good golf challenge and an opportunity to see a range of water wildlife from muskrats to various species of herons, ducks and coots. You may occasionally spot deer scampering out of the woods if you are lucky enough.The Montaplan layout departs a little from modern tradition: the 9th does not lead back to the clubhouse, and the three par fives are all part of the first nine holes which have a total par of 37 versus only 34 for the second nine. Despite this apparent imbalance, both halves offer the amateur golfer a good run for the money, with a number of successive water hazards on the back nine (holes 11 to 15) contrasting with the more open front nine. Most greens are larger than average, allowing for many, sometimes well-protected pin positions.
This may be a biased perception. Le Breuil claims 6312 meters from the tips; it also has five sets of tees, including championship (black) tees. However, Montaplan is a par 71 vs Le Breuil’s par 72, so the challenge from the white tees is really equal, in length at least. Other features of Montaplan make it quite different, and in my view just as interesting to play as its sister course.
There is more land definition on Montaplan, not only because the terrain is gently undulated, but also because the greens have more pronounced slopes. Although the first half of the course does not have any water hazards really coming into play, some holes are cut through or around a forest so the fairways may feel narrow. When they are not, their actual width, or strategically placed bunkers, or the sheer distance to the green create the challenge for the visitor. Only the stretch from the 5th to the 7th hole can be described as “easier”, but it is followed by some of the toughest holes on the course: the par five 8th is no bargain with a tree standing in the middle of the fairway where your second shot should land and an elongated green, then the next three holes (9 to 11) are quite long and testing. The par four 11th is rated the hardest (413 meters from the back tees) even though sometimes the breeze can actually help one’s drive. Most holes of the second nine are defended by lakes (11th through 15th, 18th), and the only breather probably comes at the 14th short par three.
The general maintenance of this course may be perceived as slightly lower than that of the sister championship course, with bushy undergrowth in the wooded areas and “natural” grass growth in the rough. However, the Domaine’s management is working on progressive upgrades. Even now, I liked playing Montaplan as much as Le Breuil, and the Domaine du Gouverneur altogether makes for a most pleasant weekend golf (and gastronomy) outing.