Le Touquet is very French but it has strong British connections, not least because both contrasting courses at Le Touquet were laid out by British architects, but also because this was once the playground for the British gentry. Horace Hutchinson designed La Forêt and according to most modern records Harry S. Colt designed La Mer.
However, in 1936, J.S.F Morrison wrote a a column on Golf in Japan in The Bystander magazine: "Captain Alison designed the new course at Le Touquet, and was secretary of Stoke Poges shortly before the war, but he is chiefly famous for having, when representing Oxford v Cambridge, played off the roof of the clubhouse at Woking to halve the last hole in 5." Morrison was a senior partner of the design firm Colt, Alison and Morrison Ltd., so it seems La Mer could be the work of Charles Hugh Alison and Harry Colt.
In 1928 a decision was made to build a second course in the dunes and in 1930, the Daily Mail commented that this new terrain will comprise of eighteen of the most magnificent holes a scratch golfer could dream of. The new La Mer course finally opened for play in 1931 but the Prince of Wales – Edward VIII – discreetly “tried” it a few days before it officially opened. The devastation following WW2 necessitated restoration work and the course lay dormant until 1959. Harold Baker modified the layout in 1997.
The stunning seaside course, La Mer, is one of Alison's greatest achievements, and that is saying something as Alison completed many outstanding designs during his lifetime, including Hirono. Located in the Pas de Calais region, La Mer is a classic links course that winds its way between the coastal dunes and rough grasses. With wonderful sea views from elevated tees, formidable bunkering, huge dunes and fast but firm greens, La Mer is perhaps the best true links course in France and it can proudly hold its head high alongside some of its regal neighbours which lie on the opposite side of the English Channel.
Measuring 6,407 metres, La Mer is a challenging layout and has hosted six French Opens, (the most recent was in 1977 when Seve Ballesteros won the title), but it's still a seriously tough proposition, especially when the Atlantic winds funnel down the Channel and whip across this exposed links land. Sam Torrance holds the current course record with a truly remarkable 63.
Charles Debruyne from Le Touquet Golf Resort told us the following in relation to the club’s staging of the Open de France:
“The routing that is used nowadays is the original one that hosted the Open before the Second World War, designed by Colt & Alison. After the war they used a 14-hole loop (instead of 18) on La Mer, with four holes from La Forêt, allowing a start and finish at the nearby Manoir Hotel, which was being used as a clubhouse at that time.”
However, Le Touquet hasn't rested on its laurels. La Mer underwent an extensive redesign programme in 2015 which will make it a serious championship contender once more. A bridge now links the tee and green on the 10th – the par three signature hole. New tees have been added on 1st, 5th, 13th and 17th, bunkers have been added here and there and three greens have been replaced (5th, 6th and 12th). Two great hotels are attached to the golf club making Le Touquet a wonderful holiday venue.
For some reason La Mer was not listed in George Peper and Malcolm Campbell’s book, True Links, but Campbell did comment in his 1994 title European Golf Courses : “La Mer is a classic links golf course laid out among the sand dunes and might as easily be on the east coast of Scotland as on the north coast of France.”
La Mer lies a good 10-minute walk from the clubhouse that serves all the golfers playing at Le Touquet. Once you take the path through the 9-hole Le Manoir course and cross the coastal Avenue Francois Godin road, you’re presented with a small car park, a starter’s hut, and that’s it – very understated and unpretentious; the focus is all about the golf, and nothing but the golf.
The club has done a magnificent job in recent times, rediscovering lost holes along the coastline that were originally included in the 1930s redesign work of Harry Colt and Hugh Alison. These holes, from the 13th to 16th, occupy a flatter part of the property so they’re maybe not as eye-catching as some of the earlier holes (and they’re still a little raw in places) but they’ve certainly elevated the course to a higher level than before.
There’s lots of movement in the land here, where sandy ridges are used to site both tee boxes and plateaux greens with lovely run off areas. There are trees and bushes in evidence on many of the holes, though they never unduly impinge on play as playing corridors are generally wide (short par four 7th excepted), allowing lots of options from the tee.
My favourite holes were the opening par three at the 2nd (with the green nestled simply in the sand hills), the par four 8th (playing up to a ridge-top green), and the wonderful , semi-blind uphill par three 10th , which was one of the best short holes I played during my 13-round trip to France. As for the much-maligned uphill 17th, I think it’s actually a great connector hole – much like the 17th at County Sligo – and a tough one to tackle so late in the round.
La Mer is pretty much a no-nonsense links with just the odd blind shot in evidence here and there and several thrilling tee shots to be played from elevated positions. Ultra-critical reviewers might complain about the relatively flat terrain on the sequence of holes 4-6 and 14-16 but that’s really nit picking in my opinion. Instead, rejoice in the large, open greens, along with the understated bunkering throughout the layout – and commend the club for rejuvenating an old classic in such a sympathetic manner.
The highest compliment I can pay La Mer is that if it was in a more golf-centric location it would be ranked so much higher. That said, the location is actually perfect, Le Touquet is a beautiful destination, and the right balance between tourist destination and undiscovered gem.
The course itself could be twinned with Royal St Davids, they bear so many similarities, from the opening hole to the last I was constantly comparing it to the best (in my opinion) in Wales, and its stylistically so similar, as well as having what all great courses do, a perfect balance, you play well round here, you'll find it easy, you start hitting it offline and you'll find it difficult.
Its easily the best course you've never heard of.
I guess Harry Colt’s best work did not take place in France. A couple of notable appearances on French soil, yes, but ultimately failing to reach the dizzying heights of more celebrated efforts on the correct side of the English Channel. This could make him the Glenn Hoddle of golf course design.
The La Mer option at Le Touquet actually felt like a close relative of the Haagsche in Holland. The land here has good movement but is less dramatic (less severe, even). The well-sited greens have challenge due to tilt, run offs, and false fronts, but I found them less difficult (also not a bad thing). Stands of scrubby trees lining the holes are more ubiquitous, but it’s the same sandy dunescape that brings to mind its Dutch Cousin.
The course is well routed through this suitable land and several good holes make this a fine experience. The dogleg left opener is a perfect getaway, with your second shot hitting up the hill, leading into #2 - a pretty & challenging short hole (that feels a bit randomly bunkered). Holes #11 & #12 were favourites, but there were others. My only negative is that it arguably lacks the hole variety of the very best courses - Deja Vu on a few tee shots.
I’m looking forward to returning though and paired up with Hardelot Les Pins, it becomes more than the sum of its constituent parts. It might not be from Harry Colt’s top drawer, but I preferred it to Royal Zoute, and there are those Haagsche hints. And the bar is set high, so don’t let this discourage you - it’s still a Prince Harry on Doak’s lesser known poor relation scale. This sneaks it a 5 ball rating from me, rounding up from 4.751
I was pleasantly surprised by Le Touquet. The course was brilliant, which I understand is mainly to do with a recent restoration. You play amongst sand dunes and there are lots of good holes, all very memorable.
The 2nd is a brilliant par 3, as is the 7th. The course is really strong in the middle, 9 being my favourite hole through a valley, bookended by 8 and 10 also being good holes. From this point you can't believe you're in France, as the dunes get more dramatic and the holes get more linksy. The view from the 18th tee is spectacular and a great way to end your round.
Respond to above review
Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful
I really want to come back and play this course following the renovation works - the pictures look great. Although we played it pre-renovation, it was still a fantastic experience. Challenging off the tee, our group often chose different clubs on the tee (even though we hit it similar distances), as we all saw the hole differently. I love playing thought provoking courses where you don't automatically reach for driver.
I felt the course took you on a journey, with the constant changes of direction you were always kept on your toes in terms of dealing with the wind. A very different experience from the classic out and back nature of many traditional links. With all the different changes in direction and winding through the dunes, I was quite surprised when I climbed the final dune to the 18th tee and saw the home hole taking us back to the starting point. But what a pleasant surprise and a stunning view as well.
This is a tremendous course, but it's no hidden gem and is rightly hugely popular with British golfers.
One of the best courses I played ever. This France‘s No.1 links style championship golf course La Mer has been Le Touquet Golf resort crowning glory many years. La Mer’s wild beauty is matched only by the force of the wind, which is an integral part of the course. 18 holes, 6430 meters, PAR 72 this course is challenging, exciting, and reserved for experienced players. Accuracy and distance are keys as you navigate the fairways and big bunkers well-guarded greens of this stunning championship course. Was played one time from white tees in the middle of July and want to back once more. Very good feel to play here...from first to last hole. Views of surroundings are magnetic for eyes and calls to take a picture in each hole. Condition and maintence was very high level. It‘s very challenging golf course. For example 2nd hole par 3 with narrow tee off from white to pin was 198 meters with front wind blow! Also around many tricky rough and to loose ball is not big deal. Three of par-4‘s holes have distance to pin more than 400 metres. Lovely downhill 11th with ~425 metres from white tees! Huge drive needed to reach comfortable approach. To make par is not easy here. My personal favorites was blind first shot 9th hole, deceptive (distance sense) 7th hole, blind 14th hole and definitely 15th par-5 with dogleg to right and options to play in various scenarius. At the finish is long downhill par-4 hole with memorable views. Actually all holes have a character.
Concerning prices it is not cheapiest golf courses in Le Touquet Golf Resort (you can use Open Golf Club Pass to save money), but worth all paid moneys! Service is good, buggies will be pleasant in game concerning distance, but I tried to walk play – more fresh feel of fairway grass and surroundings, actually I was tired a bit (uphill-downhill).
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. La Mer gets:
1. Challenging - 5*+
2. Condition - 5*+
3. Service - 5*
4. Surroundings - 5*+
5. Value for the price - 5*
Definitelly will be back next year.
This is a lovely course and I very much enjoyed the round. Firstly if anyone is asking this is not a links course, however it is a great course that has a seaside feel to it (mainly as it is by the sea).
The quick negatives are that it took ages to play as we were stuck behind an English four ball that no matter how many times we walked up to a tee when they were still on it, just wouldn’t let us through.
However, the courses is great fun, bring your game especially your putting or you are in trouble. My favourite holes are 2 a great par 3, 8 as I loved the approach, 9 it is all about a long drive, 10 another lovely par 3 and then 17 and 18.
The course however is about the greens so ensure you are putting well and yes you really do need that much break.
Only a half hour drive from Calais, Le Touquet is a high class and convenient destination, particularly for golfers based in southern England. Add good accommodation, 45 holes of golf and a cluster of other highly ranked local courses to the mix and you have all the ingredients for the perfect golf break as we discovered last week.
The "top of the bill" La Mer layout has undergone dramatic changes in recent times as golf course architects Patrice Boissonnas and Frank Pont have re-created much of the original links character of this fine old course. At the heart of the renovation were plans to restore five Colt/Alison holes from the original 1931 design which is not only of historical significance but has undoubtedly created a much improved back nine. Although one or two tree lined holes remain, much has been stripped back to leave a significantly more open and exposed aspect to this fast running and beautifully bunkered layout.
Unfortunately one hole still remains on the drawing board as local government ecologists have deemed that the re-construction of the original 17th would destroy an environmentally sensitive area. Hopefully this situation can be resolved in time as the Colt/Alison routing is far superior to the current hole which is almost certainly the weakest on the course.
The run of holes from 13 - 16 have now been fully restored in all their original glory providing not only more attractive but far more interesting holes. The strategic 15th was regarded by the great Tom Simpson as one of the best par-5's on the continent and the 16th, a classic long par-3 playing downhill to a nicely situated green, is certainly a beauty but often a beast when the wind blows. Two of the remaining par-3's will have you reaching for the camera. The 2nd at around 200 yards is a stunning hole with exquisite bunkering fronting the green and the tricky 10th requires a precise iron shot played over a valley to a raised green which falls away dramatically to the left. Of the longer holes I particularly liked 1, 8, 9, 11 and 12, the latter two leading us nicely into the new holes with some having raised greens which add to the level of difficulty.
Playing from the white markers at around 6,800 yards in light winds is certainly a tough proposition and these are not even the back tees. My guess is that most golfers will find the yellow tees offer more than enough challenges, particularly if the wind blows.
You may not beat La Mer but you can't help but love it. Brian W
We decided to write in for the 24the Amateur Classic Tournament held at Golf du Touquet at the end of august this year.
The tournament is scheduled for 4 days: 2 rounds at Touquet la Mer and 2 rounds at Touquet la Forêt, alternating.
Having played la Mer a couple of years ago, I was looking forward visiting the course again and to get acquainted with the changes they made to holes 14-16.
Although la Mer is situated near the coast, I don't think the quality of the turf would qualify la Mer as a pure links golf course. Having said that, it is a wonderful designed golf course situated in a panoramic dunes landscape, a true classic course. Some par4's are testing long (especially those against prevailing wind direction!), but overall the course allows for a decent score. If you favour your course management skills over your desire to overpower every shot from the tee & at the pin.
After a decent opening nine (closing with a nice testing par4 against the wind), the course shows it's real beauty with the closing nine. The closing nine starts with a charming, but well protected, short par3, and after a varied test of golf holes, the round ends with a beautiful downhill par4.
Despite the fact that the holes 14-16 are relatively new, I do believe that they have made the second nine a more balanced nine: in the old days this part of the course felt more like a parkland course then a dunes course. They must have cleared tonnes of trees to (re)create the links feeling at this part of the course again, having the holiday houses behind the green of the 13&14th more in sight, as an obvious trade off. The only week hole on the back nine remains hole 17: a rather straight forward uphill par5, now being the only hole with that old parkland feel to it.
I expected top notch maintenance levels, and maybe this was the only aspect of the course that disappointed me. Among more general maintenance findings, I think that especially the greens could benefit from some extra TLC: the greens should be a touch (or 2....) firmer and faster, allowing putts to hold their lines on these beautiful contoured greens. Lets hope that with the economy shifting gears, the maintenance levels can be raised accordingly. With maintenance at normal levels, definitely worth a 5 ball rating.
All in all, Touquet la Mer is one of the better golf courses the Côte d'Opale has on offer and a must play golf course when visiting this area of la douce France (with Hardelot les Pines, Touquet la Forêt, Belle Dunes & Wimereux)
Can't wait to play this course again during the 25th Amateur Classic Tournament at le Touquet next year!
The recently renovated Le Touquet is now a joy to play. They have removed tons of trees and bushes in creating wide open spaces and bringing back the links nature of this excellent course. A serious and conscious effort has been taken to bring the course gradually back to the way Harry Colt designed it back in its hay-day and fine work has been done. The battle however is not over and the uphill 17th still must be changed significantly to bring the entire routing back. At the moment the run of holes on the back 9 are absolutely fabulous until you get to 17 which is in its current form a very strange hole quite different from Colt’s original. Regardless the rest of the course is back to the Colt originally intended it, or at least very close to how it was and really it’s brilliant! I highly recommend a visit and with Hardelot Les Pins and Belle Dune close by it makes for a great long weekend of golf.
I would say my favorite holes were the par 3 2nd and the par 4 11th and 12th holes. These par 4’s are played at a horizontal angle to the fairway and really make you think off the tee. 11 is a very long hole and has a really tough raised green to approach. It’s more of a par 4.5 but nonetheless an excellent hole.