One of a trio of great Sologne courses that lie just to the south of Orléans, Les Aisses may not be quite in the same top bracket as Robert von Hagge’s Les Bordes but nonetheless, it complements the American-inspired layout superbly.
There are 27 holes at Les Aisses Golf on a massive 625-acre property. Each loop was named Rouge, Blanc and Bleu and each configured with two par threes, two par fives and five par fours to give a par of 36 for each circuit. The Rouge/Blanc course was actually slightly shorter than the other two 18-hole combinations but was rated the toughest of all three possible layouts.
The Blanc nine was famed for its bunkers, with some holes having enormous waste area expanses running down almost the full side of the fairway from tee to green. On the other hand, the main hazard on the Rouge nine was water and this was best seen at holes 6 and 8, which dogleg in opposite directions around large lakes.
In 2010, things changed at Les Aisses, specifically for the Red and White loops. The original Olivier Brizon design was modern and occasionally eccentric, but Hawtree Limited changed all that and the style now harks back to the Golden Age.
The main 18-hole course is now simply named Les Aisses while the Blue course is now called La Canne. Expect to see Les Aisses heading upwards in the French rankings, as it’s now a course to be reckoned with.
Russell Talley, Golf Course Architect at Hawtree Limited, provided the following article:
Les Aisses Golf lies in the wonderful Sologne region below Orleans, just off the Loire River. The low lying well-drained sandy soils are excellent for growing golf turf as well as harbouring flora such as scotch pines, oaks, gorse, and – in this location – four types of heather. Because of this it’s reminiscent of those southwest London courses that are much appreciated in the golf world, but without the urban development that seems to encroach on these illustrious courses.
The owner’s brief for Hawtree Ltd was to re-create an old-style course reminiscent and inspired by the old heathland courses of the UK. The existing course, built in the early 1990s, was three loops of nine, of which two of them, the red and white course, were chosen to comprehensively redevelop in style.
All tees and greens were remodelled, along with new fairway bunkering. The layout is much the same for sixteen holes, with two new holes created. Bunkers and green surrounds have been modelled to reflect old-style shaping. All the par-3s are different in character, with the new 7th now playing across a quarry mined out for the construction of the original design. The quarry has regenerated with heather and is a beautiful hole.
A major aspect of the re-development was enlarging fairways by cutting back narrow tree corridors on many holes. This width expansion will allow much needed sunlight for heather regeneration in the roughs and afford excellent views of the golf course and the wonderful skies of the Sologne. The combination of woodland management and the new ‘old look’ to the course will, through the years, develop with even more character and interest.
Golf des Aisses is located on a gorgeous 660 acre estate in the Sologne Forrest in the Loire Valley in France. The property is lush with mature silver birch, oak, and pine trees and purple heather and other dense ground cover. Some attractive and plentiful bunkering, and the occasional lake complement this smorgasbord of vegetation. It is a very attractive setting, and one could imagine how amazing it would like if the purple heather was in full bloom.
While the land is relatively flat, the course maintains a golfers interest using water features on a number of holes in the front nine, and a lovely routing that takes full advantage of the natural terrain, and the heavily forested environment. The forest frames the holes, but bunkering and heather give it definition.
Originally 27 holes were built at Les Aisses in three loops of nine holes – appropriately for a French course these were named the red, white and blue nines. The design by Olivier Brizon was apparently modern and a little eccentric. However in 2006 the owners employed Hawtree Limited to redesign the course, and this they did utilising most of the red and white nines. The blue nine is now known as La Canne, and the new eighteen holes is formally Les Aisses. Hawtree added a few new holes, and changed all tees, fairways and bunkers to resemble a course built in the Golden Age of golf architecture. In fact with its low lying sandy soil and surrounding woodlands the course is reminiscent of the classic London heathland courses. I loved the look and feel of the course with the dramatic bunkering, and heather prominent.
The course displays a combination of strategic and penal design with bunkering on both sides pinching fairways at driving length on short 4's, and at the length of the 2nd shot on par 5's. I thought this was a bit one-dimensional and I found the penalties on these holes did not even warrant consideration for taking risks.
The green settings and structure are very well done, bar 18 which has no bunkering and does not relate to rest of course in my opinion!
My favourite holes were; hole 13 – a ripping left to right dogleg hole defined by heather and bunkers, and hole 2 – another short tight dogleg with lateral water very much in play. This was followed by a good run of holes with the par 3, 3rd, par 5 fourth, and par 3 fifth all classy holes...
Overall I came away thinking Les Aisses is just a short step away from being a really top course. I think the back nine falls away a little at the end with a number of nice flat holes not quite to the standard of those preceding them. Nevertheless Les Aisses is a pleasure to play and not to be missed if you happen to be in the Loire Valley.
And while you are there, check out some of the famous chateaux!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Tough rating if the course is a "short step away from a really top course". This reviewer has played some marquee courses and several with huge wow factor. Not many UK heathlands on the list through. I still consider this course better than the 3 Ws in Surrey
I mentioned to a French journalist who I was with a few weeks before my trip to France that I was playing Les Aisses and his eyes lit up. He then said he was surprised I should be going there as it doesn’t seem to attract too many visiting golfers (which was a real shame, in his opinion) but he went on to say I’d enjoy playing the course as “the owners knew what they were doing with the property”.
Well, I can confirm that I really liked the course and after talking to Mr Seydoux, the owner, when I finished my round I can also endorse my friend’s opinion that this gentleman has a clear vision for his golf course. Having purchased the business a while back, he entrusted its future development to Russell Talley and Martin Hawtree at Hawtree Ltd and they’ve collectively embarked on a long-term renovation programme that is only now getting noticed.
They decided to concentrate on the old Red and White nines at the 27-hole facility, leaving the Blue nine just as it was, and it’s now marketed as a separate 9-hole course named after the local river, La Canne. The new 18-hole Les Aisses course has been remodelled in the style of a Surrey heathland course, with new, ragged-edged bunkers introduced and encroaching trees cut back to encourage heather regeneration along the edge of the fairways.
A couple of new holes were introduced and green surrounds re-styled to tie in with the new arrangement of sand traps during the upgrade work. It’s by no means a done deal yet and work continues on an on-going basis but there’s no doubt the finished version of this project should look absolutely fantastic when it’s completed.
The front nine is very good – the heather around the wetland area at the par three 3rd was a joy to behold and my notes for the par 5th (which doglegs left round a small lake to the green) read “reminiscent of Les Bordes #7” which is high praise indeed – but the back nine was even better for me, with the sequence from the par five 12th to the par three 17th the best on the card. Surprisingly, there were no greenside bunkers to guard the home green, just a huge swale in the front of the putting surface which, in truth, was equally protective.
It’s rumoured Les Bordes might allow limited access to its course again in the near future and if that comes to pass then it could lead to more golfers having a look at what’s on offer here at Les Aisses, considering the two venues are only 27 kilometres apart. If the club does profit from such extra footfall then word of mouth will surely bring even more golfers through the front door at this progressive golf club.
Honestly, Les Aisses is better than the 3 Ws. The design is sublime with no weak holes and containing excellent variation. The only aspect that was universal was the gorgeous outcrops of vivid purple heather evident on every hole. The bunker complexes look as if they have been there for years - so natural and well established. The fairways were firm and there was no sign of overwatering to sustain a parkland feel. Tees were well maintained and the greens were medium fast with a good covering of grass ensuring the ball ran smoothly. In summary, this is a brilliant heathland golf course. In terms of logistics, our group combined time at Les Aisses with a trip to Golf National which is approx. 90 miles north. Apart from the outstanding Les Bordes, there are no quality golf courses within 50 miles of Les Aisses and you could stretch this to 150 miles directly west.
Very quick review - this is a fabulous golf course. Think Walton Heath with water (just a little). 5 stars.
Les Aisses is a bit out of the way if you are coming to play Paris area courses (90-minute drive), it’s a must see! The first 6 holes are nice, but the last 12 are world class …I mean Top 20 or top 30 world class. Every single hole is a stunner.
Play off the black tees only if you can hit it regularly 250 meters, otherwise favor the whites as it’s not the drive which will hurt you, it’s the approach shots to the greens which are heavily defended by mounds and bunkers. You don’t roll onto the greens, you need to carry them, and hitting a 5 iron or a 3 wood into the green is very different. Fairways are at angle from the tees so the further you carry the rough the easier the approach.
Les Bordes, which is located 20 minutes away, gets all the credit…but Les Aisses is really a fantastic course (top 10 in France) for the May to October golfing period, as the forest makes it a bit too wet during the other 6 months of the year (call ahead in July as that is the period when they aerate the greens).