The Loire Valley has many a romantic pseudonym, including the Valley of the Kings and the Garden of France. It’s certainly an enchanted and historical region with its vineyards and chateaux. Set in the middle of this Renaissance is the beauty and the beast that is Les Bordes.
Les Bordes was the brainchild of Baron Marcel Bich (the man behind Bic pens) and his friend Yoshiaki Sakurai. Together they committed to paper (presumably by biro) the wooded masterpiece that is consistently ranked as one of the Europe’s greatest courses.
Designed by Texan, Robert von Hagge, on a day when he was at his most wickedly creative. Les Bordes opened for play in 1986 and it’s a supreme challenge. The likeable Jean Van de Velde holds the current course record of 71 (one under par) so don’t visit Les Bordes expecting to play to handicap, this monster layout stretches to 7,062 yards from the tips. It really is as difficult as its reputation suggests.
La Sologne occupies an area of approximately 1,500 sq kilometres and the region offers tranquil walks around lakes and woodland and von Hagge has utilised some of Sologne’s lakes to dramatic effect with island greens and water coming into play on no less than twelve holes.
Les Bordes has a slight American feel to it, both in terms of design and conditioning but there is no doubting that you are in France. There is more style here on this tournament condition layout than just about any other course in France. And what’s most impressive is that visitors can actually stay and play here these days… what sheer unadulterated delight.
Gil Hanse has been chosen to fashion a new 18-hole course to the west of the existing 18-hole von Hagge layout, with work starting in 2019. Playing corridors were previously carved through the trees for a second course when the original was constructed but the new design will pay scant regard to what was done before.
We played Les Borde in June 2018 and all I can say it was out of this world. I have been lucky enough to play many fantastic courses all over the world and I have to say this is my favourite, my golfing world hit a new high on this course. No... it wasn't because I played well.. infact I played pretty poorly on the well anticipated day , its just that the place is so magical that it tops my charts. I wont spoil it too much for anyone but I would wholeheartedly say that at least 16 of the 18 holes would make a "signature hole" on most courses on the planet. Every hole has clearly had a mass of thought and design put into it and if I am ever lucky enough to play it again, I will be more aware of some places not to go and some that you can. As regards getting to play it.... well good luck, it took a lot of favour pulling in on my part but we got there in the end. On another note same as a few other reviewers we played Les Aisses the day before which was a total surprise as it doesn't seem to have amazing reviews, however that was also and definitely worth a visit, not as good as les Borde but as good as most courses I have played. If you manage to play Les Borde you will love it , trust me
I last played at Les Bordes almost eleven years ago (so a lot has happened since those relatively carefree, innocent days when I was still in my late forties) and I never thought I’d get the chance to come back but the opportunity arose for a return visit a couple of months ago so it just goes to show that you never know how things will turn out for you in golfing circles.
There’s still the same low-key vibe to the clubhouse and the pro shop and there’s no big statement 1st tee box or large 18th green sited next to these buildings for onlookers to put pressure on those beginning or finishing their round – instead, the start and end points are positioned a discreet distance away, allowing golfers to get on with their match in peace and quiet.
Once you’re out on the course, you feel as though you have the place to yourself (you probably do, actually!) with the tree-lined fairways rarely offering a glimpse of any hole other than the one you’re currently playing. It’s such a peaceful place to play golf, set within a large forest that keeps the outside world at bay.
Be prepared to encounter water hazards (especially at three of the four short holes) and sand (I’d forgotten about the large waste bunker that runs along the right of the 6th before cutting across in front of the green) as you progress along this unique golfing journey – one that’s quite a walk if you choose to go on foot.
The course was playing very long because of the rain that had fallen in the previous few days but lush parkland golf is the name of the game at Les Bordes anyway so you should never expect too much by way of fairway roll here because of how the course is set up. Not for nothing is there a board in the clubhouse listing the names of those who have broken 80 (including Top 100’s Fergal O’Leary) when playing a course designed and maintained to test the very best of elite players.
I didn’t think it was proper to have so many elevated fairways and greens when I was last here but, the more that I now think about it now, if that’s what’s necessary to enable golfers to play above the surrounding water table in such a natural environment then really we should be admiring what is, in effect, a marvel of engineering within the beautiful Sologne region.
I do hope the club can find a way to open up the course for green fee play, even if it’s on the limited basis of several times a week, because interested golfers should be able to discover just how good the layout is. Not only that, having Les Bordes acting as a magnet to attract visiting golfers might also have a spin off benefit for other golf facilities in the vicinity, like the much under-rated Les Aisses.
It would seem the LB have relaxed their playing protocols as 3 of us played 10 days ago (although the application process and vetting is thorough). 2 of the group had played there previously, albeit many years ago. We also played Les Aisses (it is my review below yours !) and loved it. LB remains a truly wonderful golfing experience. The isolation is almost cathartic !. The course is magnificent (none of us were keen on the par 3, 16th). David O
In the middle of the Sologne forest, plenty of lakes and superb shaping. Very challenging course from the back tees. A must play course but difficult to access...
The experience is very unique with its lovely clubhouse that fits perfectly in the French countryside. The cottages where we stayed were perfect and very understated, reminiscent of Dismal River Nebraska. The service was impeccable as you might expect at such a high-end members club. They even went as far as to keep the kitchen staff there until our arrival which was on the later side. Pre dinner drinks in front of a huge fireplace in the bar area and then we relocated to the dining area and in front of another. Not often you can talk about a truly unbelievable dining experience at a golf club. Les Bordes does French cuisine justice!
The course is really set up on a huge piece of land and even though the 4 of us are diehard walkers even we were advised to take the carts. Really it’s needed as there are some pretty long distances between holes. As already mentioned the course is not at all forgiving, it’s long and there are hazards everywhere. It also has its share of island greens. Nearly all par 3’s are over water and several of the other holes border water. Perhaps a bit too much for my liking but there really isn’t any poor holes on the course.
The 1st hole has an island green surrounded by sand which is relatively unique. No two holes are the same but there are a few characteristics like the water that you see very often. I will admit to not being the biggest fan of parkland golf as compared to true links golf or firm and fast heathland but Les Bordes is really an excellent design that will really challenge the best the golfers and I’m sure that’s what it was made for.
If you can break 80 from their back tees your name goes up on a board of names to have accomplished this. In short, they pride themselves on having a tough course where not a blade of grass is out of place. It’s an American experience in the heart of France.
The greens are the simply fantastic as well and certainly the fastest rolling greens and most perfectly manicured I’ve ever seen in Europe. Even a step above the likes of Queenwood and that says a lot. At just over 7,000 yards the course was playing very soft and thus also very long. If you ever have the opportunity to go experience Les Bordes then jump on it. Don’t expect classic golf, it’s modern parkland target golf arguably at its best.
The are 5 tees available, black, white, yellow, blue and red, we elected for the white tees, total length for the whites being 6023 metres, long enough for us. The first hole is right out side the club house, just over the small lake, it is a straight forward par 4, with an island green, within a huge bunker, a great starting hole. As we tee'd up a group of deer ran across the fairway around 250 yards away, this set the scene for a wonderful day. Every hole is stunning, with fantastic features on every hole, huge grass mounds, carries over water, tall grasses lining fairways, raised fairways, elevated greens, monuments, amazing bunkers (I found a few of them) there are also several island greens. It is difficult to pick my favourite holes as all 18 are special, however my top four were: Hole 7 - short par 5 where you have to cross the lake three times to get to the green. Hole 13 - par 3, with 150 m carry over the lake to a small sloping green. Hole 14 - another par 5, where your 3rd shot is to a perfect island green. Hole 18 - the final hole, and they have saved the best to last. 377m long par 4, where you carry water with your tee shot to the fairway,then either lay up with a wedge, or go for the green with a long iron or fairway wood. If you are short with your approach you end up in the water, if you are long your in the rear bunker. The green has a ridge running down the middle, which makes putting a real challenge. I lost many balls, we had a very heavy shower that soaked us, it was tough, but I would happily play Les Bordes every day for the rest of my life. I do hope I get invited back again!