Golf du Médoc is located to the north of Bordeaux, which everyone knows, or ought to know, is the world capital of wine. There are more than one hundred thousand hectares of vineyards in this amazing region of France, so it seems fitting that the best course at Médoc is called Les Châteaux.
The Châteaux course was the first to open at Golf du Médoc (1989) and it was only the third solo design from Bill Coore's portfolio and his first and only European project, which he completed with Rod Whitman. Fittingly, each hole is named after a Médoc vintage, but the style of the Chateaux courses is anything but French. The Châteaux is complemented by the Rod Whitman solo-designed Vignes layout which debuted a couple of years later.
The course is routed across flat open country in the fashion of an inland links and there’s even heather, gorse and broom waiting to catch the wayward shot. Naturally this is not a links course, but when the wind blows in a westerly direction off the Atlantic, you may be forgiven for momentarily thinking that you are beside the sea.
The Châteaux extends to just less than 6,600 metres which is pretty lengthy considering it only has three par fives (the 2nd, 10th and 14th) on the card. Both par threes on the front nine (at the 5th and 8th holes) are very intimidating as tee shots must carry all the way to greens perched on the edge of rather large lakes. One of the best holes on the inward half is the dogleg left par four 11th where a stream crosses the fairway then runs all the way up the left to the rear of the putting surface, punishing both stray drives and wayward approach shots.
The Chateaux golf course located in the Medoc wine region to the east of Bordeaux is an excellent test and has already hosted the top professional and amateur tournaments of France. Due deference is given to the local wines with the 150 metre markers shaped as a wine bottle and each hole is named after one of the great wines that make this region one of the best, if not the best, in the world.
The course was designed by American Bill Coore in 1989 and is very much the senior of the two courses at this site. I would regard it as more heathland than parkland, the layout is flat and the holes are set out on a grand scale with large fairways and the many hazards are clearly indentifiable from the tee. The hazards are a series of very strategic good-sized bunkers or water in the form of streams or ponds which come into play on at least 6 holes. The greens are large with mainly gentle slopes, they look and putt immaculately. Similarly the fairways, bunkers and teeing areas are also maintained to a high standard, and this despite a very dry summer which has affected the standard of other courses that we played in the area.
Above all the Chateaux rewards the golfer who plots a path around the course taking great care to try and avoid the penal areas with both tee and approach shots. At 6300 yards from the yellow tees, but nearly 7000 from the back tees, the course is long but fast-running fairways make it manageable. The rough can be quite brutal but tends to only penalise shots that are badly offline.
There are so many good holes and to my mind no weak ones but highlights include:
All three par 5s with perhaps 14 the hardest, and this is surprisingly stroke index 18!
The two short holes on the front nine at 5 and 8, both only require mid irons or less and are played over water.
A magnificent par four at 11 with a stream crossing the fairway and then in play all down the left, before a green where you dare not go long.
The 4th which is the longest par four and plays to a well-protected raised green and is rated the hardest hole on the course.
A suitably challenging dogleg finishing hole again to a raised green.
The natural setting of the golf course is of high order and the challenge of Chateaux very fair, although I would expect it to appeal more to lower handicap golfers. The 36 hole purpose-built resort seems to attract golfers on package deals, but if you only have time for one round here, I urge you to play this course rather then the neighbouring Vignes, you will not be disappointed.
There is definitely a heathland (certainly not links!) feel to the Chateaux course, routed over a relatively flat space with little movement in the terrain the challenge comes from strategically placed bunkers, cunning raised green complexes, water and smart hole routing. In a very dry summer the course was in remarkable condition, turf and green quality as good as I’ve played on all year, only a few bare patches here and there but totally understandable. Only the wilted dried out rough bordering the fairways pointed to the water restrictions the course was operating under, it did make the course less penal and I’d expect in more normal times that adding to the test particularly from the tee. Your round will commence in fine style with a strong par 4, a split fairway gives different options and will govern whether it’s a short or mid iron approach, in fact the opening stretch is pretty tough, a 576 yard par 5 follows with the SI 456 yard par 4 coming at the 4th. The two par 3’s on the front 9 both bring water into play if the pins are cut into tight wet side positions, provides a stern test of control and nerve.
The back 9 commences in robust fashion with a dog leg right par 5, an especially challenging tee shot, the bold line is to flirt with the trees down the right and take the bunkers out of play but this is the riskier choice. 11 is a smart mid-length par 4 where there are several ways to play to avoid the stream which cuts the fairway. The par 3’s on the back 9 are longer but with no water, 17 in excess of 200 yards from the whites will see most players reaching for a long iron. The final hole maintains the quality, a long par 4 into raised green, to have a chance of finding it in regulation your tee shot needs to the carry the left rough and first fairway bunker, an inaccurate approach will be most likely leave a tough up and down in full view of the terrace! Greens ran with beautiful roll, lots of undulation but not extreme, certainly a solid test of putting if you find wrong spot. I loved the 150 yard markers nod the wine making heritage of the region, overall the whole resort is a quality experience, I also played the Vignes course which I will add a review for.
This is a nice course, but it is inexcusable to NOT have the Vignes Course at Golf Du Medoc listed, in my eye it is every bit as good if not better and irrelevant that it is not "Tournament Calibre".
Bill, we have listed Rod Whitman's Vignes course since first publishing a Top 100 for France:
Looks like I missed it because it's too far below Châteaux, IMHO. I really have little to offer on tis course as it is well below Vignes design-wise, which brings me to a nit I have with your methodology. Some of the rankings are notably off, especially in the USA. I suspect that this is due to who the architect is and especially whether or not tournaments are held there, Having lived in Pennsylvania for years, the list a good example. I'll do a proper review of Vignes when I locate my photos, As for PA, they are a bit more than 4 courses better than the other coure I reviewed yesterday. I added this one quickly as I remember not finding Vignes when I had played it and I was checking on new additions to my France experiences - Les Bordes New is open for guest play and was missing.
Bill - in case you also wish to leave a review for Les Bordes New:
Thirty years on from when the Château course at Medoc first opened for play, it’s easy to see now that even back then both Bill Coore and Rod Whitman were ahead of the game regarding the style and build of modern golf courses; offering fairway width, beautifully sculpted rough-edged bunkers and greens with plenty of interesting internal contour.
The Vignes course (which I unfortunately didn’t have time to play because of a late start on the Château due to fog and only managed to see via a quick buggy ride) also looks a fine complementary layout, offering resort visitors the chance to indulge in a 36-hole day of high quality golf – weather permitting, of course!
On such a relatively flat landscape, I can understand why a) so many of the greens have been pushed up to add visual stimulation and b) the putting surfaces are often edged with fearsome looking sand traps – and speaking of bunkers, the centreline hazards on the 1st were more than a little perplexing when teeing off just as the fog was lifting, not realizing they were an integral part of a clever split fairway!
Ponds came into play at both the par threes on the front nine, which felt a little predictable, but the two short holes on the back nine at #12 and #17 were free of water and both played to sand-protected greens instead. I felt the 18th was also a little anticlimactic, with resort accommodation buildings running along the left side of the fairway.
The 10th (“La Moulin”) is now a slightly right doglegged par five, having been lengthened in recent years (so the course now plays to an overall par of 71) but my favourite hole was the doglegged 11th, where a ditch crosses the fairway as it veers to the left then this water course runs alongside the hole before circling the back of the green.
It’s more an amalgam of parkland and heathland on the Château and comparisons to an “inland links” – whatever that might be – are a bit wide of the mark in my opinion. Whichever way you care to categorize the course, it’s still a pleasure to play and installing yourself at Médoc to spend time playing high quality golf and exploring some of the local wineries makes eminent sense to me.
Bordeaux is the most famous wine region in the world- there are apparently over a hundred thousand hectares of vineyards in the area.
Any visitor to France should aspire to visit the region and its Grand Cru Class wineries.
Fortunately for golfers Golf du Medoc is a quality 36-hole golf resort located in the Bordeaux area, thus enabling savvy golfers to get the best of both worlds.
Coore & Crenshaw are now regarded as one of the premier golf architecture firms around, but the Chatueax course at Golf du Medoc was built by Bill Coore in 1989 and was very early in his design career. He did a good job!
The course is regarded as one of the best courses in France and has hosted the French Open.
The Chateaux course is sited in sandy soil surrounded by forest- however it is virtually flat terrain, which can make it more of a challenge to retain the interest as top courses do. There are advantages however with a flat site – it is easy to walk!
The course has a good variety of holes and well thought out strategies on every hole, starting with hole 1 with it's split fairway.
Coore has incorporated large raised greens with some steep fronts – particularly on the long par 4 ninth (Dauzac) and the 18th (Leoville Poyferre). It's a technique which has added definition to these holes.
The water holes provide some variation in look and feel of the course. The par 3 5th and 8th holes have lake carries, and lateral water. They are the postcard holes!
My favourite holes include the par 4 eleventh hole (Lascombes) with a burn running across the fairway on an angle at driving length and then down the left side of the fairway. The split fairway first hole (Lagrange) is also a beauty!
Unusually for a well-known golf resort, there are no conveniences on course, nor access to water. There are no distance markers other than those in the shape of large Bordeaux bottles at 135 metres to the front of green. Appropriately the holes at the Chateaux course are all named after Grand Cru Class wines.
Paths from green to tees were pretty rough during our stay, and not pleasant to walk or cart on – one can only assume they would not normally be like that. The resort accommodation and restaurant are modern and comfortable.
Golf du Medoc is a very good 36-hole resort and a perfect base from which to explore the famous Bordeaux wineries.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I really like my new home courses. Les chateaux is a proper beast, real tournament golf course. It's long and tough. Greens are huge, elevated and very undulated! A real privilege to play here on a regular basis. If tournament style courses aren't your thing, the les vignes course is very good too...
A little over 5 years since I moved to this area and both courses are really enjoyable. Just a shame that conditioning is so disparate. Not often enough is it in adequacy with the standing of the resort. It'll always be in top condition for big events though....