Les Landes in south west France lies between the Bassin d’Arachon near Bordeaux and the foothills of the Pyrenees. During the 18th century, to counter the inward movement of shifting coastal sands from the Bay of Gascogne, a huge area of pine trees was planted and this massive forest characterizes the modern day landscape.
Moliets, Seignosse and Hossegor are all top drawer French courses situated within 20 miles of each other near the Atlantic coast at the southern tip of Les Landes and they are all constructed on free draining land that some would say was made specifically for golf!
Robert Trent Jones designed the course at Golf de Moliets in the late 1980s (around the same time he was creating other great French courses like La Grand Motte, Esterel and Joyenval) and he cleverly routed most of the 18 holes through inland woods, leaving a handful to be played along the coast late in the round.
Part of a seaside leisure complex that also includes a 2,100-yard 9-hole practice course, Moliets is far from being classified as a holiday golf course. Indeed, it is used by the French Golf Federation as a winter training centre and it is regularly used as a Challenge Tour venue.
Configured in typical RTJ fashion with two par threes and two par fives on both the inward and outward half, the front nine are laid out among the pine trees with only a whiff of a sea breeze to be had from the 6th to 8th holes, beside the dunes. The links element at Moliets comes into play between the 138-yard, par three, 12th and the 145-yard, par three, 16th and these holes are played through the dunes beside the beach.
The book 500 world’s greatest golf holes by author George Peper and the editors of GOLF magazine features the 146-yard par three 16th hole at Moliets: “Representing the transition between the oceanside dunes to the more secluded holes within the Les Lands forest, this uphill par three plays much tougher than it appears. Winds that often swirl and gust wreak havoc with club selection, and this is not the type of green where a mis-clubbed shot will be generously forgiven. The surface is shallow and firm, and flanked by two long bunkers. Unyielding gorse grows behind, ensuring that long approaches may never be found or, if found, not to be hit without taking a drop.”
A couple of downsides at Moliets are the encroaching residential developments and long walks at several holes between green and the next tee. Apart from those criticisms, a first class golfing experience will be had here for a very affordable green fee.