I became the latest member of the Top 100 Team to tee it up here a couple of months ago and, on reflection, I can only think how privileged we are to have been able to play private places such as Morfontaine. My one genuine disappointment is that not enough passionate golfers ever get the opportunity to play here and find out just how phenomenal the club’s two courses are.
Our 3-ball set out on the Grand Parcours on a gloomy, leaden-skied morning which didn’t really brighten up throughout the round so my photos are far from the best that I’ve ever taken on a golf course. That’s a real pity because if ever a golfing location deserved to be captured on camera in its full glory then this was it.
The rocky outcrops dotted around the first tee surprised me (and I’d see more of them during the round) but what struck me most on the first hole was the generous width of the fairway – you have to be seriously off line to end up in the heather – and the array of ragged-edged bunkers protecting the flanks of a rather large putting surface.
Those design traits would be repeated at every hole, of course, but perhaps my overriding memory of the round is the way the trees have been managed around the property. What a fantastic backdrop they provide to each and every fairway, framing every hole beautifully – except on the par three 13th where a tall pine tree controversially blocks the way to the green!
Other clubs could learn a lot from looking at how Morfontaine allows light and air into the playing corridors, promoting good agronomy and giving golfers glimpses of other parts of the course through the trees. I like the feeling of seclusion on every hole of a woodland course but having the chance to have a little peek at what lies ahead from time to time is an added bonus.
The sequence of six par fours from the 5th to the 10th is sublime, with the severely left doglegged 8th my favourite on that particular stretch as it plays round the side of a hill then drops down to the green, with two strategically placed fairway bunkers on the right forcing a tough approach shot over them to the putting surface.
The long 12th hole is a beast of a par five, bisected by an area of rough (replicated at the 15th and 16th), which plays to a terrific Kyle Phillips green that now lies fifty metres beyond its original location, though you’d never know it.
The aforementioned tree on the short 13th irked me a little on the tee but I forgot all about it when I reached the putting surface on the hole – what a green! It must measure all of fifty metres in length, with a pronounced back to front tilt of several feet, and any of three or four different clubs might be needed to reach the correct portion, depending upon the pin position.
Three demanding par fours kick in towards the end at holes 14 to 16 (stroke index 7, 5 and 3). The fairway on the first of these holes has a pronounced left to right slope, the second hole doglegs downhill and left to the green, with the third hole climbing back up the slope. Net pars marked on the card at this juncture will go a long way to preserving a good score if you have one going at that important stage of your round.
All too soon, four hours of golfing bliss came to an end, but the day was far from done. After a very pleasant lunch on the terrace, I then spent another couple of hours on a now sunny afternoon playing the sensational 9-hole Vallière course, which is blessed with the same firm and fast heathland playing characteristics as the Grand Parcours but a lot shorter, with wilder greens.
Honestly, most of the greensites on this little track have to be seen to be believed – talk about putting the fun back into playing golf!
Sometimes you get the chance to play a famous old course like the Grand Parcours (or visit a modern new layout that’s been hyped to the heavens) and it turns out to be a bit of a let-down for whatever reason. Well, there was never any chance of that happening at Morfontaine as it’s an extraordinary club with a brilliant set-up both on and off the golf course and my guest experience here was one that I’ll treasure for a very long time to come.
Date: August 01, 2018