Morfontaine (Vallière)Mortefontaine, Hauts-de-France
- Address60128 Mortefontaine, France
Armand de Gramont, the nobleman, scientist and industrialist originally known by the courtesy title of Duc de Guiche was introduced to golf at Dieppe, where one of the first French golf courses was brought into play in 1897.
The Duc set out a 6-hole course close to the kitchen garden of the castle of Vallière, which his parents had just built in the village of Mortefontaine, but it was only after meeting Tom Simpson whilst buying polo horses in England that his full golfing vision became reality.
He asked his parents Agénor and Marguerite for permission to create a 9-hole course on the polo field to the north of the village then engaged Tom Simpson to set out the Vallière course. James Braid, Arnaud Massy and Jean Gassiat officially opened the layout on the 15th of October, 1913.
Tom Simpson returned fourteen years later to fashion the 18-hole Grand Parcours layout and it’s thought he may well have made one or two changes to the Vallière at the same time. Certainly, the course has altered quite a bit from the way it was mapped out in 1927.
The original 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th and 9th no longer exist, with three of these lost holes replaced by today's 5th, 6th and 7th. It looks like the modern day 8th now plays to the original 2nd green and the putting surface on the closing par three 9th is the green that used to grace the par three 3rd on the Grand Parcours, when it was played to at a different angle from across the current car park.
Author Geoff Shackelford had this to say after playing here:
“Memorable, playable, fun and fascinating, Vallière features some of the most outrageous man-made greens in golf. But because Simpson had the chance to nurture this design, the boldly contoured putting surfaces work beautifully so that they are manageable for even the old timers or kids who are more likely to play here.
The childlike imagination it took to build the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th greens is a sight to behold, but they are also more than worthy of architectural study: the holes are fun to play.
A couple of breathers (6th and 7th) and the overall walkability of Vallière make it a firm reminder of what our sport all too consistently lacks: nine hole courses that can be played quickly with never a dull visit.”
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Tom Simpson spent only five years as a barrister before leaving behind the stifling offices at the Temple in London for a career as a golf course architect with Herbert Fowler in 1910.
La Vaucouleurs (La Rivière)