Paris International Golf Club lies to the north of Paris city centre and it's the only Jack Nicklaus signature course in all of France, which the Golden Bear fashioned with his associate Ron Kirby. Located beside the Montmorency Forest, it first opened in 1991 and played host to the French Ladies Open twice in its formative years, in 1997 and 1999.
More recently, the course was sold to the Bluegreen Group, a French company that manages more than twenty top golf clubs (including Gujan-Mestras, Limère and Seignosse) and their stated aim is to “offer easy access to golf in an easy-going environment, so that as many people as possible are encouraged to take up and enjoy the game”.
The course is routed over hilly terrain with ponds to be negotiated at half the holes on the card, especially at the par three 13th, where the green is positioned behind a small waterfall on a formal water hazard. The downhill, par five 18th also plays to an island green so there's no shortage of aquatic challenge here.
Paris International is laid out in two loops of nine that begin and end near the clubhouse. Many consider the outward half to be the better of the two nines and the recommendation is to play the forest holes from 10 to 18 then savour the superior, more open, front nine at the end of your round.
The 2-day Parisian phase of my recent trip to France got under way at Paris International. You know you’ve arrived somewhere out of the ordinary when you arrive at the front gates and find a couple of enormous stainless steel gates – almost like modern art barriers – keeping the outside world at bay.
Host to a couple of French Ladies Open events in the 1990s, it was for a short time part of the BlueGreen golf management’s portfolio but it’s now privately owned and rather an exclusive place to get a game. The clubhouse is certainly one of the most opulent I’ve ever set foot in.
Before playing, I checked out the club’s magnificent practice facility (which I had a look at but, as is my normal want, never hit a ball from) close to the 9th and 18th greens.
Out on the course, there are whimsical sculptures around every corner – a couple of hippos peeking out of a bunker on the 3rd, an alligator (or was it a crocodile?) basking in the grass behind the 6th green, a rhinoceros lurking in the shadows on the 11th fairway and an elephant etched into the hillside on the way down to the home green.
What I didn’t quite get was the semi-collapsed nature of the retaining wall around the water-laden green on the 9th (which was built that way apparently to give it an “aged” look) when similar stone buttress work on other holes has been completed properly.
The front nine holes occupy the flatter part of the property, with water coming into play at several holes, most notably on the par five 8th and par four 9th. The par five 5th – featuring a trademark Nicklaus waste bunker along the right side pf the fairway – is the toughest hole on the outward half.
The first half is very good but the back nine gets even better, as holes are laid out on a hilly landscape with plenty of ground movement to add variety.
Holes 10-12 rise and fall across the southern end of the property before you get the chance to tackle one of the most unique holes in world golf, the par three 13th in front of the Château Bouffémont, where the green sits behind a formal geometric water feature – all very surreal!
The par four 16th is another lovely hole played downhill to a green protected in front by a stream then, after climbing back up to higher ground at the 17th, the 18th hurtles sharply down and right to an island green – with a beautifully constructed stone wall retaining the putting surface and surrounding bunkers.
As golf experiences go, Paris International is right up there for me – and, as Monty is said to have said about Loch Lomond, “wherever the course is ranked, it should be higher…”
Played here in May 2017. The huge stainless doors, and the fountain in front which greets you turning into the entrance is a sign of things to come. I understand that very few French play this course, which is open only to foreign visitors and pro's, but it is a majestic course. Every kind of tree surrounds mainly wide fairways leading up to difficult greens, but a wonderful experience. The course was in superb condition, and I think we were the only ones playing that day! It was a real surprise and most certainly worth another visit.