As the recent recipient of an award for the best golf hotel in France, it will come as no surprise to read that Royal Mougins is a particularly luxurious place to spend a few days. With wonderful food, wine and rooms plus an exciting if somewhat challenging golf course on site this is a special place to visit. The hotel and clubhouse sit on the side of a hill and offer stunning views of the Robert Von Hagge designed layout which occupies an interesting and rather undulating piece of land.
The American architect must have had quite a task on his hands with the routing as there are some long walks from green to tee plus a handful of roads to cross and although issues like these can frustrate golfers my initial impression is that he made an excellent job of it. Von Hagge was a colourful character, well known in the States for his role as the Marlboro man, but even more famous in golf circles for designing excellent courses. Later this year the eyes of the world will fall on his Golf National collaboration when the Ryder Cup rolls into Paris.
Similarities between the two courses in the shape and flow of the mounding are easy to recognize and many of the greenside hazards and run-off areas bear more than a passing resemblance. With so many do or die holes in the round, as many as ten having water in play, and most with genuine strategic values attached, this is a challenging layout from whichever tee you choose.
The most memorable hole arrives early in the round with the short 2nd, "Angel's Dive", plunging severely downhill to a well defended green. This is comfortably the most dramatic par-3 at Royal Mougins and one of many demanding tee shots where the penalty for failure is severe. The par-4's offer great variety, the 7th, "Roller Coaster" is a beauty as it sweeps down into a valley where water must be avoided on the left before climbing up and over a rocky waste area to a long narrow green. The 9th, 11th and 16th could all be described as brutally tough two shot holes for the average player but the downhill doglegs at the 12th and 14th give some balance as genuine birdie opportunities.
Water comes into play on each of the par-5's and at the 18th "Les Arenes" we finish with a flourish. A long drive may be rewarded with an opportunity to reach the green in two but mere mortals will play their second away from the lake to a raised fairway, opening up the green to a glorious approach from on high.
There are also a handful of local courses worthy of investigation for those who enjoy playing somewhere different which makes Royal Mougins an ideal choice for a golf trip to the French Riviera. Brian W