Golf Club Saint-Cloud was established in 1911 with the object of allowing its members to indulge in a number of upwardly mobile ball games, like golf, tennis, croquet, squash and polo. And, over the years, the club has attracted the great and the good, particularly in political and royal spheres, where the likes of President Mitterand and the Duke of Windsor have teed it up here.
Situated just six miles to the west of the city centre of Paris, the 18-hole Vert course was designed by the great English architect Harry Colt and opened for play in 1913. Another 18-hole layout, the Jaune course, was constructed in 1930.
There have been 14 French Opens held at Saint-Cloud since 1926 – the last of them in 1987, when Jose Rivero won the competition – but sadly, with a modest total length of 6,500 yards, it is unlikely the course will ever host a national Open event again. The course did, however, feature in one of the earliest “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” challenge matches when Jay Hebert played Flory van Donck in 1962.
The Vert course remains a timeless classic nonetheless, routed over rolling parkland terrain with old-fashioned design features like crossing fairways (at the 6th and 17th holes) and short par fours – two of them near the end of the round at the 311-yard 14th (“La Crète”) and the 293-yard 16th (“Bois Joli”).
It’s quite likely that St Cloud is the nearest course to Paris city centre and the green course is definitely the better of the two layouts here. This is one of the trickier clubs to access in France as visitors are only allowed to play in July and August unless you know a member. As a non-French speaking visitor, I found the club to be reasonably accommodating by Parisian standards but clearly they are not used to visitors and green fees are not that important to them.
The course itself is pretty hilly in places but there’s never a feeling of mountaineering. The routing is clever and each nine loops back to the vicinity of the clubhouse. The par threes are unusual in that they all play downhill and the first three one shotters are roughly all the same length, circa 150 yards. As you’d expect with Colt par threes they are all good holes but I hit 9-iron into all but the last P3.
There’s an awesome view of Eiffel Tower on the P3 8th where you really don’t want to miss it left as the ground falls away viciously. I was impressed with the bunkering throughout and liked the short par fours. I personally enjoyed St Cloud as much as Fontainebleau. The Green should be in the French Top 10 IMO.