The Grand Parcours course at Saint Germain lies within a big forest on pretty flat terrain so Harry Colt certainly had his work cut out back in the early 1920s to make the most of any land movement and maybe create a few of his own contours within the property. He also had a railway line running through the site so care had to be taken when routing holes on either side of the tracks, allowing golfers to cross back and forth a couple of times.
As the course lies within a densely wooded national forest, every hole is tree-lined but it’s apparent there’s been some work done in the past to manage the arboreal spread, though I’m sure more could be done on an ongoing basis to keep things in check. As it stands, most holes are played in splendid isolation, offering golfers as peaceful a game of golf as they could ever wish for.
The four par three holes are of a very high standard – I gave top marks to eight holes on the card in my notes and the four short holes were all included – and the first and last of these (the 5th and 17th, located at either end of the layout) were out of the very top drawer – that’s not to say the heavily bunkered 7th and 11th (which sit next to each other, facing in opposite directions) were in any way inferior; far from it, actually.
The two huge cross bunkers on the 5th look like the green is a lot closer than it really is, and the putting surface itself is severely sloped from the back, with a big false front. The 17th plays over a bracken-filled old sand quarry to a semi-blind green, calling for an all-carry heroic tee shot. In truth, each of the par threes required thrilling, all-or-nothing tee shots which is as good as it gets for me when playing a short hole.
The 10th is a visually stimulating hole, the four bunkers sculpted into the front of the raised green clearly visible from a long way out and this par four is in direct contrast to the 13th, which has no sand guarding a lie of the land green. Grass swales to the right of the putting surface on that hole are almost as good a defence as a bunker and some might argue they’re just as effective as any method of protecting par.
My host mentioned the par four 14th was listed in the Golf Magazine book “The World’s Greatest Golf Holes” and I’ve just checked that it’s there (under “St. Germaine Golf Club”) on page 355 – not that I doubted his word for a single second, of course – but I preferred the hole that followed, the par five 15th, where I was told Colt had dug out two sections of the fairway to use the spoil elsewhere on the course during construction.
No morning round on the Grand Parcours would be complete without a light lunch in the charming old clubhouse and this (as in the previous four days at Chantilly, Les Aisses, Fontainebleau and Morfontaine) was yet another highlight of a golf trip that was full of outstanding moments both on and off the various courses. Golf fans in Paris for the Ryder Cup next month should definitely have Saint Germain high on their play list if they plan to have a game whilst they’re in the capital.
Date: August 01, 2018