Close to the Basque region and only a couple of kilometres inland from the Bay of Biscay lies one of France’s most beautiful and most challenging courses. Hidden in the forest amongst the Cork Oak and pine lies the stunning Seignosse.
The 18-hole course is routed in two clockwise loops of nine, each starting and finishing at the clubhouse, with water coming into play at holes 2, 3, 11, 14 and 17. The hardest hole on the course is played early in the round at the 404-yard par four 3rd which doglegs slightly right to a tricky, L-shaped green. The 401-yard 17th is the only par four without a bunker. It doglegs left off the tee to a long, narrow putting surface, which has water to the left and overhanging trees to the right.
The American architect Robert von Hagge was responsible for the design of Golf de Seignosse. He cut his French architectural teeth when he created Les Bordes in 1987, two years before he worked here. Robert was obviously the designer in demand in France at the end of the 1980s as he then went on create the four 9-hole courses at Courson in 1991 and the 18-hole Royal Mougins course, near Cannes, in 1993.
If your game is wayward expect a torrid time because many of the fairways are very narrow and wickedly doglegged. We have been told that Jose Maria Olazábal heads north from Spain to prepare for the Masters at Seignosse and, with two green jackets already in his Augusta locker, this glorious undulating course has clearly worked for Ollie.
The book 500 world’s greatest golf holes by author George Peper and the editors of GOLF magazine features the 401-yard par four 17th at Seignosse: “This is the only par four on the course without a bunker, and it doesn’t need one – the pond along the left side provides ample defence. Off the tee, the left side of the fairway is preferable, but placing a drive there is tougher due to the pond pinching the landing area. The long, narrow kidney-shaped green is expertly situated along the banks of a pond, with trees overhanging on the right. It is most receptive to a draw on the approach, but draws that unexpectedly turn hooks will find a watery grave.”
Seignosse is the third design from Von Hagge that I have had the pleasure of playing (after both courses in Empordà, in Catalonia, and El Encin, near Madrid), and I must say that all of them are very high in my personal ratings.
Seignosse participates in some characteristics of the other courses, such as the bold greens (although to a lesser extent than in El Encin), and the imagination in the design of many of the holes, to which Seignosse adds a natural environment of great beauty, in a pine and oak forest, and very close to the Atlantic.
As for the abundance of trees, the truth is that they come into play less than it seems at first glance, so that the fairways are wide enough to allow some forgiveness when positioning the tee shot. It well might be an issue due to the lack of sunlight on some of the fairways, but they don´t really interfere play and allow to some interesting recovery shots.
The course begins in an exciting way, and after a first short hole in which the greatest interest lies in the green, the second and third take advantage of a water hazard in a different way, the first complicating the approach and the second testing your nerves on the tee shot. From then on, there are some very good holes, all of them with character and interest, where the emphasis lies in choosing the ideal place on the green, since, in the event of an error, recovery, or even two putts, is an arduous task.
In my opinion, the 9 back holes are not as good as the first 9, but I also loved the beautiful 14th and the 17th (my only birdie in the round), and while the longish final par 6 does not suit my preferences, I must admit it is an original way to put an end to the round.
Two more issues that other reviewers made reference: the first about the par 3´s, since 3 of them are a simple wedge shot, and the last requires a no less than a fairway wood. Although I am definitely fond of short par 3s, the truth is that I would have preferred a greater variety in terms of distance. This is not to say that each one of them, individually considered, is not a very good hole, and able to confuse the player more than a longer hole.
Finally, and as a small criticism to the maintenance team, and although the terrain is largely sandy, we found the course excessively wet, considering that it had not rained in recent days. It is a weakness that I have found in several courses in France and Spain and that, in my opinion, should be improved, in order to allow fast and firm playing conditions.
In any case, my evaluation of Seignosse has to be highly positive, and, as far as my experience reaches, it can be considered as the flagship course in the South-West of France, next to many other very good courses.
No disrespect to the previous reviewer, don’t expect to come here and play holiday golf – but you probably already knew such a description couldn’t possibly apply to a course ranked inside the Top 50 of continental Europe. The course has just changed management, moving from Blue Green to Open Golf, and a refurbishment program is already under way to further improve an already outstanding layout.
The green on the short par four 2nd was out of play as it was being reconstructed and the 4th is scheduled to be redesigned next year, along with new tees and greens for other holes and the replacement of 3.5 kilometres of cart paths. It’s obvious that when this work is completed Seignosse will become a flagship facility for Open Golf.
I’ve now played half a dozen Robert von Hagge layouts and they’ve all been very good tracks, built with a certain flair to match the flamboyant nature of the man who designed them – what’s also probably helped is that they all seem to have had a good construction budget so everything is built on a grand scale, with no apparent scrimping or scraping on quality.
The ground for golf is fabulous as it pitches and rolls on many of the holes, offering some seriously elevated tee positions and testing uphill approach shots. The sandy soil allows for firm and fast playing conditions so the course has many links-like characteristics, even though the coast is more than a kilometre away.
Being critical, the narrowness of many of the fairways needs to be addressed as a large proportion of the pine trees bordering the holes are now encroaching into play and if this arboreal intrusion goes unchecked there’s no way the club will get through another thirty years – and no doubt the smart people now in charge are well aware of this without it having to be pointed out to them!
I loved the fact that three of the four par threes were played as “proper” short holes (under 135 metres from the back tees) as so often nowadays you can’t reach a one-shotter with an iron club. Water also only intrudes on a handful of holes which was another bonus for me. Throw a short par four at the 2nd and a par six (!) at the 18th into the mix and you have quite a heady golfing cocktail.
Having now played six (and visited another one) of the current Top 10 in our French chart, I think Seignosse might soon be seriously pushing for a place in that illustrious top tier, especially once the latest batch of course improvements are carried out.
Not for me thanks.......poor tees, poor grass on the fairways, ok greens but if you want simple holiday golf then its OK. However it cannot be one of France's top 10 surely!?
I love this course. Except from a few par 3's alle the holes gives you a challenge. All the holes are different in layout. You have to play smart to put the ball on the right spot in the fairway. The landscape is great, some narrow fairways demands straight shots but the landscape gives you great pleasure. Playing more than 500 courses world wide, this is one of my favorites. Sitting on the 19th hole looking down the challenging 18th is a treat. The course is worth a visit to South West France.