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.”
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.