The Terre Blanche Hotel Spa & Golf Resort is located in the Provence region of France, a mere half an hour’s drive away from Cannes on the fashionable Côte d’Azur.
Sean Connery, whose wife is from the area, originally owned the 800-acre property – the Scottish actor is said to have won the estate in a game of cards – but he sold the land to a firm with big plans to develop it into a luxury resort.
In 1999, when that company found itself unable to realise the full potential of the site, Dietmar Hopp, the German billionaire software entrepreneur, who obviously had the funds required to turn the dream of a luxury resort into reality, acquired the site.
Dave Thomas was called in to design two championship golf courses to complement the other on-site amenities and so, to great critical acclaim, the Château and Le Riou 18-hole layouts opened for play at the start of the new millennium.
Both courses were originally intended for private use, though casual visitors are now welcome to tackle the 18 holes on the Château layout which means the Riou is exclusively available to members and resort guests only.
Measuring 6,005 metres from the back tees, the Riou course is considerably shorter than its sibling, but no less challenging, with tree-lined fairways laid out in the higher reaches of the hilly landscape.
Each of the returning nines conclude with rather similar holes, as the par four 9th and par five 18th both dogleg downhill to the right, past sizeable water hazards on their way to the green.
The Riou has also been used as a venue on the Ladies European Tour Access Series, hosting the Terre Blanche Ladies Open between 2010 and 2013.
Terre Blanche Hotel Spa & Golf Resort is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
This was the 2nd time we have taken an Australian group to play at Terre Blanche but the 1st time we played the Riou (River) Course. Having played Chateau Course the previous day, we were delighted to see the so-called 2nd course in as good a condition as the Chateau Course. The pro shop and golf team are up to the best of US standards from shuttling you down to the golf pro shop from the car park to loading/unloading your golf clubs. Leading professionals, Stephan Pollett and Charles Nicault, both make you feel very welcome and both speak excellent English. Tour groups are encouraged with preferential terms. Management for the international non English speaking golfer is at its best at Terre Blanch and is right up there with the high standards set by Golf National. Playing with a cart is necessary due to the long distances between greens and tees plus the distance to drive to the first tee of both courses.
Riou is a great course and many will prefer to the higher rated Chateau Course. From the yellow tees, the course plays at around 5,600 metres which compares to over 6,000 metres for Chateau Course from the yellow tees. However, Riou plays much longer than its metreage suggests due to the constant elevation changes. Unless you can drive 240 metres, 2 of the dog leg par fours mean that lay up 2nd shots are required but still leaving 100 metres plus to the green. Riou is a totally different course layout to Chateau and the two courses are not easily compared. If staying in Provence, you should look to play both courses and definitely do not miss Riou because of its secondary rating as it is right up there with Chateau. However, we suspect many give Riou a miss as when our group played, we did not see any other players on the course.
The only negative with Terre Blanche is that it is an hour drive from Nice in good conditions, nearer 75 to 90 minutes in traffic.
If the "Chateau" course is the championship one, i think it is true to say that the nicest course is the members one : "The Riou".
This shortest track is a lot better for the amateur and it offers more spectacular and various holes than the chateau.
His spectacular 18th hole Par 5 ends down the club house and offers one of the nicest finish you can find anywhere in France.
The second course at Terre Blanche Resort is also a really nice golf course. Regularly it is just open for hotel guests or club members. As a hotel guest I was able to play the course and it is also a beautiful layout even if not that long as the Chateau course.
Especially beautiful hole 9 down the hill along a water hazard and a green infornt of the club house. Really nice design.
A lot of elevation on almost each hole, so best to play with buggy which is regularly included in golf packages of the hotel.
We played three rounds on this course. Early in the golfing season but you would not know it - greens , fairways, rough and bunkers superb. Not overly long at 6000m, but as most holes are up hill it plays longer. The first hole, is a down hill dog leg left , the 2nd and 3rd are fairly flat, and give no indication the slope ahead. The 3rd (SI 1) is a lovely par 5 with narrow drive and elevated green. From this hole it's up hill - a good walk for us - (most players took the holiday voiturette); a brief respite with the 7th a short down hill par 4 with an acute dogleg left , but from 9 to 15 it's up hill all the way before diving back down hill for 16-18. The course is a lovely layout and fun to play. It could easily be rated higher in the rankings.