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Golfing on the Cote d`Azur

31 October, 2014

Golfing on the Côte d'Azur

Cannes EGTMA Golf Week 2014

Such was the success of the Cannes EGTMA Golf Week last year, the local Palais des Festivals promoters were only too happy to invite delegates from the European Golf and Travel Media Association to participate in the 2014 edition of the event. Happily, Top 100 Golf Courses was one of the leading media organisations that were approached to send a delegate to the French Riviera.

Unlike in 2013, when an intensive golfing program included visits to nationally ranked courses such as Terre Blanche, Barbaroux, Chateau de Taulane and Saint Donat, the idea this year was to enjoy a more leisurely approach by playing several “second tier” tracks and sampling some cultural offerings in and around the busy tourist town of Cannes.

First stop on the tour was at Golf Opio Valbonne, a 1960s Donald Harradine course that nestles in the foothills between the Mediterranean coast and the inland mountain region. Upgraded in 2012, when holes 15 to 18 were extensively remodelled, the course is one of more than thirty operated by Open Golf Club in France, Belgium, Spain and Morocco. The fairways sit within a large 220-hectare property, featuring an ancient Roman aqueduct and the 17th century Château de la Bégude, which now operates as an on-site hotel.

After returning to the old town quarter of Cannes for a wonderful evening meal in Le Relais des Semailles, it was time to retire for the night and rest ahead of the adventures of Day Two… which began with a 15-minute boat trip across the Golfe de la Napoule to the sparsely inhabited Île Sainte-Marguerite. It’s here, on the forested 170-acre island that the famous “Man in the Iron Mask” was held prisoner within the confines of Fort Royal in the 1690s. The Fort is now a museum that allows visitors to view a number of the old prison cells.

In the afternoon, it was back into the Alpes-Maritimes foothills to Golf de la Grande Bastide, where Cabell Robinson set out the golf course in the early 1990s. Another Open Golf Club course, it attained a score of 16 out of 20 in the last printed edition of the Peugeot Golf Guide, effectively ranking it within the Top 50 courses in France. Routed around half a dozen small lakes on a gently undulating property, the fairways at Grande Bastide are largely open in aspect, leading to tightly bunkered greensites.

Day Two of the Cannes EGTMA Golf Week was rounded off in fine style with a sumptuous meal in Fouquet’s brasserie within the 5-star Hotel Majestic Barrière, the traditional hotel of choice for film stars attending the annual Cannes Festival. Next up the following morning, EGTMA delegates toured the old town, commencing with a look at the statue erected in honour of Lord Brougham, the former British Lord Chancellor, who is credited with popularising the seaside resort in 1835, when it was little more than a fishing village. After a browse of the shops on the narrow Rue Meynadier, it was time for a spot of lunch in the fashionable beach restaurant of the Croisette Beach Hotel.

In the afternoon, it was back into the hills above Cannes to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, to play at the refurbished Golf du Claux Amic golf complex. Tight, tree-lined fairways on this course wind their way across a rocky landscape where only straight hitters stand any chance of making a decent score. The new clubhouse opened in 2013 and a substantial hotel and apartment development is due for completion at the end of next year. It’s an up-and-coming golf facility that will make a big mark locally when it’s completed.

After a fabulous dinner prepared by chef de cuisine Frédéric Bogé in Grasse’s Best Western Elixir Hotel, it was time for a sound night’s sleep after a full day of activities. Next morning, the short golf trip to Cannes was rounded off with a visit to the Studio des Frangrances of the Parfumerie Galimard. Here, EGTMA delegates were invited to create their own unique bottle of perfume, assisted by expert instructors who were on hand to help.

The official trip over, EGTMA members were now able to bid farewell and head home. Except that – in keeping with similar media trips to other countries in recent times – there was now the opportunity to tag on a quick visit to the very special private course at Vidauban - Prince de Provence, one of the top tracks in Continental Europe.

Unfortunately, the layout is in the middle of an extensive upgrade, with many kilometres of new drainage and irrigation lines being installed, so it was only possible to walk the course. Nevertheless, enough of the layout was seen to realise that this course will go places in future European (and even World) ranking lists. Expect a further update in due course…

Sincere thanks to Raphaelle Galante, Press Officer at Cannes Palais des Festivals et des Congrés and Franck Raineri, Promotion & Media Relations Manager at Grasse Office de Tourism for hosting such a memorable Press Trip to the Côte d'Azur.

Jim McCann


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