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​Top 100 Golf Courses of France 2020

16 January, 2020

Top 100 Golf Courses of France 2020

Having just produced the latest edition of our Top 100 Golf Courses of Continental Europe, it’s now time to turn our attention to reappraising the constituent countries that comprise this vast geographic region. We’re starting with France, which contributed nineteen courses to our newly published European listings, and is recognised as the oldest golfing nation on the continent, with Pau Golf Club the first to emerge back in 1856.

France has produced many great golfers down the years, starting of course with the imperious Arnaud Massey, first overseas winner of the Open in 1906. Auguste Boyer and Marcel Dallemagne were prolific between the 1920s and 1940s, then Jean Garaïalde represented his country with distinction at the World Cup twenty-five times between 1954 and 1982. In the more modern era, who could ever forget Jean van de Velde’s heart-breaking near-miss at the Carnoustie Open in 1999?

We must also remember it was a French course that first hosted an Olympic golf match at Golf de Compiègne, to the north of Paris, in 1900 and the most recent series of Ryder Cup matches are still fresh in the memory from 2018, when Team Europe convincingly defeated a strong American squad on the Albatros course at Golf National to the southwest side of the capital city.

Anyway, enough of this digression as the revised Top 100 for France awaits.

The Grand Parcours 18-hole layout at Golf de Morfontaine remains the #1 course for this country. Remodelled by Tom Simpson in the 1930s and further refined in the last few years by Kyle Phillips, this heathland masterpiece is carved through a densely wooded landscape to the north of Paris, where the cares of the world disappear the moment the electric gates at the entrance close quietly behind you.

Morfontaine - Grand Parcours

Our French correspondent Nicolas Aubert sums up Morfontaine's allure rather well when he says: “it’s not just a masterpiece to the eye, if you like heather and forest courses, it’s also a fantastic test of golf. There are no stereotypes in attacking the greens, and that goes for driving as well. Shaping shots, lob wedges and chip and run… you need to play all the shots here.”

Rising two places to the runner-up slot, the course at Les Bordes, near Orléans, returns to the position it held for three editions of the chart before somehow falling to No.4 in 2018. Designed by Robert von Hagge for Baron Marcel Bich and Yoshiaka Sakurai in the mid-1980s, this layout will soon be joined by another 18-hole course that’s currently being built under the watchful eye of Gil Hanse. Once this new track is completed, the club is sure to feature one of the best 36-hole golf facilities in the entire country.

Outside the elusive Top 10 tier, the 18-hole Links at Golf de Granville rises two rungs on the ladder to No. 16. In fairness, the holes looked a little bedraggled when we visited a few months ago as the club has no fairway irrigation and the links was still recovering from the summer drought of 2018. But the greens… well, some of the wonderful contouring of the original Harry Colt putting surfaces just has to be seen to be believed. Agronomist Stéphane Rouen is doing a fine job around these wonderful putting surfaces, with the club planning to upgrade the course infrastructure in the fullness of time.

Granville - Links course

Another impressive climber is the course at Golf du Dinard, soaring seven to No. 20. Considering nineteen French courses make the new European Top 100 chart, then it tells you this place came very close to achieving its first continental ranking. Founded in the late 1880s, Dinard is one of the oldest clubs in the country, though the course has changed quite a bit from when it was first laid out by North Berwick professional Tom Dunn back in the day.

Dinard photo courtesy of Dinard Golf Club

Still, it feels very much like playing in a time warp when you tee it up at Dinard, in a throwback to when the game was a lot simpler and – dare we say it – more fun. The aforementioned Stéphane Rouen from GK Consult also advises here and his regime of fine grasses around the property is a delight to behold.

Substantial gains are also made further down the standings by four other courses.

The Lilas and Orange nines at Golf de Stade Français Courson edge closer to the chart position of the Vert and Noir nines at the same venue with a fourteen-place jump to No. 49. This outstanding golf facility is another good example of what Robert von Haage’s design company was up to in France thirty years ago. Truth be told, there’s not much difference between any of the fabulous four nines here so visiting golfers shouldn’t be too concerned if they front up to find a different daily 18-hole configuration in play to the one they’d envisaged beforehand.

Golf de Stade Français Courson

An hour’s drive to the north of Courson, on the west side of Paris, lies an alternative 36-hole golf complex of the private variety that was also designed in the early 1990s by another famous American architect, Robert Trent Jones. The Retz course at Golf de Joyenval advances twelve places to No. 57, closing the gap in the rankings with the Marly, its sibling 18-hole layout, and the course is set within the former hunting grounds of the Forêt de Marly, next to the famous Désert de Retz ornamental garden.

Golf de Joyenval - Retz course

Another course making good progress is the 18-hole layout at Golf de Royan (up fourteen to #61), which was fashioned by literally carving the fairways through the pine plantation of the Forêt de la Coubre on the Arvert peninsula, at the mouth of the Gironde estuary. Situated close to the seaside resort of Royan, this terrific track is still owned by the local authority, opening as a 9-hole circuit in 1977 before another nine was added a decade later.

Golf de Royan

The brightest shooting star in our new national listings for France is the course at Golf d’Arcangues near Biarritz, accelerating twenty-five places up the table to No.72. Ron Fream routed the fairways around an old family estate in the early 1990s and both the course and the clubhouse are still tended to and managed by the same people – a fact that’s not all that surprising when you discover the property has been in the hands of the Arcanques since the middle of the 12th century.

Golf d’Arcangues

Turning to the new entries, there are five debutants in this chart revision.

The first of these is the 9-hole Vallière course at Club de Morfontaine at #20,which actually preceded the 18-hole Grand Parcours at the same club. Opened with a match between James Braid, Arnaud Massy and Jean Gassiat in 1913, the course has since been altered, with several holes replaced and today’s closing hole now played to what used to be the 3rd hole on the other layout. Nonetheless, the Vallière is more than a match for any 9-holer you might ever have played and if you come across anybody talking up another 9-hole course as “the best in the world” then you’ll know for certain they haven’t seen this one before.

Morfontaine - Vallière course

The other four French newcomers appear at the lower end of the standings, led by the Surcouf course at the Saint-Malo Golf Resort at #80, part of a 27-hole set-up created by Hubert Chesneau next to the waters of the Lac de Mireloup in the 1980s. The fairways don’t occupy any of the coastal terrain around the historic port city but it’s well worth the 30-minute drive further inland to become acquainted with this parkland jewel in the Brittany countryside.

Saint-Malo - Surcouf course

The Vignoly course at the Domaine de Crécy complex (new at #81) is located next to the small town of Crécy-la-Chapelle, not far from Disneyland Paris, and it’s the only Arnold Palmer-designed layout that you’ll find in all of France. Set comfortably inside an expansive 270-acre property, and with twenty-eight air-conditioned suites, a swimming pool and a tennis court complementing the golfing element, this is a 27-hole facility with a lot going for it.

Domaine de Crécy - Vignoly course

Golf d’Omaha Beach in Normandy is a superior 36-hole resort on the Normandy coast, with La Mer (new at #83) the better of the two tracks at this golfing enterprise. Opened for play in 1987, La Mer sits on top of the cliffs overlooking the tiny town of Port en Bessin, close to the beaches where Allied troops landed during Operation Overlord in 1944. Fairways are generally wide and forgiving, as you might expect at a resort, and the shortage of water hazards also comes as a welcome relief.

Omaha Beach - La Mer course

The 5th and final new entry arrives at No. 89 and it’s the course at Golf du Rhin, located twenty-five kilometres north of Mulhouse in the southeast corner of the country, close to the border with Germany and Switzerland. Laid out within a wonderful nature reserve on an elongated island between the mighty River Rhine and the Grand Canal of Alsace, this Donald Harradine design has enthralled golfers ever since it first opened its doors to visitors in 1969.

Golf du Rhin


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 100 Golf Courses of France click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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