GOLF AND CLARET have always been remarkably comfortable bed fellows. Each July the champion golfer of the year lifts a famous old claret jug at the Open Championship while the club claret remains a hardy perennial at all traditional golf clubs. How appropriate then for two fine courses in the heart of the finest wine producing region on earth should be called the Chateaux and the Vines.
Golf du Medoc resort is just under 17 kilometres north of Bordeaux Airport in a region boasting over 100,000 hectares of vineyards. It provides an extremely comfortable four-star hotel overlooking two superb courses, both of which have been included in Golf World’s Top 100 of Continental Europe; it is like discovering Walton Heath golf club in the heart of France.
Les Chateaux was the first course to open in 1989, and is very much the big tournament track, designed by the American architect Bill Coore who works with Ben Crenshaw in a partnership dedicated to the creation of strategic, traditional courses. The French Open was held here in 1999 when Retief Goosen won and has been a regular venue for the European Challenge tour.
At 6,325 meters from the back tees it is now almost too short for regular tour events but that does not make it any the less challenging and appealing to visiting golfers who will delight in the heathland setting amidst heather and gorse, provided they do not stray into it, and the fact that it is a course flat enough to be walked comfortably as is its sister, Les Vignes.
Whereas hazards on Les Chateaux include three large lakes that come into play on five of the holes, and perilously close on the two par threes on the outward nine, Les Vignes, is shorter at 6,220 metres from the tips, but demands accuracy as the fairways are lined with mature maritime pines. Les Vignes opened in 1991 and was designed by Bill Coore’s Canadian assistant, Rod Whitman.
Although both courses have a traditional heathland feel to them with firm, fast running greens the salt wind that blows from the Gironde estuary generates a links like atmosphere that can be compared at times to Royal Lytham and St Annes, particularly with the amount of bunkers that await to catch tee shots that are marginally off line.
Bill Coore rated the first and 18th holes, two long, gently dog-legged par fours on Les Chateaux, as those that gave him most pleasure. He said, ‘Each of these holes require thought and skill. The first introduces the player to a type of golf that says, “Hello, this is going to be different.”‘
It is this difference to the traditional parkland or stadium courses more commonly found in France that make Golf du Medoc such a wonderful place to visit. The added bonus is the standard of cuisine and choice of wine to be found in the stylish clubhouse and the ability to arrange wine tasting tours to nearby Chateaux during a visit. For a quintessential taste of the region and two truly outstanding courses Golf de Medoc boasts the very best that French golf and gastronomy can offer.