Play Away: Gourmet Golf on the Cote d’Opale

Ashdown members take you to their favourite golfing places:

Golf D' HardelotThe golf courses of the Nord pas de Calais region of France have been hugely popular with British visitors for over a century. And it has never been quicker or easier to get there.

The oldest, and still one of the very the best is Hardelot les Pins, opened in 1905 and re-designed by Tom Simpson in 1934. Simpson was a man who thought golf, ‘Should combine a pleasant form of physical vigour with the pleasures of the chessboard.’

And despite the, some would argue unnecessary, recent addition of bunkers on the front nine, Les Pins still provides a fair test and a delightful walk through sweet smelling woods.

At 6,450 yards off the back tees, Les Pins is not penally long, but demands accuracy, particularly on the par threes where sand and sloping greens proliferate.

And if Les Pins proves too tough there is always Les Dunes course just up the road and opened in 1991. For too long the poor relation to its sister course the Dunes has now been entirely revamped and provides the perfect holiday playing environment with a first class restaurant in the clubhouse to enjoy afterwards. Although beer drinkers should be wary of the locally bottled brew that, though delicious, weighs in at a dizzying 7.0%.

The severest test and a Cote d’Opale favourite is La Mer course at Le Touquet. Designed by another Englishman, Harry Colt of Wentworth fame, La Mer is probably the nearest thing northern France gets to a links.

Host to numerous French Open championships during the 1970s the course mainly hosts overseas and foreign visitors these days although novice golfers should not attempt to take on this extremely challenging track which sweeps through huge dunes and rough grasses. Be on your game or else take plenty of balls with you.

The clubhouse at La Mer, was bombed during World War II and never replaced so the present facility is a good step away alongside its sister course, La Foret, which many of the locals prefer, not least because it is so much easier. The clubhouse is welcoming although basic.

Most discerning visitors to Le Touquet stay at The Westminster Hotel in downtown Le Touquet (http://www.westminster.fr) although those who want to take in the superb sea views and challenges of Wimereux golf club on the way home favour the comforts of La Matelote Hotel in Boulogne (http://www.la-matelote.com) and the culinary delights of Tony Lestienne’s kitchen.

With some terrific deals being offered by golf tour operators to combine a variety of courses, cross channel ferry or tunnel and accommodation there has seldom been a better time to go and enjoy some wonderful golf just across the channel.