There are many golf trips that those of us based in the UK are familiar with. The long weekend in the Algarve, a trip to La Manga for some winter sun or even a jaunt to Turkey are not unusual. France, however, is rarely mentioned and yet there is plenty to like about a trip over the Channel.
If you are looking for real high-end golf in France then it is hard to argue with a trip to Paris to sample the delights of Morfontaine and Fontainebleau and the trials of Les Bordes. I’ll return to that area nearer to the Ryder Cup but, for now, let’s look further south.
The Côte d’Azur is well served by Nice airport. It’s only a two hour flight from London and EasyJet will get you from there for less of the price of a train to Manchester. The climate lends itself to golf. You probably want to avoid the winter months as some of the courses in the hills may be a bit chilly, and the height of the summer can be a little too hot to be pleasant. However, April, May, June and September are pretty much perfect months, with temperatures in the 20s and low rainfall.
If you are flying into Nice I would suggest picking up a hire car, It is by far the best way to get around - public transport would be nigh-on impossible and taxis are expensive and logistically challenging.
You should give yourself a good hour to get through Nice airport especially in peak season (I have seen grown men cry in the car hire queue) but then you will find it’s easy to get on the autoroute and out of town.
I would recommend staying in Cannes rather than Nice and to base yourself there. There are plenty of accommodation options. Airbnb has made it very affordable to stay in some great locations, at a fraction of the cost of a good hotel. Cannes has a bit more of a holiday vibe than Nice, with plenty of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, meaning this trip won’t be all about the golf.
Golf is an unexpectedly popular game in France and, having played probably over a hundred times in the country, I can happily say that the welcome I have had is much warmer than the Gallic stereotype.
Golf-wise, there are a few good options. You won’t get any truly world-class courses in the area but there are a couple of really strong options and some other more relaxed ‘resort’ type tracks.
There are four courses which would give you good variety and a nice balance of playable and hard. Click the course names to see my full course reviews -
Golf de la Grande Bastide
Half an hour inland from Cannes, Grande Bastide is the perfect first round course. It's wide open and won’t beat you up and is always in great condition around the greens. Victor Dubuisson holds the course record with a 68 but I think that tells you that not too many of the European greats have teed it up here! Access is easy enough and you will get a tee time for €43 to €80.
Golf Country Club de Cannes-Mougins
Unlike Grande Bastide, Cannes Mougins has welcomed many of Europe’s finest through the gates. The course hosted the Cannes Open from 1984 to 1994 with Seve, Woosnam and David Feherty all winning here. While the course wouldn’t cope with the distances professionals hit the ball now, it is still a very pleasant walk. Plenty of trees, water in play and a bit of elevation change all make for a course you need to think your way around. The club is pretty old school but very welcoming and the terrace is a great place to have a beer after the round. Access here is possible but a little more limited at weekends so you may want to factor that into your planning. Green fees are from €120 on a summer weekday to €150 at weekends.
Chateau de Taulane
It’s a bit of a trek to Taulane - an hour and half away in the hills - but you will be richly rewarded when you arrive. This Gary Player course definitely falls into classic ‘hidden gem’ territory. It’s carved into the trees and both nines culminate at holes in front of the clubhouse, over water. There’s a hotel here and some good deals available with the golf if you fancy making a night of it. Were this course a little more accessible I think it would feature much higher in the European rankings.
There are two courses at Terre Blanche (45 minutes inland from Cannes) but only the Chateau is open to visitor play. There is no doubt at all that this is the best course in the area, a clear step above the rest, and it fully deserves its place as 15th best course in Europe. The conditioning is always immense and this is a course that you will need to think your way around rather than merely overpower. Not unlike Taulane, it is carved out of the trees and there is plenty of elevation change to cope with. The course is attached to a very high quality hotel, previously a Four Seasons property, but tee times are available to all. While the website says you can only book 2 weeks in advance, they have always been able to accommodate me with more notice. It is pricey though at €180 in the peak season. However, if you tee off in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest you can get a discount! Here are some pictures to whet your appetite -
There are a few others in the area which I have played but not written up yet which you may want to consider -
Golf De Saint Donat
I am a big fan of Saint Donat. It’s very welcoming, not too long, but with a really interesting layout. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, like Grande Bastide, as a less ferocious warm-up round
Golf Claux Amic
You can smell the perfume in the air as you knock it around this course just outside Grasse, about 30 minutes inland from Cannes. It's quite hilly, has lovely views, some blind shots, not too long and is good fun.
Royal Mougins took on the Cannes Open for a couple of years in the 90s. The course is packed in to quite a small area and while perfectly conditioned at times it feels a little too cramped. The par 3 2nd is probably the signature hole, with a 200 yard tee shot down and over water required. It’s high-end golf here so expect to pay up to €200 each in the summer months.
Monte Carlo Golf Club
High up in the hills above Monaco is the Monte Carlo Golf Club. Another tour venue from days of yore, where Ian Woosnam shot a 60 in the last round to win, back in 1990. It’s a tight course and I have no fond memories beyond the views. It's not on my list for a return visit next time I’m in the area!
So there you are. 2 hours from London, a warm welcome, pristine courses, no long queues of pissed-up Brits zooming around in their golf carts. What more can you ask for?
A quick thank-you to Feedspot for including me in their list of Top 100 blogs you can see here. Only number 82 though so plenty of room for improvement!!