Saint Germain - 16 POINTS
Saint Germain is a Harry Colt course, built in the early part of the 20th Century and located near Versailles, west of Paris. It has recently made it into the top 20 of Golf World's top 100 courses in Continental Europe and is talked about by many in the know as a real hidden gem.
With such a pedigree, my anticipation was really high before playing there. I was left with pleasant memories - it's a course I haven't eulogised since nor had any cause to fault. If I ever get through the top 100 courses in Europe, I would be surprised if Saint Germain made it into my top 20 but it would be hard not to recommend adding it to a trip if you are planning a golf tour to the area.
The place absolutely oozes history. The clubhouse displays pictures of many of the greats who have played here. The last really big event was the French Open in 1985. Like every course we came across in the area, the welcome was really warm and the staff were really pleased to see us and went out of their way to make sure we had a pleasant trip. The French have an unfair reputation in the UK for being aloof and French golf is often seen as elitist. Well I think I have had a far warmer welcome playing in this area than in some of the more obvious places for tourists to go such as the Algarve. I think that they appreciate it that people have made the effort to come and play golf at a lovely course in a place slightly off the beaten track. Anyway, to the course.
This is classic parkland stuff. It is fairly tight in places for sure but the course has had a lot of restoration work over the last few years which, I understand has opened up a lot of the tree lines. The ground is pretty flat generally and not overly long so the challenge really comes with keeping the ball in play and needing a canny touch around the greens. The putting surfaces are pretty large but you need to make sure your misses are on the right side. I have seen it written elsewhere that this is a track which feels like a real members' course and I imagine there are many shots to be saved when you've played it a few times.
While I enjoyed the round here it didn't feel of the same quality as Fontainbleau which is often talked of in the same breath. Don't get me wrong, it was a perfectly decent course and I wouldn't drive past the gates if I had the chance of a game, but you should go expecting something enjoyable rather than knock-your-socks-off brilliant!
BOOKING THE COURSE
Saint Germain has a great website where you can see excellent photography of every hole and plenty of information about the club. It also has details of how to book. Tee times are available from Tuesday to Friday, and Saturdays in the height of summer when the Parisians all leave town. There is no booking online but you can drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give them a call to book a time. Don't fear, their English is good and they will be delighted to speak to you!
Combining Saint Germain, Le Golf National, Fontainebleau and Chantilly would make for a great trip. They all allow green fee play (although check days of the week) and you could either base yourself in Central Paris or somewhere like Versailles and no journey would be more than an hour if you plan it well. If you want a real treat then try to add in Morfontaine to see the very best of what Europe has to offer!