Think of a golf holiday in Europe, and courses in the U.K., Portugal or Spain might come to mind. But France? Probably not. I’ve been playing golf for more than 30 years, but it’s only in the last decade I’ve discovered France offers some of the very best golf in Continental Europe.
I’ve golfed in Paris at various times of the year: in May, the courses are emerging from hibernation, and, while you may need to contend with the odd shower, the days warm up nicely; and, in September and October, you’ll find some of the year’s best game weather. Green fees tend to be pretty consistent throughout the year, but, if you’re looking for savings, hotel rates dip in August as temperatures rise and business tourism drops. Book an early tee time, and you’ll be sipping a post-game beer before the heat of the day sets in.
One of the country’s best courses is the Tom Simpson classic Golf de Fontainebleau, an hour’s drive south of Paris. I booked an afternoon tee time, and, even though there had been rain earlier in the day, the course drained magnificently. This is a real thinker’s course, where strategy will beat brute force every time. As the sun dropped in the sky, long shadows were cast through the trees and the evening took on a magical air. It made for one of my all-time favourite evenings on a course.
After a quick beer on the terrace of the Norman-style clubhouse, I headed to Versailles, just west of Paris.
After spending a night at the Hôtel le Versailles, I drove 20 minutes north to Golf de Saint-Germain, a course where you can feel the history. The clubhouse walls are adorned with pictures, including Seve Ballesteros winning the French Open here in 1985.
There was a short rain shower on the first hole, but, once again, the land drained well. This course, designed by the great Harry Colt, was probably the most forgiving of all I’ve played. By the time I finished my 18 holes, the sun was heating up, and the terrace overlooking the putting green was the perfect spot for steak frites.
Last up was the 2018 Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National. It is a long, tough course and while many of the holes lacked some of the imagination of the others, it has a spectacular finish. My adrenaline was pumping as I tried to carry the water that defines the finishing stretch of the Albatros course. While you can expect to pay €250 for 18 holes here in May, June and September, green fees drop to €200 in August and just €145 in March and November—tremendous value for a course of this calibre.
Paris has a lot of key ingredients for a great golf trip. Ne parle pas français? Don’t worry. Many courses have English-speakers to help you book a tee time. (Although peppering in a little French will be appreciated.)
Shoulder-Season Solutions for Golfers
There are good deals to be had in October and April. Mid-week you can play Lahinch Golf Club (ranked 30th in the world and 2nd in Ireland by Top 100 Golf Courses) and Tralee Golf Club (ranked 13th in Ireland) for as low as €340 in October—the same courses would cost about €460 in July.
Northwest England is home to three Open Championship venues: Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club and Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Weekdays during the summer months, it costs £635 to play these three courses, but in October this rate drops to £450.
The Highland Golf Links’ Royal Dornoch & Castle Stuart Golf Package (Oct. 3 to Nov. 16) includes one round at Royal Dornoch, two rounds at Castle Stuart Golf Links and a two-night stay in a four-star hotel, or onsite at Stuart Castle, for £325 per person—a 50 per cent saving compared to summer.
David is a keen, if not overly talented, golfer, who has played many of the best courses in the world, which he chronicles on his website, ukgolfguy.com. He lives on the Scottish coast, just outside Edinburgh, with his wife and two children whom he tries to persuade onto the golf course on many a cold winter’s day.