Golf de Dinard, Brittany
This is France’s second oldest golf course after that of Pau. Established in 1887 by a group of British settlers and designed by the famous Scotsman Tom Dunn, it was clearly modelled on the great courses ‘back home’. It’s situated near St-Briac-sur-Mer on the Emerald Coast in northern Brittany and boasts splendid panoramic views along its 18-hole length. Built on the dunes and cliffs and surrounded by brooms and gorses, the course is challenging, especially in windy conditions. Players will appreciate the local wildlife and note that hole number six – and its green – has been classified among the most beautiful holes in the world by Golf US magazine.
Golf d’Etretat, Normandy
Located in stunning surroundings, Etretat’s 18-hole course overlooks the sea and eponymous bay and is one of the three most remarkable seaside golf courses in France. Turning 100 years old in 2008, the course is constantly developing – and its famous number 10 hole makes it particularly spectacular. Etretat has inspired many famous figures from Arsène Lupin to Maurice Leblanc, stretching over 6km and offering a variety of play and landscapes to charm its visitors, as well as a gourmet restaurant in its renovated club house. It was twinned in 1985 with English club in Hockley, close to Winchester, and so perpetuates the cross-Channel golfing relationship.
Golf de Sperone, Corsica
In Corsica’s extreme south, a few minutes from Bonifacio, the 18-hole Sperone golf course is arguably one of Europe’s most breathtaking. It was founded in 1985 by architect Robert Trent Jones on a limestone cap above the sea, with a panoramic view of the sparkling Mediterranean and its sandy beaches. Play along 73 hectares of scrubland dotted with granite rocks – it’s a technical course which requires a perfect swing – and at the same time, enjoy the ‘Île de Beauté’ in all its glory. Facing Sardinia and the Lavezzi Islands, the Gulf of Bonifacio is most definitely one of the gems that give Corsica its nickname. You’ll be won over on arriving at hole 16, taking your shot right above the sea and trying to resist the urge to dive in.
Golf Club Moliets, New Aquitaine
On France’s south-west coast between Biarritz and Bordeaux, the Golf de Moliets is a remarkable course laid out in the pine forests of Landes (for 13 holes) and along the coast (5 holes). A typical Robert Trent Jones design whose technical and strategic challenges reflect an in-depth knowledge of golf, the jagged bunkers are offset by neatly contoured putting surfaces. In 2012 the Golf de Moliets was classified sixth best course in France by the PGA – and also ranked amongst the 22 best courses in the Rolex French guide.
Golf Pléneuf-Val-André, Brittany
Exceptionally pretty with wonderful views along the coast, Pléneuf-Val-André is a glorious seaside course. More clifftop than traditional links, it is nevertheless extensively bunkered with the greens being particularly well defended. Keeping out of the sand, especially when the wind is whipping across the Channel, can be a major preoccupation – but most of the fairways are reasonably wide. The truly glorious 11th hole justifies the rather modest green fee on its own: frequently included in the world’s top 100 holes, the wonderfully elevated back tee is perilously perched on a rocky outcrop. Although a hook will plonk you on the sandy beach, there’s plenty of room to land your drive on this breathtaking par five.