LeClub Golf is fortunate to have 6 century-old golf courses. Among them, the golf courses of Wimereux, Dieppe, Valescure, Cabourg, Luchon and Etretat.
This week we will visit the golf courses of Wimereux, Dieppe and Valescure. Next week, we will go to Cabourg, Étretat and finally Luchon in the Pyrenees.
This foray into time and memory also shows that these wonderful courses have also been able to adapt to their time. Their success with golfers is due as much to the charm of their age as to their welcoming sporting relevance.
A stroll through the heart of golfing France!
For those looking for information on century-old golf courses in France, it is recommended to read the book by Kazmierczak and Jeanneau, published three years ago:
Wimereux: a Scottish-style links opened in 1901
The Wimereux golf course, a true Scottish links course opened in 1901, offers breathtaking views over the English Channel and the white cliffs of England. The 18-hole course is a par 72 of 6,160 metres, undulating, with wide fairways and excellent quality greens.
The golf course is located 6km from Boulogne-sur-Mer and 25km from Calais.
Nicolas Bouzin, its dynamic director, reminds us of the history of this century-old golf course:
“The Wimereux golf course was the 7th golf course built in France. In 1901, a 9-hole course was built in the centre of the existing racecourse. The golf course was used during the two world wars as a base for the soldiers who had England in their sights. The remains are still visible on the course with numerous bunkers which are the result of shell holes or bombings as well as 3 blockhouses, one of which is used as a Par 3 tee shot (hole n°12).
What are the main changes that have marked its evolution?
The Golf de Wimereux was completely rebuilt after the Second World War. Since 1957, the golf course has 18 holes with 9 holes on the land side and 9 on the sea side. Wimereux Golf Club wants to build and keep a pure Scottish links identity with small deep bunkers and demanding roughs which will become the n°1 obstacle of the course. All this combined with a very often present wind can make your game very difficult and challenging.
Very popular with British golfers due to the proximity of the Channel Tunnel and the Belgians who are only an hour away, the Wimereux golf course is a major tourist attraction on the Opal Coast, with 11,000 visitors coming to play on the greens every year. The golf course also has 500 members and organises about 60 competitions.
The historical album of the Wimereux golf course
The Dieppe golf course: created in 1897, the oldest golf course in Normandy
Created in 1897, under the impulse of the British colony in love with the city of four ports, the Dieppe golf course is the oldest of the Normandy golf courses and the seventh oldest course in France.
Ilona Hanc tells us about her golf:
“The Dieppe golf course was designed and built by one of the greatest English architects, permanently attached to the Royal Ancient Golf Club of Saint-Andrews: Willie Park Junior, double winner of the British Championship. The course has been redesigned: some holes have remained unchanged and others have been created on the cliffs of the Côte d’Albâtre. The golf course is located between the towns of Dieppe and Pourville-sur-Mer.
The old clubhouse has not changed its place: the large Anglo-Norman building runs alongside the road, opposite the car park. As for the course, it is covered with numerous blockhouses, vestiges of the Second World War. Some are more visible than others, such as on holes 6, 7 and 16. In the middle of the course there is also a large radar station, the most important of which has a range of 200 km. It belonged to the German army.
Obviously, our century-old golf course has been rejuvenated to adapt to the new playing conditions and to the demands of our members and visiting clients. Several changes have been made: extension of the club house and the restaurant, development of the covered and grass driving range, redesign of the holes, new bunkers, planting, automatic watering, signage, car park, meeting room…
Today its main attraction is linked to its proximity to Paris – only 2 hours by motorway – , to its location close to the centre of Dieppe and to the sea, situated on the cliffs of the Côtes d’Albâtre with an unobstructed view of the Pointe d’Ailly, and of course to its varied course, with beautiful colours in summer as well as in winter “
The historical album of the Dieppe golf course
Golf de Valescure, an unsuspected wealth since 1895
Designed in 1895 by British aristocrats, the Valescure golf course is “unsuspectedly rich” as it is written in a book dedicated to it.
A common phenomenon at the end of the 19th century throughout the Côte d’Azur, these British holidaymakers who came to Saint-Raphaël for the therapeutic virtues of the climate wanted to create a golf course there.
In 1909, Amédée de Guerville, the first French president, took the initiative of asking the world-renowned architect Harry Colt to extend the course from 9 to 18 holes, making it an obligatory place of pilgrimage for golfing architecture enthusiasts. Colt is the architect of Rye, Sunningdale, Royal Lytham St-Annes, Muirfield in Great Britain, Pine Valley in the United States, Toronto in Canada… But also of about fifteen courses in France.
Christophe Lauray, its director, answered our questions:
Your golf course is one hundred years old and is therefore part of the first pages of the history of golf in France. How does it still bear the marks of this history?
First of all, the emblematic red and white wooden Club-House (currently undergoing total renovation), built in 1909 on the initiative of the second President of the Valescure Golf Club, Amédée de Guerville. It is our duty here to dispel a myth that was forged at an uncertain time and continues to this day. The Club-House is not the Norwegian pavilion of the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition as is commonly believed, but the work of the English firm Boulton and Paul, specialists in club-houses and golf pavilions, and was purposely commissioned by our Club.
Similarly, the sheepfold is also an emblematic building of our course, located near the fairway of hole 17. It is a low building, made of local stone masonry in the classic architecture of old sheepfolds; some of the beams of the old frame are still visible inside. When the golf course was built, the sheepfold housed sheep that were used to shear the golf course fairways before the invention of modern shearing equipment.
Of course, the layout of the course. Short and narrow holes, with small greens, often elevated, and therefore difficult to access. Dirt greens, not sand greens like modern courses.
It has obviously evolved over the past century: what are the main developments that have been made? And where is its main attraction today?
Officially, the Valescure Golf Club was created in 1895, the date that appears in all the historical guides and directories. However, it is only in 1899 that the Club was officially constituted; the inauguration took place in 1900. The original course consisted of 9 holes, with a length of 1992 metres. It was the famous architect Harry Shapland Colt who, in 1909-1910, reconfigured the original course and extended it from 9 to 18 holes. The course at the time had more or less the same layout as it has today, but was then a Par 74, compared to 68 today: holes 2, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 17 have since had their par values modified.
Today, the attractiveness of Valescure lies precisely in the history of the design of its course, which has been preserved as close as possible to its historical layout. To play Valescure is to play a 126 year old course, surrounded by hundred year old Parasol Pines, whose style goes against the grain of very long courses and the huge greens of modern courses. To play Valescure is to play the 5th oldest golf course in France and to spend 4 hours in a place full of history.