At this time of year you’ll probably be going on, or planning your next golfing holiday, sitting round reminiscing of past experiences, remembering the high points while brushing over some of the lows.
We all do it: “The weather was fantastic and the courses in Spain and Portugal were in beautiful pristine condition,” but glossing over the fact that it was busier than Oxford street on Christmas Eve and if you didn’t book early enough you were left with late tee times and with rounds averaging over 5 hours.
Some of us have even been known to skip the last couple of holes to be in time to catch the mini bus - the one you booked having given yourself enough time to have a refreshing drink at the bar,while extolling the virtues of that perfect 7 iron over the water to within 3 foot of the pin. Now you are missing out the 17th and 18th on a course that cost you over 100 Euros to play.
Having aroused some unpleasant memories, I am also the bearer of some great news. There is a destination that has Celtic traditions, is right on our doorstep at only an hour’s flight away, fantastic choice of tracks from links to parkland to American style, with stunning views and empty fairways, and the most you will pay for a round ranges from 23-67Euros in the high season. All this in a gastronomic heaven and in a country that boast some of the best wine in the world. Welcome to Brittany.
Brittany is a land with a history that is entwined with our own and also has the second-oldest track in France in Dinard golf club. There are 36 golf clubs in Brittany and two big clusters of courses are in the north and east of the county, with a further stretch of courses along the south.
But golfing holidays are not just about great golf, it’s the shared experience with good friends or family, and what Brittany has to offer over other golfing Meccas is top quality food and wine.
Some 30% of the fish in France is caught by the fisherman of Brittany. I have never eaten more healthily than during the five days I was there, with food that is so well prepared and presented, all accompanied by some of the best wines in the world. No wonder all these cooking programmes on TV send their would-be master chefs off to France to learn their trade.
Golf de Cicé Blossac
Golf de Cicé Blossac, on the outskirts of Rennes, combines both a love of golf with the French love of good food and wine. Only in France would you come across the “Gastronomic tournament” where local restaurateurs set up on every other hole and cook a speciality dish for you to enjoy on your way around, with a nice glass of wine. It puts a whole new spin on the halfway hut’s cup of tea and bacon buttie.
Par 3 11th make sure you try and get over there to play in the Gastronomic
The track itself is under new ownership and the Irish consortium is keen to attract golfers from Britain and Ireland, having built some beautiful luxury apartments that overlook the 10th. You can now stay and enjoy golf in this beautiful environment. The run of holes from the 8th to the 11th are all about shot making, they are not the longest but position from the tee is all-important, with water running along or across all the holes.
From the back tees on the 9th you will have to carry two lots of water, and a nice draw will set you up nicely for your second shot to the green. The 18th is another beautiful finishing hole; again your tee shot is over water to a narrow fairway that doglegs right around the water, giving you a shot to a large green with the clubhouse in the background.
This was the first course we played, teaming up with Iain Pyman in the Challenge tour de Pléneuf Val André pro-am. What a pleasure it was to see Iain striking the ball so well. The track itself is only 15 years old but is rapidly becoming one of the must-play courses, not only in Brittany but France. When you stand on the tees of the 10th and 11thyou will see why, but this track is not all about those views stunning though they are. They just take your breath away,standing hundreds of feet above the sea looking down on that perfect sandy beach with the tide out. It even had Iain getting his camera out.
1st a great birdie chanceStunning views on the 10th tee Looking back down the 12th
But the 9th, 12th and 14th holes all have their own beauty too, and the opening par 5 first which doglegs right, with the second shot being played to a small green that lays below the fairway, is one of the best opening holes I have played. It gives you a great chance of reaching the green in two, but once there you still have a lot of work to make par let alone birdie or eagle on this tricky green.
Golf de Baden
Golf de Baden left me perplexed. Driving back to the hotel and writing my review in the back of the minibus I typed it’s a frog in a Cinderella movie, it just needs a green keeper that cares, to come along and give it the kiss of life. You stand on the first tee looking down to a green that has a backdrop of the boats and yachts bobbing away on beautiful Auray river, but the fairway was full of daisies - and we all know how long they take to grow.
Double green at the 7th & 11thYour 2nd shot into the 14th Looking up the 17th fairway
There’s a double green shared between the 7th and 11th holes which could be great holes and the run of holes from the 14th to 18th are stunning with the uphill par 4 17th having a very Augusta/Woburn look as you stare up the fairway from the tee. Hopefully when you play there they will have a green keeper that cares and then you will be raving about this Cinderella track.
Golf Le Lac au Duc
The beautiful setting of the Golf Le Lac au Duc
Staying at the Hotel le Roi Arthur with its 9 hole track, golf du Le Lac au Duc was a pleasure, it has great facilities with the practice putting green and range just yards from the hotel reception. One of the best kept 9 hole tracks I have played, with views of the largest natural lake in Brittany from many of the holes, and the finishing hole running along side the lake.
Golf de Saint Malo
Our final track was the beautiful parkland track of Golf de Saint Malo with the backdrop of the Forest of Mesnil and the lake of Mirloup running through it. You will never forget the par 3 6th hole - at 170 yards you hit your tee shot through a funnel of trees which looks down on the lake and green below. You can’t but help hit a good shot. But the 6th is by no means the only memorable hole, in fact this track is blessed with some great par 3s the others being at the 4th and 11th.
Looking down to the 6th greenThe beautiful setting of the 9th Tight drive on the 10th hole
Brittany left me refreshed and relaxed, with a new-found enthusiasm for the weekend golf break. This long weekend was all highs with only the one low. And that was nothing a good green keeper couldn’t sort out, so you would be green keepers, get your application forms into Golf de Baden now!!!