Hole lot of fun: golf in Aquitaine

Golf has been played in Aquitaine for more than 150 years – and now’s the time to join the club

At most golf courses, the pro shop sells a mixture of clubs, stylish clothing, and accessories: balls, tees and so on. But at the Golf du Médoc, there is also an impressive selection of fine wines – 37 of them: one for each of the course’s 36 holes, and one for the putting green. On the course, the distance markers are bottle-shaped. Just in case there might be any doubt, here is the evidence that this championship course is located in the heart of some serious wine country.

The Golf du Médoc, which has hosted the French Open championship, offers two courses in one. “Les Châteaux” was designed 21 years ago by the American architect Bill Coore, and each of its 18 holes is sponsored by a grand cru wine chateau.

It is a traditional links course with wide fairways, contrasting with the more wooded terrain of the 18-hole “Vignes” course. Many of the golfing world’s best-known names have played here; but part of the appeal of the Golf du Médoc, according to its general manager, Vincent Paris, is it is accessible to golfers of all levels. “It’s playable – no matter who you are, you can enjoy it, even a beginner.”

An added attraction is the hotel, a low-rise modern building with excellent facilities, that was built three years ago and seamlessly integrated into the landscape.

Vincent Paris attributes the popularity of the Aquitaine region as a golfing destination to its diversity and its golfing culture. This can be put down to two Scottish army officers stationed in southern France during the Napoleonic wars. Eager to keep up their golfing skills, they travelled with their clubs and practised wherever they could. The countryside around Pau particularly appealed, and they later returned on holiday with friends. A British colony established itself, and in 1856 a golf club was opened. The French were slow to join in, and the club declined, but in 1960 the Pau Golf Club was restored to its Victorian glory, and can now claim to be the oldest in mainland Europe.

With a bar that looks like an English pub, Pau Golf Club is popular for its British atmosphere and for the unexpected challenges it can pose even for a talented golfer.

“People think that, because the course is short, they will play well,” says Nicolas Barraud, the golf director at Pau. “But it’s tricky. There are plenty of bunkers and water hazards.” Barraud says the course, designed nearly |150 years ago, has little in common with some of the region’s more modern offerings; nevertheless, the Pau Golf Club remains popular with golfers. “I think they like it that the greens are well protected, there are lots of hazards, and it’s scenic, too.”

Like Pau, on the edge of the Jurançon wine region, a number of courses are surrounded by vineyards, including the Golf des Graves et du Sauternais. The 18-hole course is long and technical, set in attractive flat, wooded countryside. The course is playable all year round: two days of snow this winter which caused it to close were exceptional.

The club’s president, Jacqueline Couerbe, has noticed it attracts plenty of English visitors. “I think it’s popular not just for the golf but because of the vineyards and the local cultural heritage. And of course because of the food. One of our specialities is caviar from the local sturgeon.”

Several golf courses provide accommodation, making it possible to combine even more easily the attractions of golf with food, wine and visits to the local cultural landmarks. Deep in the heart of the vineyards of Bergerac is the Château des Vigiers, a property that dates back to the late 16th century and which has been restored and upgraded into a luxury hotel. In front of the building is a 17th-century dovecote; a 27-hole golf course fans out all around.

Strenuous efforts were made, when the course was built, not to disturb the existing landscape, so there are vineyards around the perimeter, and some of the original plum orchards remain at the side of the fairways. The fruit is never formally harvested, but golfers in need of a sugar boost are encouraged to help themselves to a snack.

The original 18-hole course at Château des Vigiers combined an area of wide-open fairways, “Les Vignes” – “a forgiving course, although not easy”, according to Azzedine Chabi, who is in charge of golf – with “Le Lac”, nine holes surrounded by trees and water. Two years ago, “La Vallée” was opened, to provide a further nine holes that are longer, very technical and more challenging. There is also a six-hole academy course, to enable golfers to practise on something more realistic than a driving range.

All this means the Château des Vigiers can offer, in effect, three 18-hole courses, an attraction for golfers who want to stay for more than a couple of days without sacrificing variety. “The nearest course is more than an hour away,” says Chabi, “and people don’t want that. But with our facilities, very few people want to play elsewhere.”

Chabi comes from Morocco, and travelled widely before settling in Aquitaine. He is in no doubt the region is attractive for golfers. “It’s real countryside. The food and wine are important, and the transport is good. And it’s just very relaxing.”


* Golf du Médoc: Chemin de Courmateau, Le Pian Médoc; 00 33 556 703 131; golf-du-medoc.com

* Pau Golf Club: Rue du Golf, Billère; 00 33 559 131 856; paugolfclub.com

* Golf des Graves et du Sauternais: Lac de Seguin, St-Pardon-de-Conques; 00 33 556 622 543; golf-des-graves.com

* Château des Vigiers: Le Vigier, Monestier; 00 33 553 615 000; vigiers.fr

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Day In a Page

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works