Golf in France is one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. While most Americans think of Scotland or Ireland as the ultimate destination for golf in Europe, Northern Europeans have already discovered the natural beauty and moderate prices of the courses in a part of their continent where the weather and culture can’t be beat. The Rhone/Alpes region is home to the “real France”, where old castles and villages surrounding the Rhone dot the hills of the Ardeche Mountains, a region inhabited by very friendly, hospitable people. This is truffle and wine country, so the food and drink found here at the 19th holes are superb. We were able to have a meal at the fabulous gourmet restaurant, Michel Chabran, feasting on delicately prepared courses of regional cuisine and sampling Rhone Valley wines.
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The course is the most southerly in the Rhone Alps region and meanders through natural water hazards including a beautiful river that runs through several of the holes. With slight elevation changes and mature trees, this course is a wonderfully natural experience, although often tempered by mountain winds. The Par 71, 6139 yards course, designed by Tom Macauley, is playable by all, no matter the handicap. Number 9 is the most challenging hole with a 200-yard carry over water off the tee, followed by another long iron over the lake into the green.
The next day we played at Domain de Saint Clair Annonay, located on the grounds of an 18th century castle. Nestle between the Ardeche Mountains and the Rhone Valley, the course is breathtakingly natural and features panoramic views on 172 acres of countryside, framed by century-old trees. A sense of peace and solitude exude from this tract, which plays at 6328 yards, Par 72. The adjoining hotel is a swanky, but affordable, three star hotel that feels much more like a four star, complete with gourmet restaurant.
Our last stop was the Golf Club of Albon Senaud, meandering through hills around the majestic castle of Senaud. 296 acres of elevation changes, streams and lakes make each hole entirely unique. You know that you’re in for a treat from the first tee, where you see a picturesque lake, protecting a pristine green framed by the majestic castle of Senaud. A creek meanders through the back nine, providing a peaceful, although challenging, character to your finish. Built in 1990, the course has somehow developed a mature feel.
For more information about the Rhone/Alpes region, go to www.rhonealpes-tourism.us.
Photos by: Warren Keating