Here we’re going to look at the best golf courses in Northern France, an area incredibly popular with British tourists and dotted with some fantastic Top 100 golf courses.
Including a couple of courses from each region, there’ll be some perfectly manicured parkland courses, dense woodland layouts and even authentic links to read about.
See also: The Best Golf Courses in France
An introduction to Northern France
Northern France is a vast area which stretches a huge distance, from the wild and rugged Atlantic coastline of Brittany to piercing into the western side of Germany, the border finishing not far from the city of Stuttgart. It encompasses regions such as Normandy, the Pas-de-Calais which borders Belgium and is where France is at its closest point to England across the English Channel, the Loire Valley, Champagne and Alsace…this place is huge.
The diverse terrain means there is an eclectic mix of different styles of golf courses although the best courses are found in concentrations around Paris (which I covered in another article ‘Best Golf Courses in Paris’) and also in and around Le Touquet in the Pas-de-Calais region (again, covered in this article ‘Golf Courses in Le Touquet’).
Therefore to not simply repeat those articles, I’ve included a wide range of courses trying to take at least one or two from each region (where possible!) to showcase the diverse range on offer. Without further ado, let’s start exploring those best golf courses in northern France.
The best golf courses in Northern France
Golf de Belle Dune (Hauts de France)
This pearl of a course is close to where Picardy borders with Normandy and is incredibly popular with British tourists, either those on a golf break in Le Touquet or alternatively as a stop-off as they journey down into Normandy or Paris.
Belle Dune golf club is literally a tale of two halves, the first nine holes parkland in style which meander through birch and pine trees with undulating fairways and well-protected bunkers.
On the back nine you suddenly emerge into a typical links layout with wide fairways flanked by gorse and at times barely a tree in sight. It is at this point the course is at its closest to the coast with prevailing coastal winds a new challenge to contend with.
Golf de Kempferhof (Grand Est)
As close to Germany as you can get with just the river Rhine separating the two countries, Kempferhof golf club is a beautiful course in a truly majestic setting. As a Robert Von Hagge designed course, you won’t be surprised to hear it is immensely challenging with plenty of hazards and water to contend with.
Although not set in woodland, a large number of holes skirt alongside century-old oak trees giving it a woodland feel. Those holes with no trees are instead characterised by huge bunkers ready to lap up stray tee shots. The fairways are immaculate and the greens are beautifully sculpted. This is a terrific golf course.
Golf de Chantilly ‘Le Vineuil’ (Hauts de France)
Former host to the French Open and one of the oldest golf courses in France, Golf de Chantilly is a superb course. This private member’s club is approximately 45 minutes drive north of Paris and has two courses onsite but it is ‘Le Vineuil’ which rightly earns the plaudits.
At over 6,000 yards from the whites, it is a challenging course to play and one of the reasons no doubt it was selected to host the French Open back in the day. Large patches of long wispy rough line numerous fairways with dog-legs an ever present challenge off the tee. The clubhouse oozes tradition and serves a fantastic lunch – just remember to take a jacket.
Golf des Aisses (Centre/Loire Valley)
The world heritage site of Orléans is a city set within the eastern edge of the Loire Valley and being brutally honest, not somewhere renowned for its golf courses. Yet travel a little further south and you’ll find this gem of a course hidden away in the depths of a vast forest.
Les Aisses golf club was originally opened for play in the 90s but extensively remodelled in 2010 by the legendary Martin Hawtree and it is now a sensational layout. Many of the tee boxes and greens were rebuilt with a couple of new holes created, and the course now rivals many of the best heathland layouts we have in the UK.
Heather and gorse is prevalent everywhere and although the aesthetic is the better for it, unfortunately the scorecard isn’t. The course weaves its way through the ancient forest and unlike many others on this list, is not in the slightest bit pretentious. In fact, quite the opposite, friendly, calm and welcoming.
Golf de Val André (Brittany)
The only golf course located in Brittany to make the list, but a special course it is. Opened in 1992 so a relative newbie compared to some of the other courses here, Val André is a distinctive layout which has on numerous occasions hosted European Challenge Tour events.
It is perched on cliffs overlooking the jagged rocky coastline, with waves of heather stretching through the site. The coastal views come into play in the back-nine with the 11th hole literally a stone’s throw from the sea. Brittany has many courses but this is without doubt one of its finest.
Golf de Fontainebleau (Ile-de-France)
Hidden away in a deep, dense ancient forest, is the iconic and quite unique Fontainebleau golf club. Designed by Tom Simpson and opened for play in 1909, this is one of the oldest golf courses in France but also one of its finest.
The course is regularly ranked in the Top 100 European golf courses and in the Top 10 golf courses in France and for good reason. The layout is quite sensational with holes beautifully crafted through the century old oaks trees. There are over 100 bunkers littering the fairways and protecting the greens whilst dense gorse characterises many holes.
A unique feature which ultimately forms the identity of the course are the numerous natural rock formations, for which the forest is renowned for, which pockmark a number of holes and are best avoided!
Golf d’Hardelot Les Pins (Hauts de France)
Another Tom Simpson designed golf course in France, and another which is nestled away in a dense forest. Yet on this occasion, the forest is primarily pine trees for which the Cote d’Opale region is famous.
One of two courses onsite at Golf d’Hardelot, the other being the fantastic Dunes course, Les Pins is a firm favourite for the tens of thousands of British golfers who travel over on golf breaks year after year.
It was the recipient of significant investment in 2015, of which the main objective of the renovation work was to rediscover and bring out the original Tom Simpson design. With this renovation now complete, Hardelot Les Pins has now firmly established itself as one of the finest golf courses in northern France.
Golf de Granville (Normandy)
One of the few truly authentic links golf courses in France, Granville golf club opened in 1912 but was completely redesigned by the legendary twosome of Harry Colt and Charles Allison in 1921.
The course meanders through the vast coastal sand dunes and apart from the long wispy grasses, there is very little other vegetation. To preserve its authenticity, the course strictly ensures it keeps to the original Colt and Allison design, and regularly re-seeds the original grass types.
This really is golf in its most primordial form and throughout France courses of this style are few and far between. A fantastic day out and a must play if in Normandy or Brittany.
Le Golf National ‘Albatros’ (Ile de France)
There is little to say about the Albatros course at the Golf National many people don’t already know. We all watched in 2018 as the Europeans pummelled the Americans in the Ryder Cup. We also watched as many golfers (on both sides to be fair) struggled with the challenges on offer.
The course is long, the fairways are narrow, there are numerous carries over water, island greens, out of bounds, long rough…where do I stop.This really is championship golf at its finest and without pointing out the obvious, you’ll need to be on top of your game to score well here. If you’re not on top of your game, take plenty of balls and try to remember it’s just a round of golf.
Les Bordes Golf (Centre/Loire Valley)
Les Bordes is the uber-exclusive golf course hidden away deep in the Loire Valley and is one of the finest golf courses in the world, let-alone France.
Designed by the American golf architect Robert Von Hagge, it is also one of the toughest. So much so, if you break 80 playing off the backs, you’ll get your name added to a board in the clubhouse.
When designing the course Von Hagge was essentially given a blank cheque to design his dream course, and what a marvel to behold. Every part of the course is sculpted to the nth degree with the maintenance team ensuring it is kept in pristine condition. Island greens, long carries over water, narrow fairways are all defining features which ruin many a scorecard.
Unfortunately the course is incredibly private and getting a tee time here will prove challenging. That said, they have recently opened their second course, the Gill Hanse designed ‘New Course’, so who knows if we will see them relax the entry conditions.
Golf du Touquet La Mer (Hauts de France)
Like the Pines course at Golf d’Hardelot, La Mer course at Le Touquet golf club is immensely popular with visiting golfers from the other side of the Channel as well as other international golf tourists.
Designed by Harry Colt in the 1930s, La Mer golf course has been a staple on the French golf scene for many a year with it hosting the French Open on a number of occasions. Although it is without doubt a fantastic course, it is a beast to play. Skirting the coastline, the course is nestled deep in the indiginous sand dunes where coastal winds funnel through playing havoc with stray shots.
Like Les Pins course at Hardelot, La Mer also benefited from recent investment to re-establish the original Colt design and this renovation work has without doubt substantially improved the course.
Golf de Morfontaine (Hauts de France)
The last golf course, and arguably the best, Golf de Morfontaine is quite simply one of the finest golf courses in the world. The 18 hole course was designed by Tom Simpson in 1927, fourteen years after at the same venue he’d designed a nine-hole course, which is also quite something.
Located in a vast ancient woodland about an hour’s drive north of Paris, every single hole here is magnificent. The fairways delicately weave through the ancient trees and many are characterised by beautifully sculpted bunkers, a calling card of Tom Simpson’s work. And finally the greens, which are without doubt some of the most undulating I have ever played. There are few simple putts.
Clearly playing such a fantastic course is one thing, but being one of just a handful of people onsite makes for quite a unique day out. Like Les Bordes though, it is a course many people can only aspire to play one day.
There will no doubt be a number of people who read this article and say if we’re talking about the best golf courses in northern France, how can we not have included the sublime Golf de Saint-Germain in the Parisian outskirts, or the wonderful Golf Club Champ de Bataille in Normandy? Or how about the Jack Nicklaus designed Paris International Golf Club or even the sensational Golf Parc de Robert Hersant?
Well quite frankly, they would be right. But as I alluded to at the beginning of this article, my aim here was to showcase a range and variety of the best golf courses across the whole region. That said, if that’s what you’re after, why not check out my take on the best golf courses in France.