Review of Golf de Morfontaine
The iconic yet mysteriously elusive private course north of Paris, which seems to scoop up ‘best golf course in France’ nominations year on year. Unlike many of its peers in these top 10 rankings lists, Golf de Morfontaine stands out for its wish to stay anonymous and in doing so it maintains this aurora of enchantment which surrounds the club. Becoming a member of the secretive Templars would probably be easier than getting a tee time here.
I was fortunate enough to play in August 2012 and the whole experience was totally unique. The course is literally in the middle of nowhere, and despite the sounds of a nearby motorway, it is complete bliss. The drive to the clubhouse is long and meanders past a number of holes and on arrival in the car-park, do not be surprised to be one of the only ones there. Millionaire’s golf is apt in more than one sense…
The history of the course is entwined around two men, the Duc de Gramont and Tom Simpson, the legendary golf course designer. The Duc, 34 in 1913, obtained permission from his father to build a 9-hole golf course (La Vallière) for the amusement of his friends and called upon the expertise of the Scottish architect Tom Simpson.
It was only in 1927 that the full 18-hole course (Le Grand Parcours) was completed, again by Tom Simpson, who by this time was incredibly famous in his field. Fast-forward to modern day times, and most recently it was the American Kyle Philips (The Grove, Kingsbarns) who made some slight amends to tee boxes and various greens. But the course you play is nearly identical to the one built in 1927.
The old-fashioned, ivy covered clubhouse is like walking back in time, with very few mod-cons. The interior has kept all of its ageless charm with numerous artefacts and antiques adding to the timeless atmosphere. The comfortable bar has attentive service and beautiful views, either across to the 18th green or down to the 9-hole course.
The course itself feels very much like playing at Swinley Forest in Berkshire, both stuck in time and weaving through ancient woodland and with an abundance of heather. There are impressive rock formations protruding from the ground, especially around the first tee box and on one particular occasion in the middle of the 14th fairway!
The Par-3s are outstanding with the 13th hole being particularly notable. Getting to the green is difficult enough with a tree positioned right in your line of sight and shot. The green itself is another challenge, multi-tiered and lightning fast. It doesn’t matter which hole you are playing, the course is magnificent and there are not enough superlatives to describe the ambiance, layout and character of the place.
If you do get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to golf here, make sure you play the 9-hole course, La Vallière. The greens are spectacular and some of the best examples of Tom Simpson’s creative flair.
- Designer: Tom Simpson
- 27 holes
- Par 70
- Length: 5,836 metres (6,382 yards)
- Slope 126
- Golf club website: http://www.golfdemorfontaine.fr/
- Phone number: 03 44 54 68 27
- Address: 60128 Mortefontaine