Review of Golf de Vidauban (Prince de Provence)
In every country there is a collection of golf courses that remain elusive and sadly out-of-reach, unless you happen to have a well-connected friend, know a member or have incredibly deep pockets.
Within the UK, this includes the likes of Swinley Forest, Queenswood, Loch Lomond, Wentworth. In the US you have the likes of Augusta, Cypress Point, Pine Valley etc. In France these include Morfontaine near Paris and Les Bordes along the Loire Valley. There are others but none share the same prestige as these two.
Except for one.
In the heart of the French Riviera, otherwise known as the Cote d’Azur, and an hour’s drive from Cannes, is the uber-exclusive Golf de Vidauban, also known as ‘Le Prince de Provence’…I’ll save you the translation on that.
It is a course wrapped in mystery and intrigue although sadly, less for the quality of the course but the number of court cases that have been brought against the club. That said, the evolution of Vidauban is entwined with that of the Trent Jones’, specifically Robert Trent Jones Sr and his son, who in the 70s bought 2,500 acres of land and had bold ambitions of building a number of courses, hosting great tournaments and erecting numerous exclusive villas.
Aside from the course that is there today, none of the rest came to fruition. To cut a long story short, there were decades of legal and planning issues nearly bankrupting Trent Jones, to the degree that there is not an ‘official’ clubhouse onsite.
Many years later and legal challenges now well in the past, the club is home to a small collection of members who essentially play millionaire’s golf whenever they play, as the likelihood is, there will be no one else there.
So to the golf course. I was lucky enough to receive an invite to play here back in March 2018 and it is an experience I will never forget. My colleague and I were the only two people onsite, aside from the person who welcomed us working in the clubhouse.
Before even getting to the first tee, we were taken away by the views over the rolling Provencal hills from the range tees. And it is this stunning panorama you enjoy from pretty much every hole. Simply put, the course is outstanding and without a shadow of doubt, one of the greatest golf courses not just in Europe, but globally.
The course design is simply genius. Every hole has been meticulously crafted using the local landscape to great effect. In fact when playing the course I couldn’t help but think I was playing on the Algarve, with the pine trees, dramatic barren wasteland lining fairways, it really was unique and nothing like other French golf courses I’d experienced.
There are too many great holes to list here. The first is a relatively gentle opener albeit with a strategically placed pine tree to stop the tiger line approach. The second hole is sublime. A significant carry over wasteland to a fairway which veers left to right again with strategically placed pines and a sizeable bunker penalising the tiger line.
The fourth hole is a fantastic par 3 over water flanked by bunkers, with sensational views across the Provencal landscape. The sixth hole is stunning, the seventh has a tricky tee shot followed by attacking a green over water. The tenth looks tight from the tee, but is deceptively open. I could go on and on. The one consistent theme is just how exceptional each of these holes are with no abating on the back nine.
Robert Trent Jones may not have built the multiple golf courses and hosted the fifth major here, but by god has he designed a masterpiece. The massive shame is how few people will get to enjoy the course.