Normandy has some lovely courses that make for a very pleasant golfing break - Rob Smith visits St Julien near Honfleur
Golf Barrière St Julien Course Review
The Barrière hotel chain in France has more than fifty courses in its international network, one of which is not far from the attractive harbour town of Honfleur and just a short drive from the port at Le Havre. Opened as recently as 1989, it has the feel of something far more mature.
A warm, sunny afternoon in May with a light breeze
There are 27 holes at St Julien with the main course being the par-72 Vallon, or Valley. I played it the day after visiting Omaha Beach, and the Vallon has two distinct nines, the order of which were swapped over a little while ago meaning that it now opens with a wonderful but very demanding par 4. The green has been re-sited across a lake which means that it now calls for a bold and confident approach.
The second is a straightforward short par 4 and this is followed by an excellent par 5 with a semi-blind drive followed by a lay-up or a long shot over the valley in which the water is far wider than it appears. The green is also some way above you, meaning that taking extra artillery is advisable.
A long par 3 leads you to a left-to-right dogleg par 4 where it is easy to block yourself out - trust me - and you then reach the prettiest short hole which is just a short iron over a pond.
Three tough par 4s take you back to the clubhouse, with the final of these being the hardest on the course. Here, the sensible option will often be to play it as a five, aiming short and right with the second.
The back nine is a little less dramatic than the front, running through tighter, mature woodland. At the 11th there is a lovely building behind the green, one of several that decorate the course and remind you where you are.
There is also a real sting in the tail at the closing pair of holes. Seventeen is an extremely difficult par 4 which calls for a long straight drive beyond the corner if there is to be any chance of making it all the way up to the green in two. And at the closing hole, a par 5, you will want to drive down the hill as close to the water as possible.
If you then decide to go for the green, then you may not notice the second lake behind the first until, like me, you see the splash!
With the 9-hole Hedgerow Course for those seeking less of a challenge and a characterful clubhouse, Barrière St Julien makes for a worthwhile golfing stop either as part of a tour, or at the start or end of a journey further afield.
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,200 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during that year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! During the 2021-22 review period, Rob played 36 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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