By Alex Narey
To complement Robert von Hagge’s Old course at the exclusive Les Bordes estate in France's Loire Valley region some 90 miles south west of Paris, Gil Hanse’s New course was opened for play this summer and brings more of a heathland feel to the American-style target golf of its older sibling.
Unlike Les Bordes Old Course, where water features prominently on 11 of its 18 holes, the New's defences are characterised by deep pot bunkers and huge sloping greens.
Visually, Hanse's design is an absolute delight, and when combined with the 10-hole Wild Piglet – a devilish short course which was also designed by Hanse and is rated among the top 25 par-3 courses in the world – Les Bordes’ members are now treated to the full golfing experience (for which they pay a handsome fee to enjoy).
To celebrate the New’s opening, Golf Monthly was invited to play both courses at Les Bordes, staying on site at the luxury member cabins and getting a sneak peak at future investment plans after the estate was taken over in 2018 by a consortium consisting of the principals of RoundShield Partners.
These include the development of an on-site luxury hotel and spa and a village square with shops and restaurants, while a number of residential villas are set to be developed for the big spenders.
The global allure of Les Bordes is greater than ever, with members of Pine Valley, Merion, Riviera, Sunningdale, Friar’s Head, Royal St George’s, Royal Melbourne and Morfontaine – another of France’s finest layouts – among approximately the 140 members who have joined the club under its new ownership.
The Les Bordes lifestyle may not be to everyone’s budget, but it at least offers a glimpse of how its owners are looking to create the ultimate millionaires’ playground.
Playing Les Bordes New Course
A short buggy drive from the Old and Les Bordes’ clubhouse, Hanse's New course uses the natural surroundings of the Sologne Forest and immediately you realise this is an all-together different test.
The first course to be designed by Hanse in continental Europe, the design is no doubt inspired by the work of legendary golf course architect Tom Simpson, who has left such an indelible mark on a number of heathland gems throughout the Surrey sandbelt.
Hanse said: “We visited the site and fell in love with the entire property.
“It is very different, which I think is a positive as members will have two very different golfing experiences.
“We realised there was the potential to create some bold and dramatic features and strategies or options on the golf course.
“We could create a layout that would be in balance with the low-profile nature of the site, with these more dramatic hole features adding drama to the golf course.”
Featuring large bunkers, subtle elevation changes and incredible green complexes, the layout measures 7,211 yards from the back tees but can play shorter than its overall length due to the firm and fast-playing conditions.
There is a wonderful opening to the course, with the elevated tee shot on the 1st setting up a birdie opportunity if you can get a good drive away.
Unlike the Old, there is some forgiveness with the New, notably off the tee and also with your approach shots.
The big test for many will come on the greens, where sweeping contours will punish anything that does not hit the required landing zone.
From the tee, you have the opportunity to open your shoulders – and on some holes you will need to.
Notably, the par-4 5th hole – the course’s stroke-index-one – is a beast for a two-shotter at 499 yards and a whopping 516 from the backs, while the layout’s eclectic nature comes to the fore two holes later with a tiddler of a par 3 at 126 yards.
But beware: you are faced with another fiendishly sloping green and anything long will run off the back, leaving you with a very difficult up-and-down for par.
The back nine is far more tree-lined and, as such, more demanding from the tee (although driver is still the smart play), while a number of deep traps come into play.
However, a good long game will be rewarded and the 280-yard par-4 15th is one of the stand-out holes, with bunkers well placed to challenge those who take on the green.
It all sets up for a grandstand finish with the closing hole, a par 5 where water – a rare sight on the New – comes into play as you take on the green in two.
A wonderful finish to a wonderful golf course.
17th – A great par 3 of 160 yards with one of the course’s deepest traps lurking at the front of the green. Another sloping putting surface continues to ask questions.
5th – Long, long and long. Only the biggest hitters will be threatening the green in two and even when you’re there, it slopes back to front and three-putts loom.
Why not fly in style?
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