What we say
An exclusive club in the mould of a Swinley Forest. Delightful old English design winding its way through wooded heathland. Bundles of character as you might expect from one of Britain’s legendary designers.
After years of trying I finally got on Morfontaine. Appealing to their sense of noblesse oblige, I successfully grovelled my way into this gem of a course. They finally came round and realised that it wasn’t going to kill them to let this crazy, but well-mannered American play their course.
I would agree with Tom Doak, who classified Morfontaine as one of the hardest to find golf courses in the world. The ivy-covered clubhouse is reminiscent of a cosy, hunting lodge. Above the fireplace in the clubhouse is a putter made out of gold, given to the club by Cartier.
The Championship course (there are also nine holes which make up the Valliere, built in 1911) was built in 1927 by the Englishman Tom Simpson, who was commissioned by the 12th Duc du Grammont. Simpson sounds like my sort of guy, because he frequently wore a cloak and beret and was driven around in a silver Rolls-Royce.
Taking my obsession with the game to new levels, I had both of Morfontaine’s club histories translated into English so that I could learn about the place before playing it.
It has a rich history, particularly in the 1940s. The course was over-run in June 1940 by the Third Reich when they captured Paris. The Germans drove Panzer tanks on the course and caused deep ruts in many of the fairways and greens.
In the post war period, the course was played by the rich and famous, including Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, The Kings of Spain and Belgium and the Duke of Windsor. General Eisenhower played the course before the war and was very fond of it.
It is built in a forest and has an abundance of heather. It is reminiscent of the heathland courses outside London. It reminds me at times of Woodhall Spa and Walton Heath. The soil is naturally sandy and the course is an absolute work of art. It has that certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from anywhere I have ever played before.
At 6,580 yards off the tips, with a par of 70, it is not a long course but demands accuracy off the tee. It is a very good walking course, with tee boxes close to previous greens. Simpson designed very large greens at Morfontaine and left many of the natural rocky outcrops in place, which adds to the character of the course.
The 7th hole, a right-to-left dog-leg, is a very tough 430-yard par 4, with a blind tee shot over heather and rocks. The fairway at the landing area slopes sharply from left to right, but if you can cut the corner of the hill on the left, you only have a short shot to the green. The 9th is a short par 4 (378 yards) that plays from an elevated tee and has a forced carry over heather. As is often the case here, overhanging trees come into play.
The best stretch of holes are from the 13th to the 16th. The 13th is a short par 3 (150 yards, pictured here) with a huge tree directly between you and the multi-tiered green. Simpson was an iconoclast, and you really feel his unique style on this hole.
The 14th is another short par 4 (379 yards) with a fairway that slopes left to right with a distracting “snake” rock outcrop in the middle of the fairway. The rock looks like someone sculpted it, but in fact it is naturally shaped like a snake’s head.
Morfontaine is a very private, old-fashioned members club, with all the baggage and privilege which this entails. In keeping with the French aversion to commercialism, the “pro shop” is a cupboard with some shirts in it. You know when the ‘pro shop’ is open when they open the door and put the light on in the cupboard.
Truth be told, I have always loved France; the food, the wine, the language, the culture, the sense of style, the cinema, the countryside and the women. What I hadn’t realised was that an hour north of Paris is one of the greatest courses I have ever seen or played. Merci beaucoup.
By John Sabino, a golf blogger who has set out to play the top 100 courses in the world. Read him at http://top100golf.blogspot.com.
Morfontaine Golf Club offer two golf courses, both of which were designed by Tom Simpson. The first of which, Vallière, consists of 9 holes, and was first opened in 1913 on a former polo field, and the other, Le Grand Parcours (The Grand Course), consisting of 18 holes, was first opened in 1927. The courses feature tree lined fairways and strategically placed bunkers guarding the greens.
- Costs -
- TG Rating
- Players Rating
- Address 60128 Mortefontaine, ,
- Tel +33 344 546827
- Website www.golfdemorfontaine.fr
|Green Fees||With a member only|
|Course Length||6,633 yards (6,065 metres)|
- Course has: Bar
- Course has: Buggy Hire
- Course has: Driving Range
- Course does not have: Practice Green
- Course has: Pro Shop
- Course has: Restaurant
- Course has: Trolley Hire
- Course has: Dress Code
- Course has: Club Hire
- Course does not have: Handicap