France is set to stage 2018's biggest event in golf - so there's never been a better time to visit our European neighbours
They eyes of the golf world will be on France this autumn, when 24 of the leading golfers in the world face each other in the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on the south-western outskirts of Paris.
It will be only the second time a course outside Britain or America has hosted the Ryder Cup, following Valderrama in 1997. Le Golf National is part of a wealth of options around the capital city, which also incorporate classics such as Chantilly and Fontainbleau.
In contrast, 2018's Ryder Cup has only existed for a couple of decades. Built on farmland as at as a pancake, it was moulded and sculpted beautifully using land fill – rubbish to you and I – to create an interesting American-style course dominated by numerous water hazards.
There are as many as six Top 100 venues dotted around the capital, which is where the country's cream lies. However France has real depth, with tremendous offerings further north - and therefore highly convenient for the British golfer - in Normandy (starring Etretat, Granville, St Julien and Vaudreuil), Brittany (led by Pleneuf Val Andre, Dinard and St Malo) and especially the Opal Coast (where Hardelot and Le Touquet offer Top 100 class). France's quality stretches all the way from Calais to its south coast, though, and it is to the south we will focus on in this special France section.
The South West
With five Top 100 courses very close to each other and a fifth, Golf du Medoc, a few miles up the coast on the outskirts of Bordeaux, this is an exceptional golf region. A sixth option, Chateau des Vigiers (below), sits further inland in vineyard country.
Chateau des Vigiers
The quartet that are packed exceptionally close to each other are Seignosse, Chiberta, Hossegor and Moliets. Seignosse is a beautiful but tough Robert Von Hagge course among mature trees and natural water features while Chiberta is part parkland, part seaside. Hossegor is routed among mature trees while Moliets is a Trent Jones design headlined by a fabulous four-hole stretch next to the ocean.
Golf du Medoc has two fantastic courses and a super four-star hotel. Le Chateaux was laid out by Bill Coore in 1989 and is a heathland very much in the ilk of Walton Heath. It is backed up by the equally attractive Vignes.
To the east is Chateau des Vigiers, an enchanting 27-hole resort near Bergerac with a 16th century chateau at its heart. It has made a wide range of improvements for the 2018 golf season. Upgraded bunkers and buggy tracks, renovated bedrooms and changing rooms, a sumptuous new wine cellar in its Michelin-star restaurant and a newly- renovated Spa and hydrotherapy pool are just some of the highlights. It is ideal for a golf break in classic French wine country. A stay here has been enhanced by the opening nearby of Saint Emillionais, Tom Doak's first design in mainland Europe.
Golf du Medoc hotel
The South East
This region of France is home to the France's premier resort, with a European Top 100 course – one that is closing in on the top 10 – as well as a second course that is a very, very solid complement. Le Chateau was designed by Dave Thomas and is immaculately manicured. It winds across, up and down a classical 'garrigue' (countryside), with the sights and smells of the famous rural region accompanying one of the continent's great experiences.
Equally as impressive is the attached hotel, which is not just one of the best golf hotels in France, it is one of the best hotels in France full stop. It boasts every amenity and luxury, and go here in August and it is clear to see why it is so popular with British families on holiday.
Other excellent options in the French Riviera include St Endreol, which boasts a fine golf course as well as spa and treatment facilities, tennis courts, a jogging trail, restaurant, bar and café, as well as a healthy dash of Provencal art de vivre. Pont Royal is another superb option, the only Seve Ballesteros design in France. It opened in 1992 and takes golfers through pine woods and typical Provencal scenery.
Many holes have a plateau setting, with views to the Luberon and Alpilles mountains. Accommodation is offered in the four-star Moulin de Vernegues, part of the Châteaux & Hôtels Collection, or in apartments, villas and houses within the pedestrianised Pierre & Vacances village. Founded a year after Pont Royal, Royal Mougins Golf Resort is the French Riviera's only golf resort.
Voted 'France's Best Golf Hotel' at the World Golf Awards in 2016 and 2017, the resort is situated less than four miles from the centre of the glamourous resort town of Cannes. Laid out in a wooded vale and designed by Von Hagge, this reworked 6,566-yard course winds around scenic wooded vales, rivers and lakes – several with picturesque waterfalls. The resort also features an exclusive four- star hotel with suites, a restaurant and a huge spa and fitness centre.
The climate: Not unlike the British climate in the north but the south has an extended summer period of early May to late September. The south-west isn't quite as nice as the south-east.
When to go: May to September for warm weather but the south-east can be very nice all year round.
Getting there: You can fly all over France cheaply and hire a car but we like the EuroTunnel option. Paris is just three hours' drive from Calais.
Travel Tip: Low-cost carriers go to lots of regional airports all over the country, but if you are not visiting anywhere south of Paris, we advise taking the EuroTunnel. It's cheap, flexible and having your own car with you is just so convenient.