Green with envy


The French golf experience can be far superior to that on British courses. Ben McPartland tees off on one of the very best

My only complaint about playing the magnificent La Bretesche course was that the ball I struck so sweetly off the 17th tee did not roll a further eight centimetres to give me what would have been my first hole-in-one. Sadly it was not to be, but tapping in for a birdie with the magical Ch�teau de la Bretesche as the backdrop was the highlight of a memorable day’s golf.

The ch�teau sits next to the H�tel et Spa de la Bretesche, part of the Relais & Ch�teaux collection, and was rebuilt in 1847 after being destroyed during the French Revolution. It may only decorate the setting of a few of the 18 holes but its grandeur and location on the edge of a lake sets the ambience for the entire course.

The 6th, 17th and particularly the lakeside 9th hole, where you swing your club towards its spires, provide the high points. But the rest of the holes, most of which are carved out of the dense woodland, offer a great contrast and a stern challenge.

The course is situated in the grounds of the 1,100-hectare Domaine de la Bretesche which stands on the border between Brittany and the Loire Valley. It is suitable for all abilities and those beginners who might enjoy the idea of improving their game in stunning surroundings will be not be too intimidated by the 18 holes here.

If, like me, your golf swing is susceptible to rustiness, then the small and serene driving range will give you a chance to fine-tune it before teeing off.

As I am a relatively twitchy novice, playing in peace at my own pace without a queue of golfers behind me is vital to stop me slicing each shot out of bounds, so teeing off early on an afternoon late in March was perfect. With the season not yet in full swing there was no need to share tee-off slots and at times I felt as if I were the only player at La Bretesche.

This sense of isolation and tranquillity was even greater when playing the woodland holes where the tall trees that line the fairways provide a natural corridor and a barrier to the rest of the course.

So peaceful is La Bretesche that the only real chance of you being distracted from your shot is by the sound of birds chirping or the distant hum of a gardener’s lawnmower.

The Domaine’s setting gave English golfing legend Henry Cotton outstanding natural surroundings with which to play when he designed the course in the mid-1960s. A player with a low handicap may have liked him to have come up with a few more technically challenging features, but for most golfers, La Bretesche will provide a worthy test of their skills.

The wide fairways, particularly at the 4th and 13th holes, both par five, encourage you to unleash that swing and there are enough tricky bunkers, particularly the one that encircles the 18th green, to keep you on your toes.

The trademark boomerang hole at the par four 8th gives the more gifted golfers a chance to calculate their angles and adjust their swing or, if you are like me, an excuse to play safe.

Despite the fact I played at the start of the season the course was in tip-top condition with immaculate greens and neatly trimmed fairways. One Scottish couple who regularly cross the Channel to play La Bretesche told me the course was always in pristine shape.

So all in all La Bretesche will provide you with a memorable day’s golf, whether or not you get a hole-in-one.

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