Golf Blog

Oui, France, Oui!

With The Ryder Cup coming to France in 2018, I deemed it necessary to visit Paris before Patrick Reed gets his "shush" on and angers the French fan base.  I was able to sneak in one last 2017 trip and my partner in golf crime was Stephanie Wei.

When a normal person thinks about France, they think of the Eiffel Tower, French bread, and maybe some of those silly hats.  For me, I think... "I bet they got some cool golf courses out there."  Now, France is not well known for it's golf, but in this post, I uncover some gems and play some courses that are definitely not on your radar.  When you pair those gems up with the typical French destinations, you have got yourself a serious golf vacation.

Our first round of golf was at France's finest links course, Golf De Granville.  The course is an HS Colt design and is a time tested routing.  Like any true links test, we faced Granville in a pretty good side-ways downpour.  I started out with 2 great shots and a 3 putt par.  The golf party was on.

The clubhouse behind the 9th green.

The clubhouse behind the 9th green.

I love a good riveted bunker.

I love a good riveted bunker.

On June 6th 1944 US, British, and Canadian troops stormed Omaha Beach on World War II's infamous D-Day.  Today, France is no longer occupied by German forces and instead of Nazi soldiers, there is a golf course on the bluffs above the beach.  Fittingly, the beach was getting stormed, with rain, as we put our tees in the ground at the Omaha Beach Golf Club.  Eventually the rain would lift and we would enjoy a gap in the clouds.

The 6th hole finishes right on the edge of the bluff overlooking the sea.

The 6th hole finishes right on the edge of the bluff overlooking the sea.

A view of Omaha Beach from behind the 6th hole.

A view of Omaha Beach from behind the 6th hole.

After storming Omaha, we were off to Le Golf National, the host course for the 2018 Ryder Cup.  As we rolled up to the course we caught a glimpse of the rolling WHITE fairways.  To our despair, snow had covered the course the night before and we would not be able to play.

However, the snow and frost would not stop us from touring the course, getting some great pictures, and enjoying the day.

Le Golf National is perfectly suited to host a large professional championship.  With stadium seating on just about every hole, the Ryder Cup experience is sure to be a good one for the spectators.  The French fan base has already gotten their tickets with the event selling out in around an hour.  

The sun rises over a chilly 16th at Le Golf National.

The sun rises over a chilly 16th at Le Golf National.

The most prominent and challenging string of holes at Le Golf National is on holes 15-18.  Players will need to be both long and accurate on this key stretch if they want to stay dry and put points on the board.  There is sure to be some spectacular drama come September 2018.  Early odds are 10:1 that someone chucks a putter in the pond.

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They have the flags up and the carts fully charged.  Le Golf National is Ryder Cup ready.

They have the flags up and the carts fully charged.  Le Golf National is Ryder Cup ready.

The frozen 15th and 18th greens.  You will want the Ryder Cup matches to make it to these holes.

The frozen 15th and 18th greens.  You will want the Ryder Cup matches to make it to these holes.

After a solid scouting of the Ryder Cup venue, it was time to take in some of the French scenery.  There is an endless amount of obvious attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles to see in the Paris area.  We did our best to see what we could in a short amount of time.

"Look at all of the gold and rich stuff in there."

"Look at all of the gold and rich stuff in there."

Stephanie Wei  is happy to be in Versailles.

Stephanie Wei is happy to be in Versailles.

The fine folks over at  De Vinis Illvstribvs  had us out for a drink in Paris.  Even as a non drinker, I enjoyed the wine tasting.

The fine folks over at De Vinis Illvstribvs had us out for a drink in Paris.  Even as a non drinker, I enjoyed the wine tasting.

Arc De Triomphe pose.

Arc De Triomphe pose.

Successful high kicks start with consistent stretching.

Successful high kicks start with consistent stretching.

For a golfer, the ideal way to take in the Eiffel Tower is obviously from the golf course.  That is exactly what you get at Golf de Saint Cloud.  Since St Cloud is a private club, the course isn't accessible to all tourists.  Fortunately, it's not Augusta and if you are interesting in experiencing this one of a kind golf experience, it's entirely possible.   You would just need to contact Private Golf Key for the details.  Just ask for Olivier and tell 'em Large Marge sent, ya.   Mentioning this blog post also works.

Two greens and the Eiffel Tower.  Golf courses don't pose much better than this.

Two greens and the Eiffel Tower.  Golf courses don't pose much better than this.

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Next up on the agenda was a visit to the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Cannes.  The IGTM is an annual get together of countries and tourism boards looking to promote golf and tourism within their countries.  It is a big deal and you get a really good idea of some of the amazing golf outside of the US.  As if my list of countries to golf in needed to get any longer.

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After a serious rain fest at nearby Golf de Saint Donat, it was finally time for the sun to come out.  We tackled the Golf de Grande Bastide on a brisk but sun filled afternoon.  The course is set amongst the foothills of the Niçoise hinterland and has a strong Southern France vibe to it.  We had a tense 3 way duel that included several clutch putts with an overabundance of 3 putts.

High above the partially frozen fairways of Grande Bastide.

High above the partially frozen fairways of Grande Bastide.

After a spirited day on the links it was time to kick off the IGTM.  With France hosting the Ryder Cup in 2018, the country is set for a huge year in golf and the IGTM coming to Cannes was no coincidence.  The Mayor of Cannes and the officials in charge of the Ryder Cup welcomed us and talked briefly about the unique opportunity that France has to assert itself as a legitimate golf destination.  France is not going to replace Ireland or Scotland but any visit to France should certainly involve several trips to the golf course.

The IGTM took place in the The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the same venue as the Cannes Film Festival

The IGTM took place in the The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the same venue as the Cannes Film Festival

The Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, kicks things off with a ribbon cutting.

The Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, kicks things off with a ribbon cutting.

After a full day scouting the various golf destinations of the world, we decided to head down the street and actually visit one of them.

Good times in Cannes with Leo.

Good times in Cannes with Leo.

It's hard to capture the serene feeling that the surrounding trees on the Old Course provide.  

It's hard to capture the serene feeling that the surrounding trees on the Old Course provide.  

The Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia founded the Old Course at Cannes Mandelieu in 1891 and the routing would later be altered by HS Colt.  The most beautiful aspect of the course is without a doubt the canopy of trees that surrounds just about every hole. While it is not long at only 6,300 yards it is certainly a very enjoyable round of golf.

I teed it up with 2 Frenchman who did not speak a word of English.  Since I did not speak a word of French, there was not a lot of chit chat.  However, all 3 of us spoke the language of golf and we traded groans, grunts, and fist bumps as the highs and lows of our rounds unfolded.  

Even though we did not talk, I would rank my playing partners high on the enjoyability scale.  If you have the opportunity to play with someone and only communicate through golf noises, I would recommend it.

I only had to punch out 3 times on the 4th hole.

I only had to punch out 3 times on the 4th hole.

The short 16th was my favorite of the par 3's.

The short 16th was my favorite of the par 3's.

With only one course left to play in France. we were lucky enough to play one of France's finest.  We were headed out for some twilight action at Golf Country Club de Cannes Mougins.  The course hosted the Cannes Open in the 1980's and 1990's featuring winners such as Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.  If you only have time to play one course in the Cannes area, this is the course you want to play.

Long Shadows.

Long Shadows.

Longer Shadows!

Longer Shadows!

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If you are interested in creating your own French experience please reach out to Paris' premier golf & art de vivre travel concierge, Private Golf Key.  The CÔTE D'AZUR website is also a great French reference.

Our trip to France ended in Cannes with a fantastic party that generated this awful selfie of me attempting to lick the Ryder Cup.  As an FYI, I google image searched "People licking the Ryder Cup" and found lots of people kissing, posing, and drinking from the cup, but as far as I can tell I am the first person in history to lick it.  According to my nieces, cooties only last a week, so we should be good to go come presentation time in 2018.

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Scotland

After an inspiring trip to Ireland that included 13 rounds of golf in 8 days, I wanted more.  With Scotland just a short plane ride away, I decided to board that plane and meet up with a serious crew of golf nuts.

  • Ashley Mayo - Trip planner and ring leader of the golf circus.  This critically acclaimed Golf Digest Editor was also celebrating a birthday.
  • Jeff Blind - As the boyfriend of Ashley, Jeff is often referred to as Mr Mayo on hotel reservations.  However, standing at 6'6" Jeff holds his own on the golf course.
  • Jeff Filer - A second Jeff, standing at what feels like 7'2".  Thats over 13' feet of Jeff to deal with.
  • Shane Bacon - Fresh off his broadcast at the US Open, Shane brought his handsome face and swing speeds exceeding 115 mph.
  • Tom Murray - A master of the quip and pee your pants one liners, Tom brings the comedic heat. As a special treat, Tom will host the Paper Plate Awards at the end of this post.
  • Hally Leadbetter - Hally is a recovering tour pro on staff with Golf Digest.  This girl can golf her ball.
  • Chris Solomon - Chris is the driving force behind the No Laying Up podcast.  True to his game, Chris would not lay up once during the trip.

It is claimed that golf was first played in the village of Cruden Bay in 1791.  100 years later, Old Tom Morris of St Andrews and Archie Simpson would design Cruden Bay Golf Club in 1899. The course was then redesigned by Tom Simpson and Herbert Fowler in the 1920's.  Our group would hit our golf balls 226 years after the 1st golf ball was struck on this land.

Chris Solomon pounds one deep at Cruden Bay's 6th hole.

Chris Solomon pounds one deep at Cruden Bay's 6th hole.

After a rousing start to the golf trip, things were about to get nasty.  Carnasty at Carnoustie that is.  With winds gusting into the 40mph range on one of the toughest tests in golf, the golf battle was on.

Since The Open is coming to Carnoustie in 2018, it was important for our team to test the merits of the layout.  Even though they have been golfing here since 1850 and our opinions don't "officially" matter, we approved this course for Open play.

I always remember to pose as hard as I golf.

I always remember to pose as hard as I golf.

Photo bombed my way through Cruden Bay today. Hey, hey.

A post shared by Patrick Koenig (@pjkoenig) on

Tom would smoke his the 3 wood into the wind on the difficult 17th "Island" hole at Carnoustie.  You can sense the amazement in the face of the caddie as Tom finds the green.

Tom would smoke his the 3 wood into the wind on the difficult 17th "Island" hole at Carnoustie.  You can sense the amazement in the face of the caddie as Tom finds the green.

Hally would find the sand often at Carnoustie, this one would also find the bottom of the cup for birdie.

Hally would find the sand often at Carnoustie, this one would also find the bottom of the cup for birdie.

After a long and tumultuous internet romance between Shane and Chris, this would be the first time that they would actually meet in person.  With expectations high for a life altering introduction, things were surprisingly normal and there were no uncomfortable Butler Cabin moments or sloppy make out sessions.  

With it often being difficult to obtain a tee time to play the Old Course, Crail is a fantastic option just down the road.  With most of the holes offering fantastic views of the North Sea, Crail will satisfy your golfing soul.

The par 3 14th hole at Crail greets you on your arrival to the Balcomie Course.

The par 3 14th hole at Crail greets you on your arrival to the Balcomie Course.

After a successful morning round at Carnoustie, half of our group would tackle the Old Course at St Andrews.  The other half would head to the Golfing Society of Crail. 

Here we have Jeff Blind finding the green, Jeff Filer looking on, and Tom Murphy looking on in sheer amazement.

Here we have Jeff Blind finding the green, Jeff Filer looking on, and Tom Murphy looking on in sheer amazement.

The view from the 1st hole at Crail's Balcomie Course.

The view from the 1st hole at Crail's Balcomie Course.

Since only half of our group had played The Old Course, the other half needed to get up early and wait in line to get a tee time for that day.  After chatting with the starter, we were advised that getting in line between 3am and 4am should put us in a good position to be sprinkled into the tee sheet as singles throughout the morning.

After a good 2 hours of sleep, we walked through the darkness and got into line at 3:15am.  The first person in line had arrived at 2:18 am and we were in positions 5-8.  We were confident as we waited for the starter to open at 6am.  As we watched the sunrise over St Andrews, it was clear that there are far worse lines to wait in.  I'd take a 3 hour wait at the Old Course over a 30 minute wait at the DMV all day long.

At 6am, the starter opened up to a round of applause.  Moments later, we would learn that a foursome had cancelled their 7am foursome and our group was next in line to claim the coveted tee time.  After some high fiving and coffee drinking, The Old Course was ours.

The view from the early morning line at the Old Course.

The view from the early morning line at the Old Course.

Excitement level at 10 as we nab the 7am slot.

Excitement level at 10 as we nab the 7am slot.

Classic classicness.

Classic classicness.

Par saver from the knees!

Par saver from the knees!

Jeff Blind finds the green on 18!  "I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life."

Jeff Blind finds the green on 18!  "I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life."

Having heard much about the Old Course before actually visiting, my expectations were for a flat and rather pedestrian golf course.  I was told that it takes years and a minimum of 10 rounds to appreciate the subtleties of the Old Course.  

What I did not expect was just how much fun the course is to play.  The course is anything but flat and has incredible undulations that add a great deal of interest to any shot played along the ground.  Each hole feels like a walk through history and the ambiance of the course is unlike anything else.

I was surprised how far right you really have to go with your tee shot on 17 and I also can't describe just how awesome that tee shot into 18 is.  I remember smiling as I pounded one towards the village of St Andrews.  When was the last time you hit a tee shot with a big ass grin on your face?   

I feel sorry for people that don’t play golf.
— Shane Bacon

After a round of golf at The Old Course, The Dunvegan Motel is the place to get your golf party on.  It's where quotes like this make sense.

Up next was an afternoon round at Elie Golf Links.  It was a unanimous decision that this was the windiest round of golf that any of us had ever played.  Balls were not staying on the tees and flushed 6 irons were only going 80 yards.  You could literally fall into the wind and it would just push you right back up again.

After a 380 yard 3 wood, Jeff plays his 2nd from the parking lot at Elie Golf Links.

After a 380 yard 3 wood, Jeff plays his 2nd from the parking lot at Elie Golf Links.

Ashley checks out the periscope clubhouse at Elie Golf Links.  This is an actual periscope from the HMS Excalibur submarine that allows the starter's office to alert golfers when the 1st fairway is clear.

Ashley checks out the periscope clubhouse at Elie Golf Links.  This is an actual periscope from the HMS Excalibur submarine that allows the starter's office to alert golfers when the 1st fairway is clear.

After 2 hours of sleep, 18 at the Old Course, 18 at Elie in 45 mph winds, it was time to play a sunset round on St Andrews' Jubilee course.  To cap things off, we ordered Domino's pizza and smoked cigars from the Jigger Inn as we watched the sunset over 17 and 18 on the Old Course.  In terms of golf days, this was a good one.

A nice little compilation of when it takes 4 tries to escape and I am in the group with my camera, 

A nice little compilation of when it takes 4 tries to escape and I am in the group with my camera, 

In a heated golf bus discussion, our group debated the captioning options for Hally's  Instagram  post.  "Feel the 'burn' between your legs at Kingsbarns." was deemed too racy and was unfortunately scrapped.

In a heated golf bus discussion, our group debated the captioning options for Hally's Instagram post.  "Feel the 'burn' between your legs at Kingsbarns." was deemed too racy and was unfortunately scrapped.

With only one day left in Scotland, it was a day of 36 holes at Kingsbarns and North Berwick.  With Kingsbarns opening for play in 2000 and North Berwick being established in 1832, this was a good mix of the old and new.

The 18th at Kingsbarns

The 18th at Kingsbarns

At around 200 yards, the 15th at Kingsbarns is a real ball buster of a par 3.

At around 200 yards, the 15th at Kingsbarns is a real ball buster of a par 3.

The 12th hole at Kingsbarns was recently voted the best par 5 in Scotland based on a poll conducted by  VisitScotland.com

The 12th hole at Kingsbarns was recently voted the best par 5 in Scotland based on a poll conducted by VisitScotland.com

North Berwick was one of the courses that I had earmarked on the agenda as I was looking forward to many of the holes and the original architecture.   North Berwick did not let us down that day as it has been satisfying golfers since 1832.  It knows what it's doing.

"The Pit" hole at North Berwick is as fun as any other golf hole in the world.

"The Pit" hole at North Berwick is as fun as any other golf hole in the world.

The biarritz green on the 16th at North Berwick is outstanding.

The biarritz green on the 16th at North Berwick is outstanding.

With the trip nearing completion as we headed down the 18th fairway, Ashley Mayo decided to knock one in for eagle and earn shot of the trip awards.  What a legend, that Mayo.  

With Ashley's walk off eagle, the trip was complete and it was time to take some selfies and hand out some awards.  I know you have been eagerly awaiting the Paper Plate Awards hosted by Tom Murray.  

Paper Plate Awards Hosted by Tom Murray

  • Most likely to play 36 while we're sleeping Award- Patrick Koenig *It's true, I played Muirfield twice while every was in bed on Tuesday.
  • Steal my chips and look like Jason Whitten Award - Jeff Filer *Jeff had 2 touchdowns and 3 birdies on The Old Course.
  • Most likely to pound the most D's on the same hole Award - Jeff Blind *D stands for driver people, jeez.
  • Expedia.com travel insurance Award - Shane Bacon *Shane booked the wrong flight and showed up a day late.
  • Hit every fairway Award - Ashley Mayo *Ashley has hit every fairway since mid 2005.
  • Least likely to lay up Award - Chris Solomon *not even once.
  • Feel the burn Award - Hally Leadbetter *While the caption may have been scrapped, the burn lives on.
See ya later, Scotland!

See ya later, Scotland!