A couple of years ago I traveled to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and bask in the wonderful wine, cheese, art and history lifestyle. Unlike most of my travels, I left my golf clubs at home. I wanted to focus on all things related to D-Day.
That said, I was surprised at how many excellent golf courses there are in Normandy and the western part of France. Golf is much more than a recreation afterthought in this region of France with more than 67 options on the course menu.
Uncrowded fairways, spectacular coastal and countryside terrain and a chilled glass of local white wine at the 19th hole are part of the overall golf experience in Western France.
You won't bust your budget, either. You can tee up at one of the top notch courses in the region with green fees ranging from $50 to $150.
Better still, this region of France is easy to reach by train, rental car or ferry. The most convenient ferry to France from the U.K. is Brittany Ferries.
For logistics purposes, the coastal town of Roscoff is in the northwest corner of the region, Paris and Orleans are on its eastern boundary and Bordeaux is situated in the southern quadrant.
Here are some of the high-profile play options in Western France:
Golf National Albatros--Twenty miles west of Paris, this future Ryder Cup site (2018) is built like a TPC layout with spectators in mind. Built in 1990, this tournament tested course has impressive mounding and strategically place water hazards.
Golf de Granville Bale du Mont St. Michel--Originally laid out in 1912 then redesigned by Harry Colt in 1921, this 18-hole course is regarded as the only true links course in France. Bump and run shots, unpredictable winds and spectacular scenery are part of the overall golf experience at this layout located four miles north of Granville in Normandy. There's also a fun-to-play 9-hole, par 33, links course at the complex.
Golf De la Bretesche--Routed around a magnificent chateau, which golfers see at the start, middle and end of their round, this Henry Cotton design is an exceptional golf experience exuding distinctive western France sophistication. Impeccably maintained to high standards, it features fairways mown in an attractive cross-hatch, chessboard-style. It's located in the town of Missillac.
Saint-Malo Golf Resort--For those seeking a multi-amenity golf resort experience, Saint-Malo near Le Tronchet in Brittany is a great choice. Framed by the Mesnil Forest and bordering Lake Mirloup, this 18-hole course features breathtaking views and well-bunkered greens. More golf is available, too, with an additional 9-hole, par 36 course.
Omaha Beach Golf Club--Comprised of two 18-hole courses, this popular facility offers a variety of golf challenges and scenic views. The "La Mer" overlooks the sea and Port en Bessin, a quaint fishing village. For a parkland experience, the hilly and heavily wooded "Le Manoir" introduces visitors to lush Normandy terrain.
Golf Club Des Ormes--Located between Saint Malo and Mont St Michel, this course, which is situated near a chateau, has ancient trees, small lakes and beautiful flowerbeds and landscaping.
Image source: Brittany Ferries presents the best golf courses in Western France.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
For those who love seaside golf ala Pebble Beach and Teeth of the Dog, Royal Isabela, on Puerto Rico's pristine northwestern coast should definitely be on your must play list.
Similar in jaw-dropping, oceanside beauty, Royal Isabela is different from Pebble and the Teeth because its sits high above the ocean, not at sea level.
Perched 200 feet above the Atlantic Ocean on rugged cliffs, Royal Isabela has some of the best oceanside holes and vistas I've ever seen.
SETTING & BACKGROUND
Spread out over 420 lush acres, Royal Isabela is the first phase of Costa Isabela, a master-planned 1,800-acre development that encompasses 3.5 miles of Atlantic Oceanfront and nearly five miles of the Guajataca River Basin. Royal Isabela is the vision of two brothers, Puerto Rican natives Charlie and Stanley Pasarell.
Charlie was instrumental in the development of Hualalai on the Big Island in Hawaii. You might also remember him from his storied tennis career. He was an elite, world-class professional in the 1960's and later founded the pro tour tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California.
Stanley was a tennis player and both of the brothers have a passion for golf. The third partner in the development team is Edwin Perez, president of Puerto Rico Supplies Co., a leading distributor of brand-name goods throughout Puerto Rico.
If you can't get enough of playing Royal Isabela, the developers created three additional holes, 21 in total.
The course was designed by the Pasarells and David W. Pfaff. Based in Carmel, California, Pfaff, who passed away recently, was a pioneer in modern golf course architecture. He was an integral part of Pete Dye's design team for many years and was involved in more than 120 golf courses in 31 states and 16 countries.
"He was a wonderfully creative architect and helped us stay true to the natural contour of the land and in keeping the the integrity of the site," Charlie Pasarell told me one sunny afternoon as we gazed out to the ocean on the no. 17 hole tee box. "We moved very little dirt during the construction process to keep the original landscape as natural as possible."
Verdant, lush flora and fauna, spectacular cliff top holes overlooking craggy rock coves and deep blue ocean waters and creatively contoured greens are at the heart of Royal Isbela's appeal.
Its a tropical links style course with a wide variety of shot options, including bump and run shots, lob shots over protruding mounds and shots over foliage filled canyons framed by ocean waters.
It's a great course for every skill level, too. There are multiple tee boxes on each hole, some have as many as six and Hole 17 has a total of 11 tee settings.
I loved the smooth, true greens. Pasarell, a friend and tennis and golf playing partner of Jack Nicklaus, told me the greens are Mini-Verde, a new Bermuda hybrid grass that the Golden Bear has at his Bear's Club in Jupiter, Florida.
My favorite holes are No. 10, a high-risk, high-reward, dogleg lelft par 5 and the signature hole No. 17, one of the most beautiful and challenging par threes in the world.
Staying at Royal Isabela is the personification of exclusivity. There are 20 separate luxurious casitas set in private settings surrounded by tropical foliage. Each of the units has 1,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Elegantly appointed, the casitas have rich, dark wood polished floors, ceiling fans, spacious, luxurious bathrooms and a terrace with a dip pool.
Casita amenities, include:
--Two LCD televisions
--Complimentary high-speed Internet
-- Plush linens and robes
--Beautiful views from terrace
--Gilchrist & Soames bath products
Resort amenities, include:
--Large resort swimming pool
--Nightly turndown service
--Golf pro shop
10 Little Things I Liked
1. Sipping Don Q rum at the open-air bar overlooking the 18th green with the beautiful turquoise/blue ocean in the distance.
2. My phenomenal caddie, Galo, who knew every inch of the course and made sure me and my playing partner enjoyed every hole.
3. The steep walk and stairway down to the ocean where a pristine beach with nobody else in sight is a great reward.
4. The Amaretto French Toast and Veggie Frittata I enjoyed for breakfast at the clubhouse restaurant.
5. The hole-by-hole tour I received from developer Charlie Pasarell and conversation I also had with his brother and co-developer, Stanley Pasarell.
6. The seared scallops on a bed of risotto I had one evening at the clubhouse restaurant as I dined al fresco.
7. The dip pool on my terrace at my casita, a great place to take a dip and forget about my double bogeys.
8. Seeing the stars at night. Because of Royal Isabela's discreet, well-planned lighting, you get an amazing dark sky dotted with stars every night.
9. The luxurious, rich wood appointments and amenities in my casita.
10. The easy accessibility to Royal Isabela. It's about 90 minutes from San Juan via major highways.
The social epicenter of the resort is La Casa, an elegant, Spanish-Colonial style building with a farm-to-table restaurant, open-air bar and library lounge. With exquisite stone work and beautiful landscaping, it looks as if its been air-dropped in from a luxury ranch estate in Spain.
Restaurant La Casa--The quality here rivals the fantastic golf. Headed by chef Jose Carles Fabregas, the restaurant features dishes created from freshly harvested organic vegetables and fruits from the resort's own farm. With a menu that changes daily, the food is a fusion of local cuisine with European influences. If you love seafood, some of the items offered include lobster pizza, seared scallops on a bed of risotto and fresh grouper baked "Papillote" style in a banana leaf served with coconut risotto. Fabregas talks with local fisherman daily to get the best catches of the day.
Bar at La Casa--This circular outdoor bar is an amazing place to savor a drink before or after dinner drink as well as celebrate a great round of golf. At night, there's nothing better than enjoying a rum drink, inhaling the fragrance of the higuerrillo trees and admiring the starry sky above.
Grill at The Pro Shop--Features paninis, wraps and pizzas in a covered outdoor veranda setting.
THINGS TO DO
Old San Juan--Before or after your visit to Royal Isabela, don't miss Old San Juan with its narrow streets, boutique shops, centuries old forts and wide range of restaurants featuring everything from native Puerto Rican cuisine to Italian.
Old Town Isabela--Less than a 10 minute drive, this village has an historic church, museum and great beaches.
Watersports--The area is world-class surfing area. Check out Middles Beach. Popular pursuits include kite-surfing, stand-up paddleboard, scuba and snorkeling.
Royal Isabela is located 73 miles northwest of the San Juan International Airport near the town of Isabela. It's situated just off Highway 113. Take the toll road 22 from San Juan, merge onto Highway 2, then turn off to Highway 113.
Royal Isabela is a private club and residential community that has 26 home sites offered for purchase ranging in size from one to one-and-a-half acres featuring views of the cliffs, Atlantic Ocean or golf course. In addition, Fairway Villas with wood-beamed ceilings, open kitchens and two master suites overlooking the golf course are offered.
GET THE SCOOP
For more information, click to www.royalisabela.com . Phone 1-787-609-5888, Toll Free 1-855-609-5888. Address: 396 Ave Noel Estrada, Isabela, Puerto Rico 00662