The Côte d’Opale – or Opal Coast – is a coastline in the North of France (Nord-Pas-de-Calais). The area is renown for its soft light as a result of the reflection of the chalk cliffs and sand dunes. Côte d’Opale features lofty chalk cliffs, rolling green hills, windswept beaches, sand dunes and charming seaside towns.
And, the area is home to quite a lot of very good golf courses and ideal for a golf trip (long weekend or midweek) with your husband/wife or with a couple of friends.
If you are into golf and you like some nightlife – like us – then head to Boulogne-sur-Mer or Le Touquet (also known as Le Touquet-Paris-Plage). Both are really nice and vibrant coastal villages with nice bars, restaurants and sandy beaches. And more importantly, you’ll find a lot of good quality and highly rated golf courses!
This blogpost is a combination of two recent golf trips to this region – made by Jeroen Korving (MD of Leadingcourses.com), Leonard van Nunen (Leadingcourses.com Evangelist) and a few Leadingcourses.com members and Ruben van der Zaag (our Marketing Manager). Combined we have played almost all courses in the Côte d’Opale region under different circumstances within a two week period. To be short: this is a great area to go and the courses are all really good.
Where to stay and play in Côte d’Opale?
The Côte d’Opale region is very accessible by car for golfers from England, Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Germany. It took us only a 4 hour drive from Utrecht, The Netherlands. And if you live in London, Brussels or Paris it will take you less than two hours. We decided to stay in Le Touquet, which is the most vibrant village in the area, but Boulogne-sur-Mer is also fine.
If you really want to stay on or next to the golf course, then head to Le Manoir at Golf du Touquet or stay at Najeti Hôtel du Parc at Golf d’Hardelot. You can also stay at Najeti Hôtel du Golf which is located next to the fairway of hole 9 at Aa Saint Omer Golf Club. Saint Omer is located more inland (so not along the coast) in the middle of Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale.
Aa Saint Omer Golf Club
Aa Saint Omer Golf Club is a very hilly golf course, so we would certainly recommend a buggy if you are not very fit. We walked the course on a very sunny day and we can certainly say that the course is pretty strenuous. The lay-out of the course is mainly determined by the hills and slopes and therefore – in our opinion – really fun to play. A lot of elevated greens, some blind shots and holes with quite some changes in elevation (sometimes you have cross deep valleys). The course was designed by Dutch architect Johan Frederik Dudok van Heel, who designed quite a few courses in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and thus also Aa Saint Omer, which is the only golf course he designed in France.
During our visit the greens were really good. Firm and very fast, which made putting really interesting. The rough was ok, not too difficult. If the rough was slightly higher, then this course would be very demanding. In our opinion this course is not very suitable for players who have a handicap higher than 30. We had a three-ball in front of us which were very slow and for whom this course was just a bit too challenging. A good marshal and starter – which we did not see during our visit – might be a good idea, but maybe this was an incident.
The terrace is nice and has great views, but be aware of the fact that it closes around 19.30 – which is often the case in France. No problem, but it would have been nice to know on forehand. Staff at the reception was ok, but it seemed they were just doing there job. No smile, no explanation about the golf complex, no info about closing hours of the restaurant. Bear in mind that most people have to drive quite a bit to play this course, so a warm welcome can make all the difference. The parking lot – so the entrance – could use some updating and this also goes for driving range. If you are in a hurry, then skip the driving range. It’s quite a walk to get there.
Aa Saint Omer has a nice hotel – Najeti Hôtel du Golf – which looks out over the course. Very scenic. All in all a very pleasant course to play, with good maintenance (great greens), nice vistas and challenging holes. On some holes you will encounter strategic water hazards, but not too much. We really liked almost all holes; perhaps only hole 15 and 16 were less interesting. But, the course is certainly worth more than a 8.0 when it’s in this condition. When we played it was very busy, so especially the first 9 holes took (too) long.
Courses: 18 holes Championship Course (Le Val) and a 9 holes Par 31 course (La Drève)
Architect: Dudock Van Heel
Golf de Wimereux
For us, Golf de Wimereux was a real surprise. Wimereux is a great and traditional links course, built in 1901. In those days they did not have a lot of heavy equipment to do crazy stuff. The course has been laid out based on the terrain which they had at their disposal. We really liked it, but we also know this is pretty personal. You either love links courses or you don’t. In our opinion, the rating of this course is a bit too low. This is a genuine links course and a good one, but nothing fancy. No need to travel to England (which you can see on a sunny and clear day), this is as good as it gets.
The clubhouse is nice and cosy and offers good food at decent prices. The terrace (19th hole) has a nice view across the putting green and 18th hole. The golf club also a nice and well-stocked pro-shop. During our visit the staff was very friendly and welcoming. Also nice: on hole 1 there was a starter who told a bit about the course. Always a nice touch!
In our opinion there were no real weak holes and also no signature holes. This is a genuine links course with great views across the English Channel towards England, with firm and small greens, a lot of little bunkers and quite some shrubs. When we played here the wind was not too strong and it was blowing from a direction which is not normal. We can imagine that with a bit of rain and wind this course will become quite deadly. No need to take a boat to England for a real links experience. This is all you need.
Nice touch: there are some real bunkers (so not the sand, but the ones from WW1 or WW2) dotted across the course. On hole 12 (a par 3,147 meters from yellow) it is possible to tee off from the top of the bunker (white/black tees). Even if you want to play from the red or yellow tees, our tip is to go for it on this hole. It’s not a very difficuly par 3 and it’s just five meters extra and the view is very nice.
There are quite some poles indicating which direction to hit the ball. Be aware that these poles are for the white and black tees. These tees often have a totally different angle then the yellow, red and blue tees. All in all a must play course when you are in the area!
Courses: 18 holes Championship Course
Architect: Campbell & Hutchinson (redesign)
Golf du Touquet
When you arrive, you immediately know that Golf du Touquet is a golf club with ambitions. The clubhouse is new and has a modern feel. The overall service is great, from the welcome at the reception, to the marshal in the course who tried to get everyone around within a five hour timeframe (there had been a thunderstorm in the morning which forced them to stop play for 40 minutes). Consequence was that we had to wait quite a bit, but because we were informed numerous times and because we weren’t in a rush we didn’t really mind.
We played the La Mer course – a Harry Colt design – which is currently being transformed to it’s former lay-out. Although this is not a real links course and you never will see the sea, the course has a links feel (inland links) to it and it’s really fun to play. Some greens are tough (with roll-offs on all sides), but fair and firm. The buggy’s have GPS and provide good detail. Some of us used a buggy and some walked the course. Both is fine. The course feels like it has been there for ever, nothing looks really artificial. All in all a good golf course and it lived up to its reputation. The course has three good opening holes – we certainly liked hole 2, which is a par 3 and depending on the wind you have to either use a eight to nine iron or a wedge. Then there is a section (hole 4 to 6) which is ok, but nothing fancy. Then from hole 7 the course get better and better.
A lot of work has been done on the course by Patrice Boissonas and Frank Pont, and there is still more to come to get the course back to the way it looked when it was designed in 1931 by Harry Colt. So far they have done great work! This is the course everyone wants to play when coming to the area, although we also really liked the other courses. If you like to stay near or on the golf course, our advice is to stay in Touquet. Le Touquet has a nice hotel and the city is vibrant, it has a lot of nice bars and restaurants and a wide sandy beach.
The food in the restaurant was nice and the terrace is great. The only thing that might be a drawback is that the clubhouse is not overlooking the nicest course (La Mer) and that it is quite a walk to the La Mer course. A tip: you can take the car by the way and park at the La Mer course. We were also surprised that the clubhouse was closed when we returned around 20.00 o’clock, but this seems to be normal practise in France.
Courses: La Mer (18 hole signature course), La Forêt (18-holes) and Le Manoir (9 holes)
Architect: Le Manoir (H.J. Baker), La Forêt (Hutchinson), La Mer (Harry Colt) and Patrice Boissonas & Frank Pont for the redesign
Golf d’Hardelot (Le Pins)
Golf d’Hardelot has two courses with two clubhouses, located a few kilometers from each other. So, make sure to take the correct route. We played Les Pins, which does not have a very impressive clubhouse, but it works. When we arrived (around 8.30) it was not open yet… So no coffee or breakfast for us. We decided to start earlier, which was no problem. Our first impression was that this is a typical members course. Quiet, peaceful and not very equipped yet to welcome guests from outside. We felt welcome, but the experience is totally different than for instance arriving at Le Touquet.
Then the golf course, because that is what it’s all about. This Tom Simpson designed course is absolutely stunning. Wow. We all like forest courses and this course – and especially the layout – is great. The bunkers are really nicely shaped and placed and Les Pins has some really good par 3’s. Also, after you leave a green the next tee is just around the corner, which ensures that you keep a certain pace and rythm. Great. Some nice wasteland areas, large bunkers and some elevated greens. The course rewards golfers who takes risks, but it always has an alternative route for less experienced golfers. If you visit the area, play this course!
Only strange thing is the short drivingrange, which runs along the 18th fairway without a fence to keep the balls in the drivingrange. So, quite a lot of golf balls are lying just along the fairway or on it, which makes it confusing when you hit your ball slightly left. It makes it a challenge to find your ball amongst all the driving range balls. Perhaps not a lot of people use the drivingrange, but when we were here there was a large group of young golfers (kids) using the range.
Courses: Le Pins
Architect: Tom Simpson
Golf d’Hardelot (Les Dunes)
Although Hardelot Les Pins was really on our to-do list, Les Dunes is a real surprise. The course opened in 1991, but – because of the mature trees – it looks like it has been there much longer.
The course is not particularly long. At 4893 meters from the yellow tees this par-70 course is actually rather short. There are 6 par-3’s,8 par-4’s and 4 par-5’s. That doesn’t mean this is an easy course though. Some of the holes are quite narrow so straight tee shots are necessary. Because of the lack of lenght those who hit their long irons well, could even get around without hitting driver.
The par-4 opening hole is much easier than it looks like. You might be impressend by the water close to the tee or the change in elevation up to the green, but after a decent tee shot a short iron will do. The par-5 third hole however is the other way around. It might look easy on the scorecard (only 407 meters from the yellow tee box), but with the wind up, it becomes a completely different hole. I love the bunkering on this hole (see photos).
Just like it’s big sister Les Pins, the par-3’s on this course are very much to our liking. All six par-3’s vary in distance from 112 to 161 meters. Reachable for every kind of player, challenging enough for the best players.
The 18th is a great finishing hole. After a downhill tee shot, you’ll need to overcome your fears and hit a mid- to short iron over the water in front of the green. With the pin position on the front edge of the green (as it was when we played), this becomes quite a terrifying shot! Les Dunes is a very nice course which we would recommend to any kind of player. In the best case scenario you play both golf courses of Hardelot, because it would be a shame to miss one of the two.
Courses: Les Dunes
Architect: Paul Rollin
We hope that this post has given you a bit of appetite to visit this region, because in our opinion this region deserves more attention. Next time when you are planning a golf trip, don’t head to Portugal, Spain or the UK but consider the Côte d’Opale for a change! We will certainly come back again and then we will also visit Golf de Belle Dune (rated with a 8,2). This golf links is situated in the heart of the Marquenterre dune massif, which is one of the most beautiful areas in Northern Europe. Belle Dune is located south of Touquet.
Finally, we would like to thank all the golf managers who were so kind to welcome us, to show us around and to make our visit very pleasant! Enchanté!