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While the French Riviera and the Basque Coast had long been banking on golf resorts to attract a new French and foreign clientele with high purchasing power, Languedoc-Roussillon lived on its sandy beaches and three hundred days of sunshine per year. Renowned for being a cheap summer destination, the region saw the spread of campsites and caravan tourism. An image that the Languedocians would like to see disappear. The old beliefs have a hard skin," says the Grande Motte“.
Langedoc-Roussillon is not all wind, mosquitoes and caravans! A visit to the pretty town ofAigues-Mortes in theHéraultport fortified by King Saint-Louis, or towards CollioureThe city of Gard, home of the Fauvist painters, will immediately convince you of the merits of this argument. Without forgetting the treasures of the Gard department, its famous bridge, a Roman work, built two thousand years ago on the orders of Agrippa, son-in-law of the emperor Augustus, and the town of Nîmes to the oldest Roman arena in France. Roman city, medieval city, city of the old regime, modern city, Nîmes is, in itself, an open-air history book.
In the heart of the Pyrenean massif, the Falgos Gulf is the last stop before Spain. The air is pure, bright light. We are at an altitude of 1100 meters in a wooded area of six hundred and fifty hectares. The road that winds its way up stops at the terminus of the Falgos Estate. Then, the only paths traced in the mountain are the fairways of this 18 holes with irreproachable maintenance and the tracks for the electric carts. From the terrace of the hotel, the panorama is grandiose. On the left, the bay of Rosace which opens onto the Mediterranean, and the Spanish villages of Cadaquès and Figueras, home of the surrealist painter Salvador Dali; on the right, the snowy peaks of Canigou. In this region of Languedoc-Roussillon, where the first traces of human, a 320,000-year-old skull, were exhumed in the Arago cave at Tautavel (Pyrénées Orientales), golfing time is just at its birth, and Falgos is the last child of this spontaneous generation of courses that sprang up at the end of the 80s.
At Falgos, on feast days, the guests drink the pourron de muscat at the feast under the stars. Accompanying the corgolode, (good big snails cooked on a grill) that can be tasted on the tables set up near the green of the 9. Projectors pierce the depths of the night in their tunnel of light. The green of the proctice in front of the hotel takes on unreal hues. These summer evenings, the laughter, the crackling of the wood fire and the whistling of the balls break the silence of the Pyrenees. One can have fun its fear of disturbing because, in Falgos, one is or end of the world.
First golf course to open in Languedoc-Roussillon, the golf of Nîmes-Campagne has drawn on the treasures of history to build his legend. Because at the time of the pastis, the incredible stories come to punctuate the ceremonial of the aperitif. It is whispered that the treasure of the Templars could be buried under a green fairway, in an undergrowth, or under the foundations of the clubhouse, a miniature White House in the purest washingtonian style.
These immense riches accumulated by the Order of the Knights Templar turn the heads of gold seekers. No one knows if it really exists, but everyone dreams about it. Because Nîmes-Campagne was built on a, estate used as a resting place for knights returning from the Crusades with their booty. It is in the middle of these centenary trees that a part of the fine flower of the French pros received from the hands of a, wizard Tito Lassalle, the art of the game of golf. A difficult work of detection considering the absence of other courses in the area. For nearly twenty years, Nîmes-Campagne embodied, alone, the golf in Languedoc-Roussillon. Before promoters became interested in this region neglected by high-end tourism.
In the architects' offices, leisure cities were sketched out on the drawing boards. In the 1960s, utopia was on the march and the radiant cities were the fantasies of the new builders. In the little Camargue, a new town sprang up la Grande Motte and its famous pyramid buildings on the seafront, a tribute from its creator to the Mexican temples of Teotihuacan. With its green spaces, bicycle paths and spacious car parks, La Grande Motte, born under the impetus of Jean Balladur, the Prime Minister's cousin, claims to be a futuristic city. This unbridled urban planning gave pride of place to sports fields and, in 1987, the American architect Robert Trent Jones came to Montpellier to put the finishing touches to the Grande Motte golf course. Forty-one holes, divided into three courses: a 6-hole school,, an 18-hole "executive" course without any bunker and a championship course, the "Flemish Roses".
At La Grande Motte, it's the hole n° 7 which is used as justice of the peace. A par 5 which also ends with an island green. "Either you pass the hole without damage or you leave the green with a double number on the scorecard. And with still eleven holes to be played, the afternoon can turn into a nightmare ", tell the connoisseurs by picking up at the clubhouse bar a plate of tellines, sorts of small shells returned in a marinade of white wine and garlic to be tasted at the aperitif.
The people of Montpellier and La Grande Motte, totally new to golf, will quickly progress on these educational courses. Then the organization of the AGF Open and the access cards to the European circuit will contribute to the recognition of this set in France and abroad.
Today, the clientele of foreign golfers makes the beautiful days of Langedoc-Roussillon. Germans, English, Swedes and Swiss have found an alternative to theAndalusia overheated and overcrowded in summer. Here, green fees are half the price, the sun shines and the sea is only a few kilometres away. At the same time, a family of public works contractors, the Jean Jeans, launched the Montpellier-Massane golf course. As at La Grande Motte, a discreet real estate program allows the golf course to live and flourish. "We are not philantropists, claim the two brothers. We love golf but without the construction of the two hundred and fifty houses visible only from the first holes, Montpellier-Massane would not exist".
From Tunisia where they had left to build football fields, the Jeanjeans bring Ronald Fream back in their luggage. The American architect has a credo: "A beautiful golf course can be admired at sunset when the shadows are cast. When there is no, I say that the golf course was badly designed". To play hide-and-seek with the, sun, Ronald Fream has gently shaped the old vineyards and orchards to form mounds and raised greens that reveal the magic of light when the rays of the sun become low. The American was not only concerned with aesthetics at dusk on his first French creation, he put the entry player under pressure with hole n° 5, a par 5 and its island green offering two options (caution or attack) on the second shot. In competition, this hole is the most dreaded and the five to six hundred red carps which frolic in the water obstacle are often disturbed by the balls which crash like meteorites at the bottom of the pools.
From Saint-Cyprien at Cap d'AgdeFrom La Grande Motte to Montpellier Massane, foreign golfers have a field day. With a friendly welcome, reasonable green fees and pleasant courses without being masterpieces, the coastal golf courses play the cosmopolitan card to the full. On the other hand, in CarcassonneCarcassonne, a walled city that looks like it came straight out of Orson Welles' Falstaff, receives few visitors. Yet the city of Carcassonne, a jewel of medieval architecture surrounded by three kilometres of ramparts and fifty-two crenellated towers, is listed in all the world's guidebooks. And in the surrounding area, Cathar castles, impregnable fortresses built on vertiginous peaks, are the joy of children and parents who plunge back into a part of the history of France, stained with the blood of the sacrificed,.
Built on the domain of Auriac, the Carcassonne Golf Club is the mirror of these military architectures surrounded by moats and stone walls. Architect of golf for the occasion, the pro of the club, the Basque Jean-Pierre Basurco placed the tee of the 1 in front of a wall of grass which it is necessary to cross with a well supported wood stroke to penetrate on a plateau where the fairways meander. On the return , the 9 is a small par 3 protected by the Saint-Jean brook which is attacked from a high perched tee. A true mirror of the Carcassonne city and its impregnable ramparts.
A few anecdotes and quotes from the golf courses of Languedoc in Occitania . Did you know ?