Les Goélands, La Grande Motte, France
The home of the French Open, le "Challenge International", for the last 5 years, "Les Goélands" is a beautiful course located between the Mediterranean and the Camargue region of France. A converted golf course, the greens are larger than usual but water hazards are often in play and when the wind blows, as it does most of the time, it is by no means an easy course. Just 15 minutes from Montpellier international airport and close to major motorways, the course is easily accessible.
James Carroll of Castletown, County Meath, gave a good description of the course in a 2006 FIPPA Newsletter: La Grande Motte was THE best Pitch and Putt course I have played on. I know my friends in Castletown won't be impressed with me saying that but it truly was! The facilities were first class, the hotel was super and the course was always in perfect condition. The greens were big and quick. One minor criticism was that we were teeing off grass and by the end of the third day, the tees were fairly cut up".
Four different Irish players have won on the course, but the current competition course record holder, for 18 holes, is Jan van Tijhuis of Holland, with 46 strokes - 8 under par. If you ever have the pleasure of playing the course, you will appreciate what a feat that was!
Another Irish winner, Ian Farrelly, has also described the course in FIPPA News: Its long and challenging but very enjoyable to play. The greens were in superb condition and running very true. There are some great shots on the course particularly the 90 metre 9th over the lake. That is probably one of the most intimidating tee shots in Pitch & Putt, with water all around and a very undulating green with steep slopes. There is no laying up on this hole, its all duck and no dinner! Generally, the greens are huge in Montpellier but that does not necessarily make it easier. The challenge of teeing off on grass teeboxes rather than rubber mats makes it even more difficult.
The course is part of a major golf complex, owned and run by the town council of La Grande Motte and to demonstrate their intention to make this a truly Pitch and Putt venue, they have invested in 18 teeboxes.
Unfortunately, due to delays on the part of the supplier and administrative difficulties created by the recent municipal elections in France, the teeboxes will only be available in May, too late for this year's Open.
The course is due to host the first FIPPA World Strokeplay Championship in 2009 and for this prestigious event, the greenkeeper will reduce the size of the greens next spring to make sure that her course meets the universal approval of the Pitch and Putt world. The 72 qualifiers from countries throughout the world are going to play the ultimate challenge in an idyllic setting. The course will be ready to defend its reputation as the best in the world!