October 12, 2018 By: Richard Humphreys — Golf course architect Gil Hanse has been chosen as the designer of a new 18-hole course at Les Bordes Golf International in Saint-Laurent-Nouan, France.
Hanse has designed a 7,365-yard layout to the west of the club’s existing Robert von Hagge course, on an area of land where there has previously been 27 holes of golf.
The project came about through a conversation between Hanse and some mutual friends of the new owners of Les Bordes. “The conversation came up about the potential for developing a second course,” said Hanse. “We visited the site and fell in love with the entire property and it all worked out.”
According to Bill Longmuir, head of golf at Les Bordes, the land is relatively flat, but has a beautiful roll to it and a sandy subsoil, which lends itself perfectly to a heathland layout.
GCA asked Hanse whether he set out to create a marked contrast to the von Hagge course, or was more driven by what the land dictated. “Conceptually, what the land dictated,” said Hanse. “I’ve always been a fan of Morfontaine, although I haven’t visited in a long time. When I visited this site, that was the first thing that came to mind. Then we found some heather locally, not a lot, but enough to let us know that it’ll grow there, so we started developing the design and concept around that – it was wonderful. It will be very different stylistically and playability-wise to the original, which I think, and from the owner’s perspective, is a positive, as their members will have two very different golfing experiences.”
Regarding the golf holes that were previously on the land, Hanse said: “I don’t know stylistically what it looked like. We know where the hole corridors were. It appears, either through the growth of the trees over the last 10 years since the course has been closed, or maybe intentionally, that the original design was very tight, and the corridors were very narrow.
“So, where we are using the existing corridors – which is very rare, almost every hole is routed in a different fashion from that golf course – we are making them significantly wider.
“The nice thing from our standpoint is, within the corridors, the plant palette is going to be great for us to try and transplant and use some of that material. There’s a lot of fescue that we can use for bunker faces. There’s a lot of broom that we can either transplant some younger portions of it or leave. I think the nicest thing about the open character of those corridors is that the plant material in there is very conducive to the look of course we’re trying to build.
“I’m excited about the bunkering,” continued Hanse. “I got a copy of The Architectural Side of Golf, and the recent Simpson biography, and just looked through his plans and his designs and tried to adapt some of the bunker patterns and maybe some of the holes, or at the least the concept of some of the holes he designed. The bunkering will probably be the most distinctive element, and the other thing we really worked hard on with the routing was to make sure it was very walkable. A very compact design with a lot of close tee-to-green transitions.”
The existing von Hagge course is widely regarded as one of the best in France. Asked whether he felt any pressure of designing a new course at Les Bordes, Hanse said: “It is an opportunity to understand what the highest level of expectation is. We know that the expectation is going to be high and we’re excited about that. In a way, it’s not dissimilar to what we did at Streamsong, having two highly regarded golf courses already there by golf architects we respect, and having to try and create something that works in concert with those. We’re excited that the standard of quality is already so high at Les Bordes, so it gives us something to aspire to.”
The project is Hanse’s first time working in Continental Europe. He often relocates to the site of courses that he works on, as he did with the recently re-opened No. 4 course at Pinehurst, as well as the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro.
“I have fallen in love with the property. If the timing of the project goes as we anticipate with construction next year, my wife Tracey and I will relocate and probably spend two to three months living at Les Bordes before we start commuting. We have other projects that will be on the go that I will have to commute to. It’s a long commute but a good one!
“We’re excited, there’s a beautiful farmhouse on the property that they’re going to renovate, and we’ll stay there. If the timing goes well, we’ll probably stay there February through May, which should give us a lot of time to do a very good start on the feature construction and also establish the template for the look and for the style that we’re going for,” continued Hanse.
“Neil Cameron, one of our associates from Scotland, will be our guy on site. He’s been with us since Castle Stuart, so he’s got a great feel and he’s tremendously talented in his own right, so were excited we’ll have the proper attention.”
Longmuir said: “Gil will be working with his team, our greenkeeping staff and a local contractor for tree clearing etc. Jack Laws, the club professional previously at Sunningdale, and myself will not be directly involved in the build but you can be sure that we will be taking a keen interest in watching Gil at work!”
Construction is scheduled to start in January 2019 with the possibility that the course could be playable by early 2020.