First Peek at St. Emilionnais Golf Club

It’s been a quarter century since we’ve seen a significant addition to the landscape of golf in France with the debut of the Albatros course at Golf National, half an hour south of Paris. And many would argue that the course—essentially a European TPC, with more challenge than charm (and, perhaps appropriately, site of the 2018 Ryder Cup)—was less than cause for celebration.

Now, at last, there’s something worth talking about, courtesy of the first family of golf in France, the Mourgue d’Algues. Patriarch Gaetan, his wife Celia, daughter Kristel, and son Andre collectively have won more than 75 national titles and Gaetan has been the Pied Piper of French golf, having founded both the Trophée Lancôme and Golf Européen magazine.

Several years ago, they acquired a 252-acre property near St. Emilion in the center of French wine country. It is now St. Emilionnais Golf Club, the first Tom Doak design in continental Europe. It sits beside a vineyard on rolling land clad with hundred-year-old oak trees. “The scale of the hills and the mature trees reminded me of Sunningdale,” says Doak. “With very little earthmoving necessary, it was the perfect site to show our approach to design and construction.”

There are just 32 bunkers (four holes have none) and most of them are well recessed from the greens, adding both illusion and difficulty. French (or is it Doakian) contrarianism also prevails: The short holes generally have big (albeit wavy) greens, the long holes small (flatter) ones. Water comes into play only at the par-three 9th, which, in homage to links golf, sits at the farthest point from the clubhouse.

St. Emilionnais will not be overly long (just over 6,800 fast-running yards), but with 18 vexing targets it should be ample challenge even for Victor Dubuisson.