The most popular venue in France for British golfers is to have a major face-lift. The re-design includes four new greens at the relatively new Dunes course at Hardelot, near Boulogne, eliminating several blind shots and costing upwards of £350,000. Ken Strachan, the 35-year-old director of golf, has been working on the shape and features of the re-designed course for more than a year, since M. Nicolas Boissonnas bought the venue for his Open Golf Club group.
Ken is now joined by Jean Claude Cornillot, who was assistant architect to Paul Roland, the Belgian architect, at the time The Dunes was built and opened in 1992, to complement the existing Pines course, first built in 1911. The “new” course will be ready for play by late Spring 2002.
The Dunes will close for a minimum of three months this winter when some of the changes will be introduced and again for five months next winter. Nearly all the work will be carried out by the greens staff. No soil will be imported. Where ridges and humps are cut away, the soil will be transported for elevated tees, new teeing grounds, building and re-shaping bunkers and creating new greens. Similarly, three hectares of existing turf on the course will be cut and re-laid in the new areas. New irrigation is needed on some holes: elsewhere on the course pipework must be replaced.
“Since the day it opened The Dunes has failed to match the popularity of the much older Pines course, largely because there were too many unfair shots, blind shots both off the tee and going into some of the greens. Yet it’s a lovely course and we need to take advantage of the undulations, not suffer from them,” Ken Strachan explained. “This work will make a huge improvement to visibility out there and I want to create more stability for the Dunes and balance our two courses. Now we will have the classic, two threes and two fives on each half of the re-designed course, with a par of 72. And we will re-shape lots of bunkers, take on the old Tom Simpson shapes of The Pines bunkers. This is a really exciting development and I am sure it will be greatly admired by our members and many visitors.”
The Open Golf Club of France owns the neighbouring venue of Le Touquet, with a total of 45 holes and the popular Le Manoir Hotel. Other courses within the group are Saint-Julien, near Deauville, Les Yvelines, Paris, and five courses in the south, close to the Mediterranean: Saint-Cyprien, Nimes-Vacquerolles, Servanes, Marseilles La Salette and La Sainte Baume.
Hardelot attracts more British golfers than any other venue in France, well in excess of 40,000 green-fee players on the two courses each year. “It would be fair to say nearly two thirds of all the golf played here at Hardelot has been on The Pines course,” Ken Strachan continued. “A year ago we had a completely new irrigation system installed at these 18 holes plus some minor re-design work and while The Pines will always have a charm and magic attached to the course, I am quite sure when the new Dunes course settles down, it will attract even more members and visitors to Hardelot. The work will start at the beginning of next month.”