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Old and New courses compare, contrast perfectly at Les Bordes in France

Old and New courses compare, contrast perfectly at Les Bordes in France

80 MILES SOUTH OF PARIS – How do you cap (pun intended) a lifetime of selling pens? You retire to your country estate in the Loire Valley of France, of course.

True if you are Baron Marcel Bich, the cofounder of BIC, which for more than 70 years has been the world’s leading manufacturer of ballpoint pens.

Called Les Bordes (translated as The Edges), Bich’s goal was to create a private compound for family and friends where they could hunt deer or wild boar and enjoy a bucolic getaway deep in the Sologne forest in the French countryside. But Bich also had a vision for “le golf” – golf on the highest of scales, and Les Bordes provided the perfect place to render his dream.

Architect Robert von Hagge was tasked to tackle Bich’s vision. With an unlimited budget, Bich’s one marching order to von Hagge was to make not just a world-class layout, but one that resisted par like few others.

Mission accomplished. Opened in 1987, the Old at Les Bordes is about as stern a test of golf as you can find.

The Old Course at Les Bordes Golf Club in France (Courtesy of Les Bordes Golf Club)

Fast forward some 30 years. Bich had passed away and the estate, while maintained, was basically unused. Financial manager Driss Benkirane purchased the property and set the goal of making it a high-end getaway. He enlisted the acclaimed team of Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner to add both a complementary full course (the New) and a fun short course (Wild Piglet). Benkirane didn’t stop there: He refurbished the clubhouse and cottages, restored the Bich manor and is in the process of converting it into an elegant hotel (not associated with the golf club). He also is adding a modest number of private residences available to members and visitors.

Let’s put on our Golfweek’s Best rater hats and have a look at Les Bordes’ twin efforts.

In its simplest form, a rater’s task is to judge landforms. A golf course architect both manufactures and borrows from existing natural landforms to tell a story, enrich the character, enhance the beauty and create interest in a golf hole. The more compelling the landforms (and the more artfully they are integrated), the more compelling the golf course.

Optimally, a golfer will respond both emotionally and intellectually. The emotional components of a golf course speak to your heart: what you find beautiful, harmonious, pleasing, ordered. The intellectual components spur all sorts of calculations: Should I or shouldn’t I?…


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