Golf and wine are the perfect partners, just ask Miguel Angel Jimenez, so today we thought we should give you some insights into where you can go to celebrate the wonderful worlds of golf and wine together. In the first of a series of golf course and wine region pairings, today we are concentrating on the classic wine producing regions of Europe.
We are starting with a sumptuous proposition indeed and one of the very best examples of golf and wine going hand in hand. Not only is the Bordeaux region one of the most famous and important areas for wine making but Golf du Médoc is regarded as one of the best courses in the world. This understated links-design course was originally built in 1989 and was updated in 2009 by it’s architect Bill Coore. In case you somehow forgot that you were in wine heaven, each hole is named after a local vintage that can be sampled after your round in the clubhouse. The course has also hosted the European and Challenge Tours through the years.
Where to go: Château Margaux
The most striking feature of this course is the incredible château which doubles as the clubhouse. Made-up of three nine hole loops, there is an ability to play three different eighteen hole courses at this Donald Steel resort. Regarded as one of the world’s greatest ‘natural’ course designers, here Steel has created something of exceptional innate beauty and crafted a course that has disturbed the land as little as possible. The result is a masterpiece and consistently rated in the top-ten courses of South-West France.
Where to go: Château Cheval Blanc
This is a course that has been built with the idea of biodiversity and preservation of nature at it’s core. The course was designed by Thierry Sprecher and Anne-Laurie Ricci who have used strong geometric shapes to pay homage to the former agricultural use of the land. At 5,502 metres this is not a long course but is one that demands clever tactics and smart golf. The wild flora of the region includes resinous shrubs such as rosemary, lavender and thyme and these flavours certainly influence wine of the region. This course sits in the Côtes de Provence region and around 80% of the wine produced here is of the rosé variety, a perfect way to cool off after a nice round in the sun.
Where to go: Châteauneuf-du-Pape
We couldn’t possibly write this article without giving you an option in the most famous wine region of all, Champagne. This area is within driving distance of Paris and is an up and coming area for golf. Golf de Reims was founded by the champagne houses Reims and Epernay and is set in old woodland so you’ll need to be accurate from the tee but it is a thoroughly enjoyable course to play. With raised greens, large bunkers and fast greens, this course is regarded as a great test of golf. One of the highlights of Golf de Reims is the exquisite clubhouse which is stocked with local produce including, of course, the sparkling nectar synonymous with the region.
Where to go: Veuve Cliquot
Our final French course of the article sits proudly on the banks of the River Rhine in the Alsace region bordering Germany. As wine aficionados know, this area is known as the origin of Riesling and this variety of grape was first planted in the region in 1477. Sitting relatively close to Strasbourg, Le Kempferhof was built in the grounds of a mansion dating back to the 1800s and the clubhouse is a converted hunting lodge from the period. The resort has a real feeling of vintage quality and this carries forward to the course itself which was designed by the American Robert von Hagge. The course has an American-feel to it given the designers fondness of water hazards and is consistently rated as one of the greatest courses in France. Rieslings from Alsace tend to be very dry with a cleansing acidity, this makes it the perfect refresher after your round.
Where to go: Trimbach
Sitting on the Costa Brava and framed by the Pyrenees, the PGA Catalunya Resort is another stunning test of golf in sumptuous surroundings. This resort is located near to Girona which is in the Empordà wine region of Spain where around 60% of the wine produced is Red. The variety Garnatxa is the best example of the diversity of Red wine the region is most known for. There is also White and Rose wine produced in the region. The resort was built to provide the European Tour with a venue for tournaments in Catalonia and with tree-lined fairways and many lakes, the Stadium Course is a challenging proposition. It is also ranked as the best course in Spain. One of the most impressive things about the PGA Catalunya Resort is that it only opened in 1999 and has already gained a reputation for outstanding quality.
Where to go: La Vinyeta
According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (IOV), Italy produced more wine than any other nation in 2015. Tuscany is home to the Sangiovese grape variety which is the main fruit used in the making of Brunello di Montalcino which is synonymous with the region. Decanter magazine rated Castiglion del Bosco as the 5th best vineyard in Tuscany and, as a bonus as we love variety, the 4th best (Biondi Santi) and 6th best (Salcheto) are both very close by. This wonderful course is set on UNESCO protected land in the historic V’al d’Orcia and was designed by Open Championship winner Tom Weiskopf. Cypress trees decorate the course and it’s said that the terrain inspired some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s works.
Where to go: Castiglion del Bosco
Almost everything about Argentario is breath-taking from the idyllic terrain of and around the resort to the facilities and rooms within it. This is pure five-star luxury in wine heaven. The resort is set upon land which was once an island but now, thanks to three causeways, is now no longer so. This 6,218 metre course has been carefully created with the local environment in mind and when it was being built many indigenous trees and shrubs were planted on the site. This exclusive resort benefits greatly from views of the Orbetello Lagoon but it is a demanding test of golf. Local legend says that a handful of European Tour players were invited to test the new course and their scores were so high that they swore members of staff to secrecy over their performances.
Where to go: Fattoria Le Pupille
Although this course may currently be covered in snow, it’s hard to find a more dramatic setting on the European Tour than Crans-sur-Sierre, the home of the Omega Masters. Set in the Valais-region of the Swiss wine map this course is in the heart of the Swiss Alps and at 1500m above sea-level and was designed by Seve Ballesteros and the course is named after him. There is also the Jack Nicklaus Course which was designed by it’s namesake. The most remarkable thing about Crans-sur-Sierre is that, due to it’s Alpine setting, it is only open for a few months in the summer and yet the ground staff still manage to present an impeccable course. This region is responsible for around one third of the wine produced in Switzerland with Pinot Noir and Gamay being two of the most common grapes. These two are combined to create the Dôle blend synonymous with the region.
Where to go: Domaine Rouvinez
Sitting on the Atlantic Coast, this true links is one of Europe’s great golfing challenges and has played host to the Portuguese Open. Sitting close to the city of Porto, famous for Port wine and the ocean-view clubhouse provides the perfect setting to sip some of the famous product from the Douro Valley. The course was founded in 1988 and has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the nation’s finest courses. Being positioned on the coast means that Estela is cooled in the summer by the Atlantic breeze and warmed in the winter by the Gulf Stream. Of course this course is set near the heart of the port-making area of Portugal but it is in a region that specialises in the production of vinho verde, a wine that is not allowed to be matured once made. This light, crisp and aromatic wine is very different to it’s more famous cousin and a must-have following a round in the summer heat.
Where to go: Real Companhia Velha