We visit Terre Blanche, the stunning five-star golf resort set in the French Riviera that boasts two championship golf courses and a state-of-the-art academy
Set in the hills of the French Riviera is one of southern France’s top resorts, the highly regarded Terre Blanche in Tourrettes. This magnificent five-star hotel, spa and golf resort is a key part of the European Tour Destination portfolio, which now comprises 13 such destinations spread throughout Europe and beyond in the case of Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, where the tour’s flagship finale is played.
Of those 13, seven currently host tour events, and many are regarded as the premier golf resorts in either their regions or countries, with the line-up including PGA Catalunya in Spain, Le Golf National in France and Kunsangen in Sweden. The concept is a network of world-class golfing facilities whose alliance with the European Tour tells the visiting golfer all he or she needs to know about the quality of the destination. That quality was all too apparent as we pulled up outside Terre Blanche’s impressive main gates after a pleasant 40-minute drive from Nice.
We were here with Under Armour for the launch of two new golf shoes, the Tempo Tour and Tempo Hybrid, to speak with a top biomechanics expert based here called Jean-Jacques (JJ) Rivet, who was consulted on for the design of both the models. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many excellent golf resorts over the years, but as we were waved through by security, it immediately became obvious that this was going to rank among the very best. Upon arrival we went for lunch with JJ, owner of the ‘Biomecaswing’ academy, at which players can undergo a full biomechanical screening and fitness programme to get their body more suited to the demands of the golf swing. He is an informed and charismatic man who set our short stay off on the perfect foot.
We then embarked on a grand tour of the resort. Suitably replete, we set out to explore the expansive estate, making our way slowly past elegant residential areas. There are 115 suites and villas, ranging from 60-300 square metres all with a private terrace and stunning views.
These dwellings are set into a fairly steep hillside, between the main reception and restaurants at the top and the golf clubhouse at the bottom but throughout the tour we had tantalising glimpses of wonderful golf holes through the trees. At the top of the hill is also a 600m infinity pool, a kids club and outdoor bar area to serve all your family’s needs. You can even rent a bike ride to see the local vineyards and sample the local tipples.
Eventually, we reached the Leadbetter Golf Academy, which is also home to the first ever European Tour Performance Institute, though a second is now open at Jumeirah. There was some mind-boggling technology on display, and it was no surprise to learn that the French Golf Federation uses the facility as its winter training base, while Victor Dubuisson, Alex Levy and the resort’s touring pro, Raphael Jacquelin, are among the top home players to pass through the doors.
A key piece of technology here are force platforms, which tell you how well or badly you distributed and transferred your weight during the swing by highlighting in the minutest of detail which specific part of your foot the weight is on at any given point. The volume of data generated is vast, but it is the practitioner’s duty to pinpoint the one or two key things that could make the most difference, and then suggest exercises, drills or treatments to address things rather than bamboozling the pupil with information overload.
The next morning, it was on to the golf. There are two championship courses at Terre Blanche, both designed by Dave Thomas respecting the existing landscape, its valleys, lakes, ravines and woods. The Chateau course previously hosted Senior European Tour events, while the Le Riou course is reserved for hotel residents, members and their guests and recently hosted an event on the ladies tour equivalent to the Challenge Tour.
JJ had said that if we could get through a tough opening stretch on the Chateau course, things would settle down, and he wasn’t wrong. The 1st requires a long drive to make the corner of a dogleg stoutly defended by large trees. The next is then a glorious par 3 playing uphill along a rocky creek, with anything left a distinctly bad miss. The drive from the elevated 4th tee has you playing straight towards the mountains, but two holes later it’s water that forms a rather more close-at-hand distraction on the daunting par-5 6th playing towards the Chateau after which the course is named. After a decent drive, I was forced to lay up to make the final expanse over the unforgiving water a little easier.
As my game went south, the course went from strength to strength with excellent hole following excellent hole… the clever dogleg 10th where the right-hand water, tree and sand seem blessed with magnetic properties; another elevated tee with a mountain view on 11; and then the pretty par-3 16th, with a walled stream to the front and an amphitheatre of trees providing a stirring backdrop. By the time I was chipping and putting to save par on 18, with glorious views out over the surrounding villages, I’d run the ‘good shot’ bank dry, but this had in no way detracted from the experience. So, was it better than Le Riou? Not necessarily better, but definitely more demanding.
The Le Riou course is around 700 yards shorter and certainly less demanding off the tee in terms of accuracy. It is arguably more playable and enjoyable for a wider range of handicaps. There are some fun risk and reward holes, like the downhill, dogleg par four 7th where the long hitters can cut the corner with the driver should they wish, or take an iron to the corner for safety. Both the 9th and 18th are tricky finishing holes to the front and back nines, both with water lurking down the right to snaffle a wayward drive.
I’m certain anyone that makes the journey will leave Terre Blanche having experienced a hugely enjoyable trip – great golf and great food in great surroundings. Whether you take on the challenge of the golf courses or relax in the quaint surroundings of the hotel and luxury spa, you’ll find your ideal way to pass the time. The blend of facilities, and easy access from Nice airport, makes Terre Blanche the ideal retreat for families or couples. You really won’t leave disappointed.