Our knowledgeable crew of course raters have played golf just about everywhere. Many of those courses you’ve probably heard of, but some are less renowned — at least for most golfers. In Best Course You’ve Never Heard Of, we celebrate those sneaky-good designs.
About 150 kilometers south of Paris (that’s roughly 92 miles if you’re keeping score in the States), in the Loire Valley, lies one of Europe’s great clubs, Les Bordes. Les Bordes is home to a pair of 18-hole courses, one by Texas-born Robert von Hagge, the other by Gil Hanse. Both are terrific. Unfortunately for most of us, Les Bordes is private. Very private. We’re talking Augusta National and Cypress Point-level exclusivity.
So, on my last pre-lockdown trip to the region, I looked for a more accessible option, slightly closer to Paris and open to the public. I booked a tee time at Les Aisses Golf.
First opened for play in the early 1990s, Les Aisses was originally designed by Olivier Brizon, who laid out 27 holes in three separate loops. In 2010, Martin Hawtree redesigned the property, reconfiguring the routing into two courses: the 18-hole Les Aisses course and a nine-hole course called La Canne.
When you arrive at this peaceful, forested property, you drive through a few of the great holes on the front nine and get a sense of their charm, which shows itself in old trees, well-positioned lakes and heather that’s as penal as it is pretty. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the golf is compelling. Like the crisp, bright wines for which the Loire Valley is famous, Les Aisses has a distinctive character. The combination of its bold bunkering with the wispy heather is phenomenal. The variety is admirable, with some standout holes that linger in your memory. Though the property is quite new, it’s easy to be fooled. It has the look and feel of a classic heathland course in the United Kingdom.
Les Aisses is the type of course one could play every day and never get tired of. Now, I’m not suggesting it is on par with Golf de Morfontaine, just north of Paris — widely considered the best course in mainland Europe — but it could be Morfontaine’s younger and lesser-known sibling, certainly deserving of more credit and attention. Personally, I can’t wait to reschedule my revisit.