The world's most rich and famous have found escape in St. Tropez for centuries. Icons Bridget Bardot and artist Henri Matisse helped spread word of the unbridled, isolated luxury of France's southern peninsula.
But its fame hardly stops there. These days, paparazzi make a living camping out on the shores of the St. Tropez harbor as Hollywood's elite frequent the town's beaches.
All this time, golf in the French Riviera has been an afterthought. In hindsight, it's vexing. After all, golf is a rich man's game and the landscape in St. Tropez rivals any exotic location the world over. Seems like a perfect fit.
So what took you so long, Golf du Gassin?
One of the world's most beautiful and glamorous hotspots finally has a world-class golf club to call its own.
Golf du Gassin (Gassin Golf and Country Club to the English) opened this past year and has brought the jet-set crowd a new club as ritzy and elegant as the region itself to play some small ball.
The St. Tropez region is an exclusive place, pricing itself out of 99.9 percent of most travel budgets. They can only dream or gawk at the region ripe with sandy beaches and incredibly picturesque landscape.
Why then, should Golf du Gassin be any different? Play here is open to club members, guests or anyone who forks over between 600,000-2.5 million euros for a villa.
However you do get what you pay for. These spacious, open villas have incredible views of the French Riviera and golf course. There are about 60 villas and 73 townhouses currently at Gassin. Many have already been purchased but some remain open. A select few are available for rent.
Golf du Gassin not only brings in world class golf to the area, but anchors a new kind of community in St. Tropez. While it's hardly what you'd call in the States a "golf community," it's certainly the first of its kind on the "land of warmth and light."
It's gated and has many conveniences often lost in an old, historic European region. Getting there by car isn't such a chore, and even if you aren't driving, a helicopter pad is less than 10 minutes away.
As for the golf itself, the course opened in the summer of 2004 and was designed by Gary Player's design group along with Frenchman Gery Watine. The course is a modest 6,649 yards: challenging but hardly back breaking.
The course is also in a listed and protected environment and the untouched natural splendor that surrounds the course couldn't be beat anywhere in the world. If the championship course isn't leisurely enough, there's a nine-hole executive course, along with a driving range and full-service short game area.
Scott Ferrell, Player Design's staff president said that, like most of his group's designs, Golf du Gassin was designed with playability first and foremost.
"Mr. Player is very adamant about building playable golf courses so even high handicappers can enjoy them," Ferrell said. "He prefers to build playable courses. He wants people to enjoy the game. And he wants to get more people involved in the game."
The course isn't a walk in the park, or in this case an afternoon on an 80-foot yacht. It plays among the grandeur of the hills of the French Riviera. This means you will seldom find a flat fairway.
Tees and some of the greens are elevated, but the design mostly favors the player. But as a designer, it would be almost impossible not to provide stunning views as a complement to the course itself.
"The surrounding views are spectacular," Player said. "The landscape elevations are challenging and will add interest to the routing plan. Visitors from all over the world will have a superb place to enjoy a round of golf in luxurious surroundings."
With the addition of Golf du Gassin, St. Tropez is still hardly a "golf destination." It begins and ends with glamorous luxury among the world's most rich and famous. A round on the links will often be considered a break from the beach or the quaint shops in town, but Ferrell still thinks the course will stand out among the destination's clientele.
"It adds a new dimension to St. Tropez as a destination," Ferrell said. "People are going to be able to play golf along with sailing and shopping. It also has a housing component around the golf course that will do very well because of its location."
March 17, 2005
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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