Golfing in Provence: Visit France's most authentic region while playing your very own ryder cup!
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
Close your eyes and think of France: what comes to mind? Chances are, your top-ten Francophile associations won’t include golf! But ever since 2011, when the famous Ryder Cup announced that its 2018 competition would take place in the suburbs near Paris, golf has gained quite a few adherents. And now that the storied matches are upon us, what better time is there to explore golfing in France? There are plenty of French golf centers that offer wonderful scenery amid fascinating history and culture, but some of the most special are found in lovely Provence. The region offers golf to suit every taste, like relaxed courses for families to enjoy, championship courses designed by seasoned golf pros and world-famous architects, and top-rated resorts featuring indulgent spas and the ultimate in culinary hospitality. And all this set amid the beautiful and memorable Provencale landscape! Whether you choose to organize your vacation around golfing, or to simply take in a day of the sport while exploring the countryside, golfers in Provence are in for an incredible treat. Luckily for golf fans, the best courses in Provence are well located: from near Avignon to Aix-en-Provence and beyond to Marseille, where you’ll also find charming towns, sun-filled lush valleys, and dramatic limestone cliffs and gorges. Be sure to make time to explore nearby vineyards, olive groves, and town markets for a delicious taste of what makes Provence so very Provencale. The following are some of our favorite golf centers in the area.
Golf de Saumane
Route de Fontaine de Vaucluse
F-84800 Saumane de Vaucluse, Frances
Near the town of l'Isle sur la Sorgue and the ancient village of Gordes, the Golf de Saumane is quickly becoming a favorite among in-the-know golfers. This fantastic 18-hole course, established in 1989 by Jean Garaïalde, is located upon the slopes of the Vaucluse, surrounded by the blue mountains of the Luberon, with exceptional views of the Sorgue valley and the Alpilles beyond.
This “challenging but fair” course – over 6,000 meters long – rambles over hills and valleys, through pine and oak forests, passing by lakes, waterfalls, and fountains. Water hazards, doglegs, and wildlife will vie for your attention!
Along with the18-hole course, there’s a driving range, practice bunker, and putting green, as well as a pro shop where you can rent clubs and carts, and book a lesson with the resident golf pro. Visitors are welcome every day, and prior reservations are required. The handicap limit for the course is 30.
And as with many area golf centers, the Golf de Saumane means more than just golf. Amenities here include a highly regarded gourmet restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner, club bar with terraces and lounge offering snacks and drinks, swimming pool, 2 tennis courts, and a gym. The bar, restaurant, and terraces take great advantage of the spectacular views. There are also overnight accommodations available on the grounds.
The charming town of Isle sur la Sorgue is a short drive away. It’s known as “the Venice of Provence” for its picturesque canals, streams, and many waterwheels. Besides its famous Sunday market where you can find every manner of goods from local produce and artisan foods to antiques and textiles, the town has many excellent cafes, restaurants, galleries, and shops in its meandering lanes. And the fantastical natural setting lends itself to hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, mountain biking, and fishing. To read more about what to do around the Provence region click here .
Another wonderful spot in the area is the Fontaine de Vaucluse. This is where the Sorgue River begins, in a mystical spring whose water has carved a spectacular gorge that’s over 300 meters deep. Here, too, there are many great lunch spots to choose from, with wonderful food, charming gardens and inspiring views of the Sorgue.
Pont Royal Golf & Country Club
F-13370 Mallemort, France
Mallemort, home to the Pont Royal Golf & Country Club, is situated along the Durance River between the two larger towns of Aix and Avignon, and boasts lovely landscapes and typical Provencale architecture. The village has a number of cafes, restaurants, and shops to enjoy. Indeed, beyond golfing, the area offers much to entertain the whole family: walking, biking, archery, horseback riding, and playgrounds are all easily accessible.
The Pont Royal resort feels like its own Provençal hill town, with stone walls, terra cotta roofs, and shops along narrow winding streets selling local wines and artisan foods and goods. Es Beau la Vie offers delectable light meals at the members’ lounge, bar, or terrace, while the restaurant Les Voûtes serves lunch and dinner in Le Moulin de Vernègues at the edge of the golf course. For a special culinary experience based on fresh seasonal ingredients, try La table du Moulin, open on Fridays and Saturdays.
The wellness center on the grounds, MySpa by l’Occitane, features traditional Provencale ingredients and traditional manual techniques in its skin and body treatments. More relaxation is to be found at their impressive pools, saunas, Jacuzzis, and Turkish baths.
And then there’s the golf! Designed by golfing legend Severiano Ballesteros, the justifiably famous 18-hole course presents a variety of challenges for players of all levels. This lovingly conceived and maintained course features stupendous views over the Alpilles, Luberon, Durance valley, and the mountains of Trévaresse. Open throughout the year, the Ballesteros course hosts the Masters 13 tournament each October.
The course at Pont Royal is beautifully integrated within the natural landscape, with each fairway presenting its unique challenge among lush hills, lakes, scrubland, grand oaks, and dense pine forests. This course is not for the timid golfer: water hazards, elaborate topiary gardens, doglegs, and dramatic vistas abound, not to mention the 180-meter climb at the 11th hole. For even more of a challenge, try the course when the Mistral winds come through in late autumn! The handicap limit here is 35.
The Pont Royal golf center also has a 6-hole training course called "La Durance" along with a driving range, three chipping greens, practice bunker, and a Pitch & Putt with 3 tees, great for perfecting your short game or wedging. The 6-hole course lies among pine forests along the canal of the Durance river and is a worthy training ground for ambitious beginners and experienced golfers alike. Golf lessons are available and open to all levels at the David Leadbetter Academy. Visitors are welcome, and club and cart rentals are available at the pro shop.
For those in your party who choose to pass up the golfing, may we recommend taking in the beautiful environs by bicycle? The nearby Alpilles Natural Regional Park is a delight to explore on two wheels, where you’ll encounter marvelous landscapes, like inspiring cliffs and valleys, vineyards, olive and almond groves. For example, you might cycle beside the nearby Canal de la Vallee des Baux, passing the site d’escalade d’Eyguieres, an impressive limestone rock formation. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, leave your bike at the base and climb to the top for a spectacular view!
There are biking opportunities throughout Provence for every level of ambition, and plentiful spots to rent bicycles and even e-bikes if you’d like to make things easier on yourself. For more information on organizing your own Provencal bike adventure, click here .
Golf du Domaine de Manville
Domaine de Manville F-13520
Les Baux de Provence, France
The 100-acre estate of Domaine de Manville is tucked into the rocky valley below the lovely medieval hilltop village of Les Baux . The property has been transformed from a historical working farm into a hotel, spa, and golf center surrounded by olive trees, fragrant wild herbs and rolling verdant fields.
The renowned architect Thierry Sprecher designed the 18-hole course with the aim of preserving the natural beauty of its environment. The elements of the course incorporate the earlier structures on the grounds, with bunkers supported by ancient stone walls, lush fairways bordered like farmland, diverse native plants, olive groves, and organically integrated water features.
At over 5,000 meters long, the golf course is designed to appeal to all levels of golfer and is rated as moderately difficult, with a handicap limit of 54. It’s especially suited to pleasure-golfers. There’s also a practice putting green and an 8-tee driving range, 3 of them covered. Visitors are welcome and reservations are required.
Domaine de Manville offers a number of outstanding dining options featuring fresh local produce, much of it from the estate itself, in the Provencale tradition. The bistro, with a pleasant dining room and terrace, serves breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beverages throughout the day, as well as daily specials. The bar offers drinks and small dishes beneath a lovely glass atrium, and L’Aupiho, a Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant, is known throughout the region for its outstanding innovative seasonal cuisine, where exciting desserts get special mention!
In keeping with the authentic Provencale feeling of the resort, its sunny spa and fitness center are housed in original buildings on the estate, with pools, saunas, Turkish baths, and full spa services.
If you’d like to take in some of the attractions beyond Les Baux, the storied Roman town of Glanum is nearby. Though it was abandoned over a thousand years ago, you can visit the remains of its streets, markets, temples, bath houses and monuments. In fact, there are many fascinating remnants of the ancients throughout Provence. Here’s a guide to some of the most spectacular: click here
Another fascinating nearby site is the Asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole, where Vincent Van Gogh spent several months just prior to his death. Here at the cloisters after a devastating breakdown, he was reinspired by the light and landscape of the Alpilles, and in just one year made more than 150 paintings and drawings, among them some of his most famous works, like the Irises, his Self Portrait, and Starry Night. A walking tour of the grounds guides the visitor through the emotional artistic journey of Van Gogh’s time here.
To learn more about following the famous painter’s footsteps: Click here.
Les Domaines de Saint Endréol Golf & Spa Resort
Route de Bagnols-en-Forêt
F-83920 La Motte-en-Provence, France
This first-class course is situated in an area renowned for its wines and exceptional landscapes, and the sweet town of La Motte, where it’s located, boasts the charming medieval streets and buildings that are typical of Provence.
For golf-lovers and nature-lovers alike: designed by Michel Gayon and known throughout the world, the 18-hole golf course winds its way along the seductive Endre River through dry scrub, ancient oaks and pines below the red rock of the famous Rocher de Roquebrune towering above, that glows a luminous red in spectacular sunsets. And speaking of sunsets, many golf courses in the region offer “twilight pricing” at a discount. If you don’t mind a bit of playing into the sun, ending a round at sunset in Provence can be quite a memorable experience.
Classified 4 ½ balls out of five by the Gault & Millau Golf Guide, the hilly course at Saint-Endréol -- one the top 10 golf courses in France, and certainly one of the best in Provence -- has a just-right level of complexity, asking you to stretch enough to keep things interesting, but still within most players’ reach. And there’s a surprise along every turn; each of the 18 fairways has its own personality and presents its own distinct challenge. Among them, number 2 features a water obstacle and a dogleg to the right, and the 13th, perhaps the most famous, a dramatic drop onto a waterside green. To finish in fine style, the 18th brings you within paces of the clubhouse terrace with a panoramic southern-facing view of the course and the Rouët hills, marvelous at every time of day. The clubhouse itself, a converted Provencal farmhouse, is a welcoming, picturesque spot to enjoy a drink or snack, out on the terrace or beside the fire.
All players with a maximum handicap of 36 are welcome to play this remarkable course. There’s a practice range with 16 tees, 9 of them covered, as well as a putting and chipping greens and a training bunker. You can find club rentals, cart rentals, and a secure locker room at the pro shop, which offers private and group lessons for every level of golfer. They also host ranking tournaments once a month if you’re looking to improve your handicap. Visitors are welcome and advance reservations are required.
More than just a golf center, Les Domaines de Saint-Endréol beautifully integrates outdoor activities with ultimate relaxation within its incredible landscape. The entire resort covers 370 acres, including a high-end hotel, spas, and tennis courts with lessons available for all playing levels, as well as a bar and critically acclaimed restaurant: Le Palayson , located in a former farmhouse, offers prix fixe and à la carte menus for lunch and dinner. Why not combine a day out on the green with a wonderful meal? Or a restorative massage, sauna, Turkish bath, a soak in a hot tub with a view of the Mediterranean? Or simply a glass of excellent rose on the panoramic terrace? There’s really no end to the wonderfully indulgent choices!
Should you want to venture further afield, you’ll find dozens of wineries here in the Var, where the majority of Provence AOC rosé is produced. In fact, there are vineyards within minutes of Saint-Endréol in any direction you choose, and most of them offer free tastings and tours.
If you’d like to get an overview of the many producers in the area, the Maison des Vins Cotes de Provence, on the RN-7 between Les Arcs sur Argens and Vidauban, is a fun place to start. Virtually all of the wines (more than 800!) in the area are on offer in this lovely facility that offers rotating free tastings of 16 different wines each week, with red and white wine to sample along with plenty of rosé. The tasting menu changes on Wednesdays in case you’d like to return for something new. The prices here are comparable to what you would find at the wineries themselves. The Maison also hosts workshops in wine tasting, food matching, etc. throughout the year, along with seasonal special events. You’ll also find a well-curated selection of local products, gifts, and souvenirs on sale here. It’s a great way to survey the incredible range of Provencale wines, or to identify the wineries in the area you’d like to visit for yourself.
Check out our guide to rose wine in Provence to find out more about this lovely wine region: Wines of Provence - Guide to Rose [6 Vineyards To Visit in France]
Chemin de Granet, 1335
F-13090 Aix-en-Provence, France
Just a few minutes’ drive from the town of Aix-en-Provence, Golf d’Aix-en-Provence occupies one of the most beautiful and serene wooded areas in the hilly Aix countryside, surrounded by flowering gorse and heather.
The internationally renowned American architect Ronald Fream designed this undulating 18-hole course to appeal to a broad range of skill levels. The fairways feature a wide variety of natural landscapes, all quite lovely, with the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th being special favorites. Water hazards, big greens, doglegs, and a very deep rough keep the play interesting.
There’s a large practice area with pitch, chip, and bunker areas, plus two good-sized putting greens. The pro shop rents clubs and carts at reasonable fees, and classes are available from resident golf pros through the David Leadbetter Academy. There are a clubhouse and restaurant, but confirm opening hours before you go, and also be sure to check their website for tournaments, golf and dining packages, and occasional special events like Friday happy hours and weekend brunch with music.
Although Golf d’Aix-en-Provence doesn’t offer elaborate amenities beyond its golf facilities, nearby Aix, the “city of Paul Cézanne” certainly does. The pedestrian center has beautiful architecture dating from the 17th century, with narrow tree-lined streets, bell towers, and sparkling fountains. See if you can count all 1,000 fountains that are supposedly here! And there are many well-known – not to mention yet-to-discover – specialty shops, excellent cafes and restaurants, and fascinating historical and cultural sites.
In addition to those seeking the typical Provencale delights of artisan foods, textiles, and ceramics, fashionistas will also find what they’re looking for in Aix. Many of its charming streets are home to unique and luxurious fashion boutiques: the Rue Marius Reynard in the Old Town is perhaps the most upscale and expensive one, with shops like Zadig & Voltaire, Maje, and Mes Demoiselles offering haute designs at prices to match. For some nice value brands, head to the Rue Clemenceau: Etam Lingerie and Undiz for undergarments, Kookai and Naf Naf for separates, and Celio for menswear.
You’ll find more independent shops in the center of the Old Town: La Grande Boutique, Morgan, Comptoirs des Cotonniers, Friends, and Wood offer harder-to-find up-and-coming designers in a range of prices. The Gago boutique is an insider’s favorite, with a mix of young designers and more established brands in a fresh mix of on-trend clothing and accessories. The quirky l’Oiseau Bleu is another favorite, run by Magali Ortolani, where captivating clothing, accessories and housewares vie for your attention. You can also find clothing deals at the Tuesday and Thursday open air market on the Cours Mirabeau.
Shops in Aix are typically open Monday through Saturday from 10 in the morning until 7 in the evening. For more about fashion-hunting in Provence, click here: Latest Provence, France Fashion
But back to the topic at hand: golfing in Provence! We’ve highlighted just a handful of the many golf opportunities to be found here. We hope we’ve inspired you to discover the unique pleasures of golfing in this beautiful part of the world.
Next time you plan your golf travels and think about the South of France, consider staying at Provence Paradise (an authentic townhouse at the heart of the Provence) rather than a hotel. For more ideas or for booking your own vacation rental, Click Here to find out more.
We look forward to your visit!
The PROVENCE PARADISE Team