Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu Golf Links

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Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu Golf Links

The Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu is much more than a golf course. It is a green oasis on the western outskirts of Cannes, where the city’s population relaxes, enjoys gourmet food and parties in the more than 100-year-old clubhouse, which oozes authenticity and good atmosphere.

Hole 4 at Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu golf course
Hole 4 is so close to shore that you can almost hit the ball in the Mediterranean with a hook. – ©cityxee.com

Start of golf in France

It was in the late 1800s that golf courses really spread from the British Isles and throughout Europe. In 1888, the British built France’s first line in Biarritz in the French Basque Country, close to the Spanish border. Here the climate was good all year round with mild winters and summers, which only rarely got too hot due to the proximity to the Atlantic. Just 3 years later, Cannes followed in Southern France.

The Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu is among France’s oldest courses

In an idyllic setting of 74 hectares of coastal links, the Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu Golf Links was designed by English course architect Harry Colt in 1891 at the request of Grand Duke Michel of Russia, who lived in exile on the Côte d’Azur. Harry Colt was one of golf’s most prominent course architects in the late 1800s, and the busy architect managed to design more than 300 golf courses. Of course, he was also a passionate and skilled golfer himself.

Close to the center of Cannes

This legendary course is located just 8 kilometers West of La Croisette, the fashionable seafront promenade of Cannes with trendy boutiques, small kiosks and luxurious cafes. Therefore, it is sought after by both the local French, but also by the city’s many tourists. You should therefore book a game time in advance, and you should expect that virtually all players go out in 4-balls composition.

Aerial photo af Old Course golf course in Mandelieu
Despite its name, the Old Course is more of a park course than a links course – ©the Old Course

Perfect Golf weather

My golf partner and I chose to play the course in mid-February, and we were really lucky with the weather on that day. It had been frosty at night, but when we arrived at the facility in the middle of the morning, the sun was shining from a deep blue Mediterranean sky and it was largely calm with an air temperature of 15 degrees. Otherwise, there is often a nice onshore wind, which can be cold in February, but we needed sunscreen more than windbreaker.

Pleasant company

The company on the round was also very nice. We were put in a 4-ball with a couple of retired Dutchmen. A man and a woman, both residents of Western Cannes and home players on the Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu. They showed off the course with excellent golf, ready-to-golf and high spirits.

After a Mulligan on hole 1 and great difficulty from the 2nd tee, we were assured with big smiles that since we had paid the green fee, we were allowed to play on the fairway. Instead, my partner and I struggled with the balls between the hundred-year-old and majestic umbrella pines, which from both sides of the fairway let their evergreen crowns grow far beyond the mowed dense grass.

Reduced green fee

Upon arrival, we paid green fees in the club’s shop, which was not flashy, but sold exactly the most necessary for a round of golf. The price of a round varies over the day and year, and we ended up paying 90 euros per person, after a current reduction of 20 euros. It costs to play golf in the heart of the Côte d’Azur!

The discount was primarily due to the fact that there was a lot of ongoing maintenance work on both stands and greens. In addition, all tee sites were knocked out from mats, and as grass growth was generally dormant, preferred lies were played on the fairway. In other words, it was allowed to clean the ball and place it on the grass within a scorecard’s distance, but not closer to the hole.

All well and good, but the course will undoubtedly present itself more beautifully later in the year than in February, when only a few blooming yellow mimosas decorated the forest ground.

Boat trip on the river Siagne is included in green fee

The 18 holes at Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu are intersected lengthwise and transversely. The panoramic train line that meanders along the Mediterranean sea, between Marseilles and Nice, cuts the golf course into two almost equal pieces lengthwise. Facing the coast are holes 3-5 and 13-16. The rest of the holes are on the North side of the railway, which actually interferes very little, as it is thoroughly wrapped in trees and bushes on both sides of the track.

The small barge that sails the golfers across the river Siagne.
The small barge that sails the golfers across the river Siagne after hole 2 – ©cityxee.com

More charming, however, is the river Saige, which cuts the course across. It is crossed aboard a small ferry that is pulled and controlled by cables. There can just be 2 buggies and 3 to 4 trolleys at a time, and the crossing only takes 2 to 3 minutes. You already cross the river after hole 2, after which you play holes 3 to 12 at the Eastern end of the facility towards Cannes. On the 8th green, you stand just 100 meters from the start of the runway of the Aéroport de Cannes-Mandelieu, which separates the golf course from the city.

The Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu is flat

After hole 12, our Dutch teammates left us. As nice home players, they had otherwise given us knowledgeable advice and good guidance, even though it didn’t help that much. And the game was also spiced up with humorous stories about both the club and Cannes. But even pensioners on the Côte d’Azur are apparently so busy that 18 holes are hard to reach on a weekday in February.

We waved at them as they pulled their trolleys towards the clubhouse while, after the second boat trip of the day, we drove on in the buggy to the left and through the railway tunnel to continue on hole 13. The Old Course is otherwise so flat that you can do without a buggy for 45 euros. But we didn’t know that until we finished in front of the clubhouse on hole 18.

The large and shady crowns of the umbrella pines at Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu
The large and shady crowns of the umbrella pines are a pleasant obstacle in the heat. – ©cityxee.com

On a hot summer day, you can walk effortlessly with the trolley in the shade of the huge umbrella pines and enjoy the cool Mediterranean breeze. Just remember to bring sufficient drinks and snacks, as you do not turn at the clubhouse on hole 9. Once you start, you don’t see the starting point again until you finish.

You risk a good score

The layout, the few water hazards and affordable hole lengths make the Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu suitable for less experienced players. You just need to be able to keep pace, because the course is well filled all year round. Only on hole 13 do we meet a water hazard and I lose the first ball of the day. So does my gaming partner.

The most difficult element on the Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu is thus the fantastically beautiful umbrella pines, which often interfere with the outcome from the tee, especially on the soft dogleg holes, which curve slightly to the left. Here, a right-hander will often get the most out of driving a low draw, but most of us are better at a high slice. And then things go wrong! I personally would have saved a lot of pars if on 4-5 holes I had replaced the driver with a low shot from a long iron. But that’s how smart you are only on hole 19.! Then it’s just a matter of remembering it for the next time you play the course.

Affordable last “hole”

The imaginary hole 19 on the terrace facing the 18th fairway appears faster than you really want. Suddenly you hit the last hole, which, with a wide fairway with no sand bunkers along the way and a playable rough, is an easy finishing hole. Only the wet penalty area to the right of the green can present the approach stroke challenges. And if you have played the affordable 5350-meter course in 71 strokes from the yellow tee, then you have just hit the design of the course, which has a single par-3 hole more than usual on the for-9. 

One player who is guaranteed to have played the course in 71 strokes and probably fewer is professional golfer Victor Dubuisson. He was born in Cannes in 1990 and learned the difficult game in adolescence at the club. Since 2010, with great stability and many top-10 results – but only a few victories – he has played in all the major international tournaments. He even qualified for Europe’s Ryder Cup team in 2014.

The clubhouse buzzes with life all day

As always after a good day on the golf course, make time for a well-deserved refreshment in the club’s restaurant. Note that the kitchen closes at 3pm, which is quite typical for French golf restaurants, which primarily function as lunch restaurants. Both club members and non-members are welcome, and many French people take advantage of this opportunity during their lunch break.

The terrace and restaurant at Old Course Cannes-Mandelieu
The terrace and restaurant overlooking hole 18 – ©cityxee.com

In addition, there is a small corner at the club’s training facility on the other side of the road Route du Golf, which cuts through the facility. There are parking areas on both sides of the road. On the West side of the road is the club’s driving range with 24 covered impact mats.

Good training facilities

The club also has two smaller training grounds for beginners. A 9-hole Pitch & Put course ‘Petit Prince’ is to the right of the fence. And a slightly longer 6-hole course ‘Grand Duc’ is sandwiched around the first holes of the Old Course and behind the fence. The intermediate course is played in par 21 over a total length of 1227 meters from the longest tee. They have thus managed to create a facility where both beginners, intermediate and experienced golfers can feel at home, and one senses that the development of young players is prioritized by the club.

Remember the story

Before packing up the clubs and heading home, be sure to take a look at the clubhouse – both inside and out. The architecture of the building is special to Southern France with a more Northern European-inspired half-timbering, wood carvings, cornices, and roof dormers. Unfortunately, a newer extension on the West side, facing hole 18, spoils the overall look, but testifies to the fact that the restaurant is popular and attracts many guests.

Inside, the air saturates with authenticity when you enter the changing rooms. Here, the original wardrobes in dark, precious woods stand in long rows along the walls, while the bathroom facilities have been renewed by a gentle and elegant renovation.

Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late from a nice round of golf to test the kitchen, but with a large glass of mouthwatering beer on the table and the mild February sun on our faces, we could sit back relaxed in our chairs and nod appreciatively to a well-functioning golf course with lots of history and undoubtedly also a safe future. In Cannes you will never run out of golfers or good weather.

Club website: www.golfoldcourse.com

By Mikael Mortensen – 2023

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