Golf and Golfing in France

Information on the French golf clubs, facilities and organisations. With details on the golf licence and transferring a handicap...

France has many fine golf courses which generally welcome visiting golfers and new members. The French Golf Federation website has contact details and website addresses for golf clubs in France.
  • Fédération Française de Golf At: 68 rue Anatole France, 92309 Levallois-Perret Tel: 01 41 49 77 00 Fax: 01 41 49 77 01 Open: Monday to Thursday 09:00-18:00, Friday 09:00-17:00 Website

Golfing Regions

Normandy and Brittany both have many seaside golf courses such as the historic links at Granville designed by Harry Colt before World War I. Granville is the only actual links course in France and plays firm and true year round. Paris and the Ile de France have some of the country's finer courses including the Golf National, home of the French Open. There are many courses on the south-west coast in the Biarritz area and on the Mediterranean coast such as La Grande Motte where visitors may rent an apartment on the course from L'agence du golf. There are a number of mountain courses including some on the ski slopes which open only in summer. There are also mountain courses open year-round such as Falgos which lies close to the Spanish border in the eastern Pyrenees.

Playing Clubs and Seasons

Most courses are open throughout the year although some close during the winter due to ground conditions (snow on mountain courses and boggy conditions on many inland courses). Some close in the mid-winter off-season for a month or so to allow for course work and recovery of greens and fairways. Most clubs have white and yellow tees for men and blue and red for ladies. There are not normally restrictions as to which tee should be played off; in general better players will opt for the whites (men) or blue (ladies). Some courses have black tees which are generally only used for elite amateur or professional competitions. The French golf federation is affiliated with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club so the rules are the same as in other European countries with familiar colours for boundaries:
White
out of bounds ground under repair water hazard lateral water hazard
It is advisable to ring ahead to book a tee time. A handicap certificate (licence) may be required. Most French clubs have no particular dress codes and players often change in the car park. There is free access to club facilities and bars and restaurants in the clubhouse are often open to the general public.

Joining a Golf Club

Joining a golf club can be as simple as turning up at the club reception desk and paying the subscription. Many golf clubs have space for new members, however the more prestigious clubs, especially around Paris, may have a waiting list, a joining fee or requirement to be introduced by a member. Subscription periods run from the start of the calendar year (from 1 January to 31 December) but a pro-rata subscription fee may be negotiable for new members joining later in the year. On joining, there are various other charges (some may be optional). They are:
  • The subscription (abonnement) entitles a player to play the course for a year
  • Club membership (cotisation)
  • Handicap certificate (licence) for players wanting to take part in competitions
Most French clubs are members' clubs so membership also entitles the holders to participate in the running of the club through voting for committee members and at general assemblies as well as standing for the committee. Some French clubs are owned by private companies, often hotel chains. Club membership often brings with it other benefits such as membership in one of the various golf club networks in France such as Golfy or Bluegreen. These networks give discounts on green fees at participating clubs, reduced green fees at some clubs in the area, and a reduced rate for guests to the member's home club. Various categories of membership exist and some clubs offer very cheap membership for young people and beginners.
  • Most clubs are run by an elected committee (Comité Directeur) headed up by a Président. There is no direct equivalent of club captain
  • Competitions are run by the President of the Sporting Committee (Président de la Commission Sportive) who is also responsible for club teams usually in collaboration with team captains and the club pro
  • The club professional is usually mainly involved in teaching and may not have any direct involvement with the pro-shop

Taking up Golf in France

The French Golf Federation organises an annual event around Easter to introduce new players to the game of golf. Virtually all golf clubs participate in this and it gives all comers the chance to try out the game under the eye of a teaching professional and with all equipment provided. The event is known as Tous au Golf and is advertised by posters and in local newspapers. Many clubs, especially in holiday areas, also offer a series of lessons for beginners, often on the basis of small groups. For children, there is often an Ecole de Golf which takes children of all ages including beginners and which allows them to progress to top class golf. A system of regional scouting allows the youngster to feed into serious competitions at regional, national and international level. Almost all clubs have a practice area and a teaching professional who can arrange private lessons with individuals or small groups.

Golf Handicaps, Slope and Competitions

Most club competitions in French golf clubs are open to anyone with a recognised handicap (licence). A holder of a French Golf Federation licence may easily enter competitions by supplying the licence number. Various agreements are in place for players from other countries and a handicap will usually be accepted on display of a handicap certificate.

Obtaining a handicap

France follows the handicap system set by the European Golf Association (EGA). A handicap (licence) card is available from golf clubs, the Fédération Française de Golf and online.

The slope system

France uses the slope system to calculate playing handicaps and this is designed to even out handicaps of players from different clubs. The slope of any particular course is higher or lower according to the perceived difficulty of the course. Under this system, a handicap is adjusted against the slope of the course that is being played. So a person with a handicap of 18 playing on an easy course may be given a playing handicap of 16 for the day whereas on a difficult course, the handicap goes up and a player may get 21 strokes.

Competitions

Golf competitions are very often organised on the basis of different series or divisions grouping together players of the same sex and handicap range. Prizes are then offered for the best in each series and it is fairly standard to have a prize for best gross score(s) per series as well as best net. There is an entry fee in addition to the green fee. Most competitions are sponsored with a good set of prizes including a free prize draw. The prize ceremony usually takes place at the end of the afternoon and is a family occasion followed by a buffet – often kir and canapés. There are numerous team competitions in France at local, regional and national level and for all ages and categories. There are often inter-club competitions where anyone can sign up to play in a friendly match against another local club. For good players – single figure handicaps - there are Grand Prix organised at many clubs and the results of these are used as the basis for a regional and national classification of players. There are events for juniors at regional and national level. There are many events for seniors who make up a large part of the membership of many clubs. Pro-ams are held in many French golf clubs. For the most part, the pros are club professionals whose main job is teaching the game of golf. Usually, these are one or two day events and the entry fee of a couple of hundred euros can work out as good value if it includes green fees, a practice round with the pro, halfway house snacks, a gala dinner, a gift and a good prize fund. The host club may be able to find a professional for a team or players may enter a team plus professional. Players entering a competition may require a medical certificate from a doctor stating that the player's physical condition allows them to play golf safely.
  • For information on medical certificates in France, visit FFG (in French)

Carte Verte

The green card (Carte Verte) system establishes the handicap of unclassified or new players. After some initial training which is signed off by a pro, the player takes a final test of nine-holes which have to be completed in a limited amount of time; a pro verifies the play. A player who successfully passes the test receives the Vignette Carte Verte, which is stuck onto the back of the handicap card. In subsequent years this will be printed onto the card.

Useful Vocabulary for Golf

English French
backswing prise d’elan / montée
driving range terrain d’exercice / practice
Fore! Balle! (pronounce as "shall")
golf ball balle de golf
golf course terrain / parcours de golf
green fee droit de jeu / green fee
hole trou
iron fer
practice terrain d’entrainement/practice
score card carte de scores
water hazard obstacle d’eau
wood bois
Note: Many English golf terms are the same in French, for example: bunker, green, divot, handicap, fairway, putter, driver.

Further Information

Information by: Terry Atkinson of www.atkinsonconsulting.co.uk Copyright © Terry Atkinson All Rights Reserved