The late great pioneering golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, first set eyes on the tract of land that would become Vidauban Golf Club in Provence in the 1970s. He eventually acquired the property, on the edge of the Plaine des Maures nature reserve just north of St Tropez, and in the 1990s he set about developing it, at times with the assistance of his son, Bobby, whose company RTJ II has maintained a relationship with Vidauban, primarily through the club’s CEO, Richard Sorrell.

And talking about maintenance…I am no expert on course design but I found it interesting to look at and compare these (not quite the same) photos of the par-four 17th hole. In a recent article in Golf Course Architecture magazine, the course’s superintendent, Stephen Byrne, told Toby Ingleton: “I really felt that new bunkering could transform the course; not just from a maintenance perspective, also in terms of strategy and connection with the landscape.” The top photo shows how the bunkers used to look; the bottom one is how they are now.

Mike Gorman, an architect with RTJ II who stayed on site throughout the renovation programme, explained some of the thinking behind the work that was done on that hole. “Seventeen is a great example…the green sits in a punchbowl and we were able to expand the fairway surrounds and really open up more dimensions in playability,  where you can play a flop, a putt, all sorts of different shots, as opposed to it just being a one-dimensional shot out of the rough.” As you can see, they also reshaped the bunkers quite considerably, in the process adding a thick layer of rough to the bunker surrounds to make them appear almost aggressive.

Incidentally, my attention was drawn the other week to a story on a Golf Pass blog. Headlined ’12 insanely private golf courses you will never get to play’, the piece cited eight courses in the United States, one in Canada, one in Australia, one in Morocco…and one in France. Listing it under ‘Prince de Provence’, the club’s name under previous ownership, the brief paragraph read: “This is just one of many names to which this Robert Trent Jones Sr/RTJ Jr tandem effort has been referred in the past. With just two dozen captain-of-industry members, this club near the town of Vidauban is so secretive that rumour has it that guests are blindfolded en route to the course in order to keep it as hidden as possible from the outside world.”

I can confirm that the bit about the blindfold is bollocks. In any case, given that one can get a pretty good view of the 10th hole from the D74 on the way to Plan-de-la-Tour, what would be the point?

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