Located just a few miles inland from the famous Promenande de la Croisette in Cannes, the fairways of the Cannes Mougins Golf & Country Club nestle in the foothills of the Southern Alps, close to the forested Valmasque Nature Park.
Formed in 1923, the club embarked on an ambitious plan to remodel the golf course in the late 1970s, calling in the design partnership of Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas to upgrade the layout.
This renovation led to the club establishing the Cannes Open in 1980, a tournament that was incorporated into the European Tour schedule between 1984 and 1994, then again in 2001 as a one-off event.
Notable winners down the years include Major champions such as Greg Norman (1983), Seve Ballesteros (1987) and Ian Woosnam (1994) and two of Zimbabwean Mark McNulty’s sixteen European Tour victories were also claimed here, in 1988 and 1990.
The course plays long, though fairways are wide and greens are generally large and subtly contoured. Feature holes include the 4th, which doglegs left and slightly uphill to a raised green, and the downhill 17th, where the putting surface lies beyond a threatening pond.
In 2015, Tom Mackenzie was called in to extensively renovate the course, refurbishing 25 fairway and 26 greenside bunkers, using capillary concrete – a highly porous but water retentive cement and polymer bonded mix – to re-line the sand traps.The architect also reconstructed the greens at the 11th, 14th and 17th holes as part of an enterprising improvement project that could well see the course at Cannes Mougins steal the limelight in French golfing circles once again.
How can Cannes-Mougins golf country club only be rated 11th in South East France? Having just come back from playing it, chronically out of season in early December, I would rate it as one of the very best courses it has been my pleasure to play anywhere in France and I have played a number.
This is first and foremost a members’ club and they pay big money to belong. As well as owning the club its 500 members expect top quality, which is why the fairways are immaculate, the bunkers are all raked, the greens are firm and true and the backdrop of forest and mountains is glorious.
The old stone clubhouse is also a delight although the delight does not come cheaply with an early morning Bloody Mary for my friend and I who had enjoyed rather a late night before we played setting me back €22.
Unlike some courses in the region there is a naturally seamless flow to Cannes-Mougins, with no long walks or buggy rides from green to the next tee box, and generally well marked, clear signage although do beware when walking off seven as we did and going to the tee-box behind the green. We found ourselves teeing off on 17!
Things start gently, easing us into the round and giving us time to relax and get loose before the more severe challenges are put in front of us. This is a long course off the back white tees of nearly 6,900, which is why it regularly played host to the Cannes Open, and why we went off the men’s yellow tees which reduces it to closer to 6,300 yards.
What I particularly liked was that the shorter par four holes all present different challenges. The par four fourth is only 356 yards and the tee shot takes us down hill before swinging steeply left and uphill to a large raised green with a tricky little bunker on the right hand corner of it. We must play our drive right to open up the hole but we then have to fly the ball over the trap to get close to the flag.
It is subtle nuances like this that make Cannes-Mougins a thinking property as well as giving big hitters the chance to open their shoulders on the four par fives to get a chance of getting on in two.
My personal favourite was the par four, 367-yard, dog-leg 12th which gives us an opportunity to cut off the corner by taking on the trees to get closer to the green which is protected by a stream.
A decent lofted club will give us a chance to stay on the green that has a steep drop at the back. In the glorious light, and one can see why so many artists come to the Cote d’Azur, we loved watching our balls soar in the blue skies all against a back drop of the Alps and the fresh smell of the forest.
The course is scrupulously fair with no savage quirks or hidden perils and walking up 18 in front of the handsome old clubhouse looking forward to a cold beer was a real treat.
Cannes is an expensive resort as is much of this part of France, but if you only play one course when you are staying in Cannes, just a few miles south, then make sure you book a tee-time at Cannes- Mougins. It is, quite simply, first class.