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Think green - about playing golf in the region

Think green - about playing golf in the region

With seemingly endless wide-open spaces and an agreeable climate, it’s hardly surprising that the Poitou-Charentes region and surrounding area are home to a thriving golf community. Join us as we find out more... 

You’re a golfer? Then you’ll already be well aware of just how big the game is here in France; Poitou-Charentes alone has over twenty courses, each with its own character and loyal club membership. But for those who have yet to discover the game and the social world which surrounds it (or who happen to be lapsed UK golfers thinking of getting back into the game in France) we decided to find out where to play, what to expect and in particular, how things might differ here from what you’ll find in the UK.


Starting out...

For reasons which will soon become apparent, you can think of the words ‘course’ and ‘club’ being pretty well one and the same – you won’t find one without the other. By its very nature golf is a social activity and, even if you’ve never played, there’s a good chance that you’ll know someone who does and who will be able to introduce you to their regular club. This can be an ideal way to break the ice although it’s by no means the only way to get started. New players are the lifeblood of any activity so there are usually special offers and facilities designed to help novices become regular players. However, something to bear in mind if you’re planning to tag along with a regular golfer is that their preferred club won’t necessarily be the closest one to where you live. Courses and clubs vary in their settings and facilities, and many keen golfers are quite prepared to travel a little further to enjoy the particular combination which they have found through experience suits their own needs and preferences. If you find that golf really is for you then it’s probably well worth visiting any other courses within convenient driving distance before you decide who is going to get your own club membership fee.
In the meantime, wherever you go for your first visit, once you’ve looked around, you’ll need some formal instruction. Lessons from a qualified pro are important as you’ll be laying the foundations of a good technique and will avoid developing the kind of bad habits which will otherwise slow your progress and compromise your playing abilities. You’ll also need a basic grasp of golfing etiquette, which sounds a bit off-putting, but amounts to a set of guidelines agreed upon for perfectly practical reasons by the game’s governing bodies. Obviously, if you’re not confident that your French is up to it and will need an English-speaking coach then make a point of checking that this is available before you book your lessons.

What is it likely to cost?

Courses offer incentives to attract beginners and young players, and around Easter time each year the Fédération Française de Golf ( runs an annual initiation/discovery event called Tous au Golf. It’s an ideal opportunity to try the game with equipment supplied and expert coaching with most courses participating. This being France, however, there are a few formalities to deal with, notably a Licence FFGolf, which will cost around 50€ per year but includes essential insurance cover and the same certificat médical required to practice any sport in France. Your GP can examine you and supply this.

Tuition fees vary but, should you become hooked, you’ll have the choice of paying ‘green-fees’ (typically 40-50€ or so per 18-hole round, according to the season) or signing up for a club membership. Again, there are significant concessions for young players, students, etc., but if you want to be able to play whenever you wish then your first annual subscription (after an introductory discount) will probably cost around 800€, with a 45% or so reduction for that of your husband, wife or conjoint. If you’re happy to forgo playing at weekends and public holidays though, you can opt for a ‘semainier’ membership, saving you around 20%, and should you feel like spending some time polishing up your technique on the driving range, around 6€ will buy you a couple of buckets (seaux) of balls.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most paid-up member golfers are content to play ‘their’ course, but should you feel like trying a round elsewhere, your membership card could bring you a reduced green fee. It’s best to check beforehand, of course, and note that anytime you want to play – even at your club – you need to book in advance. 

So, what will you get from your new-found passion?

Often dismissed as merely an untaxing stroll, golfers have a very different perspective on the game. For one thing, it’s by no means a summer-only activity so weather-permitting you’ll be out in the fresh air for some worthwhile physical exercise throughout the year. A full 18-hole round for two reasonable players will take around 2½ hours, to which you can add an hour or two for a foursome round. Golf is also very much a social thing which brings people together with many new friendships forged on the course or in the club bars and restaurants. Finally, the more relaxed style of golf in France cuts across all kinds of barriers, both cultural and linguistic, so whether you join a club with a high proportion of British members is entirely up to you. Either way, you’ll find yourself among friends. 

playing-golf-poitou-charentes-coursesEQUIPMENT: what you really need to get started...

French dress-code among golfers is much less formal than in the UK, but in common with skiing, cycling and other outdoor activities, you could spend an eye-watering amount on top-end equipment and clothing.

But initially, at least, don’t get carried away – it’s perfectly possible to get into the sport with minimal outlay. Resist, for now, the lure of
the pro shop and head instead to suppliers like Decathlon and Intersport, where you’ll discover a good range of products at much more down-to-earth prices.

For starters you can also hire a trolley and set of clubs, but you’ll obviously want to have your own pair of golf shoes designed to give you a solid grip on grass, sand, etc., and to keep your feet dry in damp conditions. A golf glove (left, if you’re right-handed, and vice-versa) is also recommended, and will help with controlling your grip – synthetic gloves are cheaper than leather and good quality ones should outlast them. Balls are
another area on which you can economise; look for ‘lake balls’ – literally balls which have been recovered from lakes around the course after having been lost by hapless players.

Find out more...



Parlez-vous Golf?



Par: The number of strokes allocated to each hole – and to a full round.

Birdie: Scoring one under par for a hole.

Eagle: Scoring two under par for a hole.

Bogey: Scoring one over par for a hole.

Double Bogey: Scoring two over par for a hole.

Air shot: When you swing to hit the ball and miss.

Draw: When played by a right-handed player, a shot which curves gently from right to left. The opposite
applies to left-handers.

Hook: Like a Draw, but curving more sharply.

Fade: When played by a right-handed player, a shot which curves gently from left to right. The opposite applies to left-handers.

Slice: Like a Fade, but curving more sharply.

Tee box: The starting-point for a hole.

Fairway: The short-mown grass from tee to green.

Rough: Taller grass which lines the fairway.

Green: The putting surface around a hole

Through the green: The entire area of the course, with the exception of the teeing ground, the green and any hazard.

Water hazard: Any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch or other open water course (even when not containing water) and identified by yellow stakes or lines.

Casual water: A temporary accumulation of water on the course, where you may take a ‘free drop’ (i.e. move the ball to play in the dry without penalty).

Out of bounds: When your ball crosses a boundary of the course.

Handicap: An allowance of strokes allocated to each player, based on their ability.

Net Score: A player’s score – after subtracting their handicap from the gross or actual score.

Marker: Someone charged with recording your score.

Honour: The right to play first from the teeing ground – determined by the lowest score on the previous hole, or by the flip of a coin on the first tee.

Lost ball: When you’re unable to find your ball within five minutes of starting to look for it.

Provisional ball: Another ball played when you believe your ball might havegone out of bounds, or is lost.