It’s rare to visit a place where you can feel a tangible magic upon entering. A place that as you arrive, inexplicably clutches you in its enchanting grip, its vast nature leaving you awe struck as you’re enveloped by its beauty. And yet that’s exactly what Les Bordes is, a mesmerizing escape in the heart of France’s Loire Valley that is both magical and exquisite – masterfully nestled amongst 1,400 acres of unspoiled Sologne Forest – and boasting what is now one of the top golfing destinations in Europe.
It’s no secret that you can find golf courses and private clubs all across France, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that can rival the character and exclusiveness of Les Bordes. Boasting not one but two of the most superlative 18-hole courses in the world along with a 10-hole short course, Les Bordes is a golfing destination unmatched in its uniqueness and contrast, a compelling blend of the old and new. And if you are one of the lucky few in the world to enter through Les Bordes’ gates, you will find a club that transcends even the most seasoned golfer’s expectations.
Les Bordes History
Despite its immense size and understated grandeur, the history of Les Bordes, as it’s known today, is a relatively modern one, the brainchild of Baron Marcel Bich, better known for his role as founder of Bic pens and razors. Originally acquired as a hunting retreat by Baron Bich, the business magnate envisioned a golf course that would allow French golfers to compete on an international level. Together with business partner Mr. Yoshiaki Sakurai, the two enlisted world-renowned architect Robert Von Hagge to design what would come to be known today as the Old Course, a captivatingly beautiful yet disarmingly difficult 18-hole course that has since become known as one of Europe’s masterpieces.
Today, under new ownership and a re-imagined master plan, Les Bordes is in the midst of a rebirth, benefitting from the completion of a two year construction project that included the addition of a second 18-hole golf course designed by acclaimed architect Gil Hanse as well as a new 10-hole short course. And while the expanded golf offerings alone are enough to write the next chapter in Les Bordes’ illustrious story, they’re only the beginning. The rebirth of Les Bordes is no longer just about golf, it’s about creating an exclusive, enchanting destination for members, their families and eventually guests through a number of new developments, including a series of residences, a luxury hotel and spa, and a wealth of activities centered around the entire family. Ultimately, Les Bordes is transforming itself into an all-inclusive luxury destination for the most discerning buyers while still managing to offer one of the greatest golfing experiences in the world.
Les Bordes Golf Club
The heart of Les Bordes is undeniably golf, and the past two years have led to the most expansive, ambitious expansion in the club’s history. To re-imagine the golfing experience offered to its elite members, Les Bordes enlisted famed American architect Gil Hanse, whose achievements include designing the 2016 Rio Olympic Course along with the world top-100 courses Castle Stuart and Ohoopee Match Club. As if that isn’t enough, he’s also the designer responsible for restoration work that includes 3 of the next 4 U.S. Open venues: Winged Foot, The Country Club and The Los Angeles Country Club.
A global leader in course design, Hanse created a new 18-hole course in striking contrast to Les Bordes’ Old Course. Whereas the Old Course is known for its target oriented approach and its stunning use of water throughout the course – with original architect Robert Von Hagge favoring a style played through the air – the New Course, as it’s called, requires much more intelligent ground use. As you’ll quickly discover, the ability to shape and control your ball across the playing surfaces is essential to your success. The New Course measures 7,391 yard yards from the back tees, but plays shorter due to its firm base, while formidable bunkers and stunning green complexes are centerpieces of Hanse’s design.
One of the things I found most striking about the new course is its integration into the natural environment, which has a sand base and tends to be more exposed and rolling than the more forested, clay-based Old Course. Blending beautifully with nature, fairways transition seamlessly to natural vegetation and trees, and you’ll find ample use of heather and broom throughout the course with vistas framed by century old pine, chestnut, oak and birch trees. There’s more than 250,000 heather bushes used throughout the New Course, part of Les Bordes’ vision of creating a more sustainable golf experience and reducing the need for chemical usage. In addition to the New Course, Hanse was also enlisted to design a 10-hole short course, known simply as the Wild Piglet, which following completion has already been ranked one of the top 25 par-3 courses in the world and the perfect way to end your day.
While I’m not going to go into a course review on Les Bordes in this article, there’s a wealth of golfing specific publications that have already done so, I’ll say simply this: the complexity and contrasting styles between the Old and New Courses is nothing short of remarkable, and should you find yourself among the fortunate few invited to become a member, you will partake in what can only be described as one of the most unique and exciting golf experiences in the world. And the reviewers agree – the Old Course is consistently ranked among the top three courses in Europe, while Golf Magazine just ranked the New Course among the Top 100 courses in the world, despite the course opening just this summer and despite competing against more than 575,000 other courses across the globe.
Les Bordes Clubhouse and Lakeside Cabins
The re-imagining of Les Bordes begins with golf, but an ambitious expansion to both transform existing spaces and launch a new residential development is well underway. At the helm of development is London based architects Michaelis Boyd, known for their designs of Soho House in LA, Berlin and Oxfordshire as well as the Groucho member’s club in London. For Golf Club members, two of the key projects already completed by Michaelis Boyd are the Clubhouse and 24 lakeside member cabins. When you’re not golfing, the Clubhouse is in many ways the heart of the Golf Club, offering members an intimate space to relax, enjoy meals throughout the day, or savor a drink at the bar.
Architecturally speaking, Michaelis Boyd masterfully kept the soul of the Clubhouse intact, maintaining the exposed hand hewn timber framing, original limestone flooring and stone fireplace; but through the addition of expansive Crittall-style external doors, brass latticed chandeliers and deep teal walls, managed to create a light filled, inviting space by day and a luxurious, sumptuously lit room by night. It’s the perfect space to relax after a day of golf, and the restaurant and private dining area offers members a seasonal à la carte menu, while the fully stocked bar offers a vast assortment of Loire Valley wines in addition to an expansive selection of standard drink fare. When weather permits, an outdoor terrace provides a stunning view of the golf course while al fresco dining, and future plans for the Clubhouse include a lounge and games room, new changing facilities, sports bar and a golf simulator.
Following in the footsteps of the Clubhouse, the 24 lakeside cabins share a similarly luxurious aesthetic, with ceilings being heightened to create a greater sense of space, natural materials like oak floors and Carrera marble helping create a calming, harmonious palette, and rich additions like velvet upholstered furniture and opulent chandeliers adding just the right amount of boldness to the design. The cabins, paired with the Clubhouse, offer Golf Club Members a supremely comfortable, inviting space during their stay, and architecturally Michaelis Boyd has created what can only be described as the perfect accompaniment to the beautifully designed golf courses.
Cour du Baron Residences
While redesigning the Clubhouse and lakeside cabins was ambitious enough, Michaelis Boyd and interior design company Morpheus & Co. were also tasked with launching the first phase of residential development at Les Bordes, known as the Cour du Baron residences, open to purchase for both Golf Club members and non-members. With phase one comprised of 45 single family homes, the designs take inspiration from the historic priory and agricultural buildings spread throughout the Les Bordes estate.
As is the case with the Clubhouse, Michaelis Boyd imagined spaces that retain original features, such as weathered stonework and clay roof tiles, dramatic high ceilings, exposed beams and rustic limestone flooring, while still managing to add contemporary elements with a focus on light and nature. Each design feels airy and light, and each boasts an extensive outdoor area seamlessly blending into the surrounding woodland.
There’s three different design options for each floor-plan, which range in size from three to seven bedrooms and 180 – 580 sq. meters. The traditional style uses local stone available in 3 different colors, tiled roofs, stone detailing, painted timber doors and windows, traditionally proportioned roof pitches and dormer windows, while inside, exposed rafters provide a touch of softness and a Gallic flavor to the living spaces.
The contemporary style feature timber clad, gabled structures inspired by local agricultural buildings. Slimline metal windows and standing-seam zinc roofs give a clean and contemporary accent to the modern barn vernacular, while exposed pitched ceilings internally and expansive corner windows add drama. The Classical style features a mix of local stone and timber cladding, also available in one of three colors. Exposed rafters lend a countryside feeling to the living spaces, with generous windows creating an openness that connects the interiors to nature.
Inside, Morpheus & Co. were tasked with creating a variety of bespoke furniture collections to blend with the aforementioned styles. The result is Morpheus & Co.’s Cour du Baron furniture collection, which beautifully blends timeless design with livability, comfort and inspiration, and again seeking to immerse owners into their surrounding environment, whether inside or out.
For golfers looking for a home that truly blends the sport of golf, a mindful connection to nature and the serenity of thoughtfully designed architecture, Les Bordes is without equal. But even for those of you who aren’t members of Les Bordes Golf Club, as I’ll discuss next, Les Bordes is still a compelling choice for those seeking a peaceful, restorative home in the heart of the Loire Valley.
Les Bordes Activities
As already noted, Les Bordes is located only 90 minutes from the heart of Paris in the heart of the UNESCO world heritage region Loire Valley, an area known globally for its beautiful landscape, opulent chateaux, fine wines and quaint medieval towns. Venturing out of Les Bordes will present you with a seemingly endless array of activities, whether its exploring the absolutely stunning Château de Chambord, a sunset wine tasting on the Loire River, or exploring nearby Orléans, the city saved from English siege by Joan of Arc in 1429.
Inside the Les Bordes estate, however, a wealth of activities have either been completed or are in the process of construction, with a focus on recreation suited for the entire family. A natural swimming lake with white sand beach, enhanced equestrian facilities, boating lakes, archery, a new tennis center, fishing, cycling and electric quad paths are just some of the activities for adult residents, while a petting farm, go-kart track, pony riding, kids club, adventure playgrounds, zip lines and an ice cream shop are some of the fun offerings planned for kids at Les Bordes. Future additions include a community village square with restaurants, shops, a farmers market, and an outdoor amphitheater centered around the estate’s 13th century priory.
Ultimately, Les Bordes is transforming itself from a destination focused purely on golf to a destination that even for non-golfers, delivers a truly captivating array of activities.
Les Bordes Conclusion
At present, Les Bordes delivers one of the greatest golf experiences in the world, two exquisite courses in one location, and should you find yourself invited to join its elite ranks, I wouldn’t hesitate to add your name to the list. But Les Bordes is undergoing a phenomenal rebirth, and for the first time in history, the focus of Les Bordes is about more than just world-class golf. It’s about creating an escape that offers nearly every amenity imaginable in a residential development, making it a truly compelling option for anyone seeking a home that offers the ultimate in thoughtful design and unparalleled well-being. The magic of Les Bordes is undeniable, and whether for golf or your next home, Les Bordes truly defies expectations.
You can learn more about Les Bordes by visiting their official website, and should you wish to visit, you’re in luck. Les Bordes recently announced a partnership with Six Senses, Travel + Leisure’s number one hotel brand for the last three years. Six Senses is currently in the process of transforming Les Bordes’ 19th century Chateau Bel Air into an 88-key luxury hotel and spa, and if their other resorts and spas are any indication, it will be nothing short of perfect.