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Visiting Vidauban: A Secret Golfers' Sanctuary

Vidauban is one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world and also one which many have probably never heard of. With under thirty members, we take you on a first-hand "inside the ropes" tour of this golf haven.

23 May 2023 Words by Mikhel 4 minute read Visiting Vidauban: A Secret Golfers' Sanctuary

Table of Contents

  1. The history of Vidauban Golf Club
  2. What are the surrounding areas of Vidauban Golf Club like?
  3. The facilities of Vidauban Golf Club
  4. The Vidauban Golf Course
  5. Vidauban Golf Club's Environmental Record
  6. Vidauban's Hospitality
  7. FAQs

The history of Vidauban Golf Club

This elusive golf course was the passion project of the late and great British–American golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Snr (Adare Manor, Valderrama and Spyglass Hill amongst many others).  In the 1970s Robert Trent Jones purchased the property known as the Domaines de Vidauban with grand plans for three golf courses, at least two clubhouses and three thousand condominiums and a large hotel. He spent much of the 1980s studying a variety of development plans. Due to the ill health of his wife, Robert Trent Jones Snr enlisted the help of his son, Robert Trent Jones Jnr, to create his dream course which was completed in the early 90s. It was originally intended to host an annual fifth major - "The International Open" - to rival The Masters, but Vidauban never managed to secure the investment required to achieve such a feat. Jones worked alongside his son Bobby on the original layout in the early 1990s which, following a period of uncertainty and underinvestment, is now owned by "equity" members and led by CEO Richard Sorrell.

What are the surrounding areas of Vidauban Golf Club like?

Allow extra time to travel to Vidauban; it is easy to get lost. The gate with no signage off a long, winding road through two Provence towns is easy to miss. But then again, maybe it is designed this way. There have been rumours of prospective members and guests being blindfolded to protect the location of this secret golf gem. Many keen golfers have even turned up at the gates to try and grab a glance of the elusive course before being politely turned away. Fortunately we had a kind invitation and, after arriving at the gate of a neighbour's farmhouse, we managed to find the entrance. The terrain, which lies on the Plaine des Maures nature reserve, is stunning with its rolling hills, parasol pines and outstanding vineyards, all of which are a haven for wildlife, while the rocky outcroppings scream "danger - don't hit your ball here"! Due to the course's seclusion, its other striking quality which accompanied the exquisite vistas was how quiet it was. No people, no cars, just the sound of nature. This is helped by the fact that a mere 2,500 rounds are played every year by the club's current twenty or so members (soon to increase to thirty) and their guests. On arrival we were warmly welcomed by General Manager Cyprien Comoy.

A warm welcome The course peacefully aligns with nature

Left: A very warm welcome. Right: The course peacefully aligns with nature.

The facilities of Vidauban Golf Club

On arriving, Vidauban feels like a quaint Provence village. We kicked off our shoes in the locker room which was relaxed and warm, and exuded a feeling of staying in a friend's chateau. The various sculptures around the putting area and "clubhouse" were charming. After a quick espresso, we jumped in buggies and were led to the driving range by the kind CEO, Richard Sorrell. We were given small maps to help navigate the property's wild surroundings which gives the course a unique character and makes "Le Prince de Provence", which was its original name, one of the finest courses in Continental Europe, equal of Robert Trent Jones' famous work at Valderrama. On this particular Sunday there was only one other fourball on course, which we were told was the norm at Vidauban. This really is intimate, relaxed exclusivity. After clipping away a few Pro-V1s off the fresh range turf we made our way to the first tee, and it became clear that this place is crafted for people who love golf.

The clubhouse - like a Provence village Golf locker rooms - no frills
Locker rooms Charming sculptures in the Clubhouse Village

Left top: The Clubhouse - like a Provence Village.  Right top: Golf locker rooms - no frills. Left bottom: Locker rooms. Right bottom: Charming sculptures in the Clubhouse Village.

The Vidauban Golf Course

The course is a par 72, 18-hole championship course that stretches to 7,000 yards of the backs, with options between 6,700 yards and 6,100 yards meandering through a spectacular landscape of sandstone outcrops, parasol pines and cork trees. The relaxed atmosphere of Vidauban was captured by the fact that we were told that we were welcome to play from whatever tee we wanted, as most of the holes didn't even have tee markers. It is easy to get lost in the beautiful scenery which surrounds the course and the pure sound of nature and there was a definite acknowledgment of how privileged and lucky we were when teeing it up on the first. The most striking thing about this highly technical golf course is the bunker placements, with their fescue eyebrows, which are carved naturally from the landscape but are highly visible meaning golfers must plot their route to the green. Each of the par 5s, particularly the 8th hole, challenge you strategically on your second shot. The par 4 17th is much like Valderrama. Robert Trent Jones golf must be played in 3 dimensions, with positioning off the tee being key to avoid the beautiful but dense canopied pines that come into play. A few green entrance points were recently sand-capped, providing golfers with more shot options around the greens which were most welcome. Of course, it is meticulously maintained and absolutely pristinely kept.

A map to get you around The daunting 4th hole - just stay right
Fescue eyebrows on the bunkers and beautiful dense Parsol Pine tress in the distance Take care on the 17th

Left top: A map to get you around  Right top: The daunting 4th hole - just stay right. Left bottom: Fescue eyebrows on the bunkers and beautiful dense Parsol Pine trees in the background. Right bottom: Take care on the 17th.

Vidauban Golf Club's Environmental Record

The subtle tortoise shell logo from the rare Hermann Tortoise, is a nod to Vidauban's environmental and biodiversity credentials as a unique wildlife reserve; the club is proud of its unique and close 10-year partnership with the French Natural History Museum. It's probable that there are more of these Mediterranean tortoises that inhabit the golf course than the number of Vidauban members themselves. The golf course feels primarily to be at one with nature, peacefully coexisting and neither over-powering the other. It's a testament to the hard graft, passion and soul of Robert Trent Jones Snr, Jnr, Bobby Jones and their more recent golf architects, Mike Gorman and John Clarkin of golf consultancy Turfgrass.

The Hermann Tortoise logo - a nod to Vidauban's environmental credentials Sweet endings at Vidauban

Left: The Hermann Tortoise logo - a nod to Vidauban's environmental credentials. Right: Sweet endings at Vidauban.

Vidauban's Hospitality

There are many private clubs in the world that claim to be unpretentious but, in reality are anything but. Here however, the warm and friendly hospitality blends perfectly to create a relaxed and intimate environment. Following our golf, we gracefully swished down some rosé, which originated from a vineyard on the Domaines de Vidauban of course, and were treated to an outstanding poulet rôti, after all it was Sunday lunch time, and an exquisite fruit tart. It is thanks to the great efforts of Richard Sorrell and Cyprien Comoy and their team that this sanctuary has managed to maintain such high standards with such an intimate membership base.

Having witnessed this sanctuary first hand, we can safely say Vidauban, with its intimate environment, highly technical golf course, and relaxed and friendly service, make this one of the world's most exclusive golf clubs. A true masterpiece from start to finish, exactly as Robert Trent Jones Snr dreamt up.



Does Vidauban Golf Club have any special dress code?

Just the usual golf clothing (collared golf shirt, golf trousers or shorts and a lightweight jacket as showers can come and go quickly) is required throughout the course and clubhouse, and we didn't even have to change our golf shoes to eat lunch on the terrace. Relaxed, friendly and welcoming.

How many members does Vidauban have?

The members at Vidauban, although extremely private, are very welcoming and warm. The club started with around 18 members and currently has around 25 who are what are referred to as "equity members", so are all part owners of the club with annual running costs split between them. There are plans to increase the membership marginally to around 35.

How can one play golf at Vidauban?

Vidauban is one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world. Naturally, the easiest way to get to play this magical course is to be invited by one of the few members. Sometimes there are some opportunities through charitable auctions but these are few and far between.

Are there any golf courses near Vidauban which are easier to get onto?

There is Terre Blanche which boasts two wonderful courses - Le Château and Le Riou - around an hour away and have a wonderful hotel on the estate, and also Taulane. A little further afield of course there is the magnificent 27-hole Morfontaine and Les Bordes which has the New and Old Course, as well as their par-3 Piglet course which is a lot of fun and beautifully designed. However, both are private courses reserved for members and their guests.