<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=570152946471707&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Golf in Normandy

Posted by Lisa Marie on Mar 7, 2024 4:00:00 PM

Expansion of golf to the US 

Golf was born in the 15th century and was originally played on the eastern coast of Scotland, not far from Edinburgh. It became popular one century later, when King James IV of Scotland officially recognised it in 1502, becoming the first golfing monarch. Then, King Charles I brought the game to England, and it spread in Europe, when Mary, Queen of Scots, introduced it to France, while studying there.

Mary, Queen of Scots copy-1Mary, Queen of Scots

In 1744, the first golf club was created, allowing the game to become officially a sport. It was thus in the 18th century, when a large population of Scottish immigrants arrived in the United States, that it went beyond the European boarders. Nowadays, golf is extremely popular in the United States, specifically in some regions such as Florida.

It is said that the United States count 24 millions players. But why is golf so popular beyond the Atlantic? First of all, there are a lot of golf courses everywhere. Then, an important point is that contrarily to a majority of sports, it can be played by all ages, and you don’t have to stop after a certain age. A third point is that it can be practiced alone or with friends, which leads us to the fourth and last statement, which is maybe the most important: it is a way to socialize easily. Indeed, you can create a network while playing, and discuss with people.

In France, we had to wait until 1856 for the first golf course to be built. It’s the town of Pau, in southwest of Hexagon, which had that privilege.

Normandy, an important region for American golf players

Normandy is an important region for golf players, especially American ones. Indeed, due to its rich history, having a link with theirs, from the Second World War tragic events, they are a lot to choose Normandy as a destination for traveling.

WW2 copyAmerican assault troops landing at Omaha Beach

Indeed, it is one of those places which allows American visitors to connect with their collective history; reinforcing national pride and therefore, helping to develop their personal identity. So, they can visit and remember what occurred eighty years ago, while playing golf.

But did you know that Normandy was an important place for playing golf? In fact, we all know its undeniable Viking heritage, medieval battles, and the story of the Normandy Campaign, but it is also a place to visit for golf amateurs. Here, we count approximately forty golf courses. Furthermore, they are quite different from each other, which is interesting for passionates. Indeed, it has a plurality of choices, from along the beach coast to greens in the campaign. And it can be of 9, 18, 27 or even 36 holes.

Granville Golf course through time

If there is a Norman town which is interesting for golf, it’s Granville, with its 12th most beautiful course in France!

Located in the southwest of Normandy, and upper to the Mont-Saint-Michel, Granville, whose initial name was Roque de Lihou, ought its actual name after the land was given to the Grant family by William the Conqueror, in acknowledgment of their help in the conquest of Normandy in 1066.

Guillaume-le-Conquerant copy-4

William the Conqueror

It is a maritime city, who only lived off the sea until the war of 1870. Then, under the Second Empire, a new enthusiasm for “sea bathing” was born, invented in the 18th century by the English Dr. Russel, and the first establishment dedicated to this practice was inaugurated in Brighton in 1783, and reached Granville later on. On March 16th, 1926, the town was classified as a climate resort, and fifty-three years later, it was recognized as a tourist and seaside resort, proving that tourism plays a major role in the local economy.

To keep its prestige and to continue to attract more and more tourists, Granville offered sailing, horse racing, had tennis courts, but didn’t want to stop there. Indeed, F. P. J. de Venloo (Golf History Spelling), a Belgian architect and big sport player, but also Head of the “Cercle des Sport” (Sport circle), in the town of Granville, had the idea to promote golf.

The project of building a golf course thus came to life on June 18th , 1910, financed by the “Société Hotelière de Normandie”, and the decision was officially taken in 1912. Three years later, the 9-holes provisory course was built in the land of Bréville-sur-Mer, which is three miles away from Granville.

It was the first golf course to be ever built in the Cotentin, the Second one in Western France, after the one in Dinard, and the sixth in Normandy after Dieppe (1897), Deauville (1899), Cabourg (1907), Etretat (1910) and Rouen (1911). At that time, people also played in the Jersey and Guernsey islands, which are not so far from Normandy.

A project stopped because of the First World War.

The Granville Golf Course was officially inaugurated on Sunday July 5th, 1914. For the occasion, the seventeen-year-old golf champion Aubrey Boomer was invited to demonstrate his talent. Unfortunately, twenty days later, the First World War began, and the course was transformed into a maneuver camp.

Granville came back to life… so as golf in the Roaring Twenties

When World War I ended, the idea was to develop Granville, and make it attracting for tourists. Thus, the golf course project came back to life on April 9th, 1921, with the ambition to build a 18 hole course. It would attract foreign customers and would be perfect for the town.

It will be supervised by Henry Shapland Colt (1869-1951) and Allison from 1921, already impressed by the golf’s potential in 1913, under the direction of the well-known Mr. Green. Harry Colt was considered to be a pioneer of modern golf architecture in Great Britain, but also a great player.

He designed more than three hundred courses, including one hundred and twenty-two in Great Britain, fifty-seven in United States, nineteen in Ireland and twelve in France.

A brand new 18-hole golf course

The 18-hole Granville golf course was operational in 1922 and was at the time one of the largest golf courses in Europe. In 1923, the club had already nine members, offering to the club its first results. From 1928, Granville will receive some of the best French players, and will welcome the National Amateur in 1929, then the men’s France vs Holland match in 1931 and the French International Amateur in 1935, continuing to increase its reputation.

In 1931, the architect Auguste Bluysen built a new large, impressive L-shaped Club House, with a Norman-style, looking like the typical villas we have on the coast.

Granville, birthplace of the well-known Christian Dior

Granville is also famous for being the birthplace of the talented creator Christian Dior, who was born on January 21st, 1905, who launched his first collection in 1946. He often talked about the golf course with his friends, and assisted to the National Amateur in Granville, in 1929. In September 1930, he organized the Christian Dior Cup. This will inspire the creation of a very famous annual event in Granville, the “Dior Cup”, from 1937. Even if. M. Dior was not a player himself, some members of his family were registered in the club, and he was and still is, a symbol for the town. He died in 1957.

The renowned Granville golf club, darkened by 1929 Crisis

In the 1930s, the golf club was so popular that a lot of people wanted to play there, especially internationals. It welcomed very prestigious competitions, as the Gorden-Bennett Trophee in 1931, won by “Harry” Bentley. It gained in fame in 1932, with the organization of the “Special Golf Week” in the end of July, and which attracted both amateurs and professionals, in particular French people. From 1934, the prizes from Cartier jewellers made it become “international”, even if the frequentation of the Casino and hotels was affected by the 1929 crisis, making the Société Hotelière de Normandie think about the eventuality to sell the golf course. In Spring 1937, the golf is said to be closed. Eight Parisians and One local resident offered to be in charge of the club, and on May 10th, 1937, the Sports Association, directed by André Thibaud, was created.

Our darkest hours

A week after the last competition of the 1939 season, on September 3rd, France was forced to declare war to Germany, which led the golf activity to stop. One exception has to be counted: half a dozen of soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force, garrisoned in Granville, organized a little golf match in 1940. Then the course and the Club House were evacuated in 1941.

Granville is taken by the Germans during World War II on June 17th, 1940. The golf course is mined, and bunkers are built on it, trenches are dug, the Club House is requisitioned, and its keeper is dismissed. The town will be liberated on July 31st, 1944. An American will install himself on the parts not so damaged by the war.

The course, badly damaged, was removed from its mines in 1945, but was the least of people’s concern. Moreover, the previous Parisian members of the club were gone.

Granville Golf Course rehabilitation

On Wednesday October 20th, 1954, a meeting took place in Paris to re-establish a management committee, and to talk to the Société Hotelière, who decided to sub-rent the club the committee. And then the decision to begin the work was taken in 1957, supervised by William Mabb, greenkeeper at St. Germain-en-Laye GC and carried out by the new superintendent, M. Houssin.

On July 1st, 1957, nine holes were opened, and the Club counted forty members. It slowly improved, hosting the Foussier Cup, a reputed inter-club competition for clubs in western France. Granville aerodrome, built in 1947 in the northern part of the course and which led to some modifications, wanted to expend, in order to join Jersey, which was some good news for the Committee, hoping to attract new British customers on the way.

In 1967, eighty-seven members were counted in the club, who lived a slow restart. The club was bought by Pierre Sellier, then Dennis Lavarack, to be then owned by Jacques Féron in 1981. In April 1986, he launched the construction of the 9-hole course “Les Dunes”, initially called “Blue course”. At that time, a new game was played: the “Granville Cross Golf”. The rule wanted that no hole had to be played in its normal format.

In summer 1987, the best French players came in Granville, and 1991 marked the beginning of some modifications in the course, after Michel Malherbe succeeded to Jacques Féron at the presidency. Granville gained a new importance within Normandy, with two of its members elected to the bureau of the League and a title of Champion de Normandie, 1992. Moreover, the Department proposed to financially help the club, which was a good news.

In 1995, the Golf Club was brought before the court of summary jurisdiction, because a protected plant had been uprooted during the modifications of the course. The work was stopped for two years. In April 15th, 1999, the first 9-holes were finally opened.

A New Hope and Beginning

The years 2000 were marked by a new beginning for the club, with new work of the course, supervised by the new president, Jean Capelle. The Club House will be expended, and the Granville Grand Prix gathered some of the best players in France.

2012, an important year for the Granville Golf Club!

For its Centenary, Granville received the 2012 Men’s French Club Team Championship on April 25th, which will be won by François Illouz. It allowed Granville to show once again its prestige and quality.

And now?

This year, it’s been 112 years that the golf course was built and is still a mark of prestige for the town of Granville but also the whole Normandy. Its director, Vincent Portier, is acting to keep its fame. The whole team at Normandy American Heroes would like to thank him for the precious information he gave us about the Golf Club.


Source: Chronique du Golf - Golf de Granville - Golf history, 100 years


Written by Lisa Marie, Trainee at Normandy American Heroes. 

Topics: WWII Golf, Normandy most beautiful villages, Golf

About this blog

Normandy American Heroes provides custom World War II tours of Normandy and beyond On our blog, we write about World War II, things to do in Normandy and much more.

Subscribe to email updates

Recent posts

Posts by topic

See All