Founded in 1999 at Vidauban, Prince de Provence is totally private and none of the team here at Top 100 has yet been lucky enough to play the golf course. Designed by the full complement of Robert Trent Joneses, it looks a lovely layout and some say that it’s possibly the best course in Continental Europe.
The following passage was taken from the club brochure and has been reproduced with kind permission:
In the 70s renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones Snr became enamoured with a beautiful property in Southern France because of its golf potential.
He purchased this property, now known as Domaines de Vidauban. Throughout the 80s, the property remained undeveloped as Mr Jones studied a variety of development plans. In the late 80s, due to both his winding down his European design efforts and the ill health and the death of his wife, Ione Jones, Mr Jones invited his son, Robert Trent Jones Jnr, to assist him architecturally to manifest his dream course. The magnificent golf course was redesigned on the property in the early 90s fulfilling Robert Trent Jones Snr’s vision in his 90th year.
The task was arduous due to the property’s wild character, weaving through rocky outcroppings, parasol pines and gorgeous vineyards. It is a true masterpiece; one which Robert Trent Jones Snr has stated with joy in his heart, the “Le Prince” is one of the premier golf course designs of this life at least the equal of his famous work at Valderrama in Sotogrande, Spain. The course is open for play with a small housing component and village that will enhance it with the atmosphere similar to Pine Valley in Clementon, New Jersey.
Robert Trent Jones Jnr said, “I am delighted that my father found this property and had the vision that we and our team were able to help him to achieve. It is a true masterpiece and one of the few joint ventures in which my father and I have collaborated in his later career. I hope all of you who play it will join me on the course and on the terrace afterwards to recount the many joyful games that we have had and will have on this magnificent golf course. It is strategically bunkered, with lightly contoured greens and with a variety of holes, naturally flowing and following the landscape. It is beautifully maintained by Otto Berg and his people and is a true tribute to the game itself from its earliest origins in Scotland to its current home.”
James R. Hansen’s book, A difficult par, tells the story of Robert Trent Jones Snr. and how the revolutionary golf designs of the old master changed the character of the game forever. In chapter 12, he elaborates on how the golf project at Vidauban almost bankrupted him.
Originally intended to host a major tournament every year that would rival the Masters, Vidauban never managed to attract the high rolling investors that would have been necessary to develop the property into one of the finest golfing venues in the world. After almost two decades of legal wrangling with various parties, the estate was purchased at a knock down price by a French developer who then sold it on to Norwegian investors.
A sign currently outside the main gates of the golf course (entitled “Interaction and coherence between Biodiversity and Golf Activities”) gives a clue to the current ownership of the property as the list of project supporters includes “Le Prince de Provence EURL,” “Golf de Vidauban” and “HILTI – Foundation”.
The Top 100 Team was permitted to have a look around the course in October 2014, when it was undergoing major renovation work. Under the guidance of RTJ2 architect Mike Gorman and the Turfgrass Consultancy, an army of MJ Abbott’s contractors were busy on the front nine installing new irrigation and drainage pipes as well as refurbishing all the tee box positions.
It was evident from the dozens of assembled vehicles and masses of heavy machinery on site that a significant amount of effort was going in to upgrade the layout. Hopefully, after all the work is completed in April 2015, a return visit can be arranged to evaluate the new playing conditions at Vidauban.