Just a few miles down the road from France's new Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche, flocks of hang gliders dot the sky. Towed from a dusty grass airfield that lies below the medieval hillside village of Fayence, they soar above the forested hills of the Var region. From there they are afforded a glorious view of the new golf resort that is well on its way to challenging the finest accommodations of France's famed nearby Côte d'Azur.
This spectacular Four Seasons, which opened in March, is a village-style resort of forty-five villas that house 115 suites. Although its exterior is low-key faux Provenal, all pink-washed stone walls with terra-cotta roof tiles, the interiors deliver comfortable luxury and a pristine five-star, air-conditioned international look. The attention to detail is wondrous, from the room-service perfect poached eggs to the ice and chilled water placed in all the golf carts. The main hotel building, the hub of Terre Blanche, is an homage to the modern art gallery—spacey, light and oozing minimalist cool. A large infinity swimming pool stares out to the peaks of the Alpes-Maritimes.
For the ambitious golfer, this is mere prelude to the two classy eighteen-hole courses that thread through the resort's oak and pine forests and valleys. Both are designed by Dave Thomas—architect of The Belfry in England and San Roque's Old course in Spain—whose ambition is to create strategic resort courses strong enough to withstand a pro attack yet not so brutal as to bring the mere mortal to his begged knees.
Le Château was the first course here, and at 7,277 yards its length indicates European Tour ambition. It's worthy of it. The large number of elevated tees don't always shout for a big hit. Position is rewarded. Some of the pine tree-lined holes, such as the par-four third, wouldn't look out of place in the Canadian Rockies. And although "Jasper Park Lodge in Provence" may sound like a criticism, it's meant as a compliment.
In September Le Château was joined by another eighteen, Le Riou, which, though shorter at 6,605 yards, feels just as stern. It also features a surfeit of elevated tees, most dramatically on the closing par-five eighteenth. But the huge greens here hardly compensate for plenty of sloped hillside fairways where lax strategy will get punished. An elegant clubhouse and a David Leadbetter Golf Academy complete the resort's golf profile. Both Le Château and Le Riou are tough walking routes. (It's likely that Le Riou will be carts-only given the ferocity of the Provenal summers and the climbs on many holes.) Still, like the travel to this finely crafted resort, they're worth every bit of the effort.
GREENS FEE: $115. SUITES: $242-$906 VILLAS: $785-$11,961. TEE TIMES AND RESERVATIONS: 011-33/49-439-9000 or visit fourseasons.com/provence.