Dutch golf architect Frank Pont, in collaboration with French designer Patrice Boissonnas, has been hired to lead restoration projects at Le Touquet’s La Mer course, and Les Pins at Hardelot.
Pont and Boissonnas have formed an exclusive partnership to serve the French market, aiming at restorations of classic Colt and Simpson courses, renovations of modern courses, and also new courses – significant in the light of the French Golf Federation’s commitment to encourage the construction of 100 new golf facilities as part of its successful bid for the the 2018 Ryder Cup.
Boissonnas is a new entrant to the world of golf architecture, although he comes from a family that has been in the golf business for many years. A graduate of ESSEC, one of France’s top business schools, he spent a decade working for L’Oréal and LVMH in various senior management positions. Wishing to steer his life into a more creative direction, he decided to quit his job and studied History of Architecture for a couple of years. But his teenage dream of designing golf courses finally sprang up after being introduced to Frank Pont, who also left a successful business career to make his living as a golf architect.
Pont said: “ I am very excited to be able to work with someone as smart and talented as Patrice. It is amazing to find someone who shares so many elements of my educational and business background with me, something I feel has been a key factor in becoming a successful golf architect. Not only that but his passion for golf course architecture is infectious and his knowledge of many aspects of the trade is remarkable for the short time he has been in the business so far.”
The new partnership has found early success at Le Touquet La Mer and Hardelot Les Pins. Designed by Harry Colt in 1931, La Mer suffered during the war, and only during the 1990s were all original 18 holes brought back into play under the supervision of British architect Bill Baker. Pont and Boissonnas have been asked to faithfully restore the surfaces of the surviving original greens, while modifying the new ones to more closely resemble those of Colt’s that were lost. The first phase of work will be affecting holes two and ten, both par threes, as well as the twelfth, where the green and its surrounds will be renovated into a more Colt-like design. Scottish greenkeeping expert Gordon Irvine is already consulting at Le Touquet, helping to return the course to a more traditional links presentation.
Pont said: “The work that we will be doing at Le Touquet has many similarities to what I did at Royal Hague. There, thirteen original and five changed greens had to be rebuilt, with a lot of effort going into securing the shapes of the original greens and changing the style of the changed greens back to that of the original greens. In my view Le Touquet should really be among the top 15 continental courses, and it is our challenge to help it achieve its full potential.”
At Hardelot les Pins, designed by Philip Mackenzie Ross and Tom Simpson, the original work is more intact. Here, the task facing Pont and Boissonnas is to restore the original Simpson bunkers, a process that will be done steadily, a hole or two at a time.