A groundbreaking film by Bertrand Mussotte illustrates in extraordinary detail the relationship between golf and nature at Vidauban Golf Club in the south of France.
Golf de Vidauban: Parcours de Biodiversité explores the relationship between the club and scientists from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and details how the collaboration has given rise to extensive study of the rich biodiversity within the course, surrounded by the Plaine des Maures nature reserve.
Robert Trent Jones Sr bought the Vidauban property in the 1970s, with the intention of developing three courses and many homes. Ultimately just one course and a small village were built, which together now form the club. Following changes in ownership, Jones’s son Bobby returned in the 2010s to renovate the golf course.
The film project was spearheaded by Catherine Fournil, executive director of the club’s Foundation for the Environment, and made possible with the contributions and support of one of the club’s owners, Michael Hilti.
“The area in which Vidauban sits is not that well known but special as one of the world’s hotspots for biodiversity,” said Catherine.
Shot over two years and documenting the 2011-2020 partnership with the Museum of Paris, to characterise the local biodiversity of the 870 hectare area, the film highlights some of the positive contributions that the course makes to the environment, including its role as a sanctuary for the Hermann tortoise from predators, and as a buffer that limits the spread of devastating forest fires. Scientists have identified over 3,000 species on site, including the discovery of an unknown type of collembola and several insect species.
The partnership between club and scientists has also given rise to a new project focused on further integrating the course into nature. This includes reducing maintained areas of the course and introducing grass types that are native to the area. The knowledge gained throughout the study will also be shared with other golf courses to help them adjust their practices to improve their relationship with nature.
Richard Wax, who represented the Jones family’s interests at Vidauban in the 1990s and has remained in regular contact with the club, made Golf Course Architecture aware of the film. He said: “This exceptional film needed a coincidence of efforts to bring it to fruition: owners who are sincerely committed to making the property a powerful statement about the ecology; a sizeable estate as a canvas for the story; the location in a remarkable area of Europe; and a person in Catherine with the passion for the ecology to focus on creating this unique footage.”
At just over 50 minutes long, the film is something of an epic in an age that is dominated by short clips on social media. But as Catherine said, “nature takes time”, and the footage is both mesmerising and conveys an important message about how golf can coexist with nature, and how the golf industry can cooperate with science.