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In Paris and environs, wallow in luxury, play some renowned golf courses

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

France has more golf courses than Scotland (about 600), even though the French themselves are largely indifferent to the sport, considering it an elitist game.

13th-century chateau
A 13th-century chateau a short drive south of Paris has been transformed into the boutique Domaine et Golf de Vaugouard.
13th-century chateauFontainebleau Golf Club

What this means, of course, is that you can travel to Paris and wallow in French luxury while playing renowned courses virtually free of company, Gallic or otherwise.

You can start almost as soon as you arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport, at Golf de Chantilly, a good example of classic French golf in the rolling terrain of Picardie.

It's a private club with a Victorian clubhouse and has hosted 10 French Opens. The course was designed by Tom Simpson, a British aristocrat, around the turn of the century. Simpson also designed the Old Course at Ballybunion in Ireland and renovated the Royal Antwerp in Belgium. The Vineuil course features combination of dangerous cross bunkers, a Simpson trait, and small greens open in front.

Next take on Fontainbleau Golf Club, just a short drive out of Paris, one of the country's great ultra-private courses but open to outside guests on weekends.

Located in Fontainebleau, home of French kings through the centuries, the Simpson-designed course was built in 1909 on grounds once favored by royal hunting parties. The Tudor-style clubhouse's large windows overlook the first fairway. Luxury hotels nearby include the Hotel L' Aigle Noir and the Hotel Napoleon.

On the periphery of Paris, two well-known chateaux have been transformed into renowned boutique golf hotels.

The Domaine de Golf de Vaugouard, a short drive south of the capital, occupies a 13th- century chateau. It's a well-forested resort with five outdoor and three indoor tennis courts, an indoor/outdoor equestrian center, a health club with sauna and an outdoor swimming pool with poolside grill.

The Domaine de Belesbat has 61 guest rooms and suites in an ancient estate outfitted with two restaurants with full bars, fitness rooms, therapy baths, tanning room and a highly regarded 18-hole course, a parkland layout with rolling hills and river banks.

The wonderful 6,642-yard course, laid out compactly on 125 acres, is bordered by ancient stone walls and plays through a medieval forest. You can stay at the main chateau with its moat and 14th-century gate or the more contemporary adjoining wing.

If you're more eager to stay in the city and venture out to the courses, try the Villa Royale Montsouris, located in a lively neighborhood near the Porte d' Orleans. The 36 rooms are designed in a Spanish-Moroccan style.

Another option is the Hotel George Sand, between the Opera and Madeleine, bordering the Parisian fashion and business districts, It's a 20-room boutique hotel where the namesake writer gave birth to her son, Maurice, in 1823. From here it's only a short walk to the Louvre.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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