The Château creates a magnificent backdrop for the golf course
Situated in the beautiful Dordogne region, set amidst the famous vineyards of Bergerac and St Emilion, Château Des Vigiers is a glorious, luxurious hotel, with a 27-hole golf course and spa. It is just a few miles to the west of Bergerac and only an hour away from Bordeaux.
The Château certainly creates a magnificent backdrop for the golf course, which was created by a Swedish entrepreneur, Lars Petersson, who had a vision for creating a world-class golf course in the grounds of the Château. He hired Donald Steel, the renowned golf course architect, to design a great layout, which was then built by Brian Pierson.
The course opened in 1992, originally with 18 holes, and has been laid out in a parkland style in the gently rolling countryside. There are a number of lakes and water features on the course, used to great effect, particularly on the splendid 18th leading up to the Château.
In 2006 work started on an additional nine holes. Once again Brian Pierson was involved with the construction with his son doing much of the finer digger work. With the addition of the new 9-hole course, golfers now experience a greater variety of playing options. The new 9-hole course opened in early 2008, integrating well with the existing 18-hole course to form 3 new 9-hole courses: “La Vallée”, “Le Lac”, “Les Vignes”. Golfers can now play three different configurations of 18 holes, each with different challenges and subtly differing styles.
Golf Features caught up with Brian Pierson:
“Working on the various courses at Château des Vigiers was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my professional life. Our client was ambitious and determined to get a wonderful course and he allowed Donald Steel and myself to create him something really special.
“Even though it is so many years since we completed the project, I still love coming back as it is such a gorgeous place to visit. I am proud to have been involved with the construction of the golf course, and Niels and his team have created a fantastic ambience to go with the historic buildings. It will be a joy to return for my eightieth birthday celebrations in May - I can’t give it a higher rating than that.”
Lars died several years ago, with the complex being purchased two years ago by David Bayer, an English businessman, who had a holiday home nearby. Today, the Managing Director, Niels Koetsier runs a very tight ship. Niels originally started working at the hotel 23 years ago as a junior receptionist, and is now responsible for every aspect of the business. He has seen many changes and has been instrumental in developing the resort into the elegant and polished operation it is today.
He spoke to Golf Features:
“My role has changed hugely over the years and I have been very fortunate to watch the great story of Château des Vigiers unfold. The physical side of the business is exceptional and has required an enormous investment during this time. We are also particularly proud of our fantastic team, who deliver such outstanding service day after day throughout the seasons, and to all sorts of interesting clients. We have a large number of people who have been employed for a very long time and without them it would have been impossible to have built the invisible fabric that makes Château des Vigiers so special.”
Niels is very proud of the condition of the course, and has just purchased some brand new Toro cutting equipment for the coming season. Christophe Rontai is the head greenkeeper, and has been working on the course since 1999. There is no question that Christophe has done a fantastic job on the course and its terrific condition is a real credit to him and the team he leads.
When asked by Golf World to name his favourite hole from his long career, Donald Steel chose the eighteenth at Château des Vigiers, with its dog-leg over a ridge for the second shot over the lake on to the green; finishing in front of the Château. It was subsequently described in Golf World under the heading “Vintage Finale.”
The practice facilities are excellent, with generous chipping and putting greens to the same high standard as the rest of the course. There is a wide golf range allowing players to use the 6 covered bays along with 24 open grass bays. There is also a 6-hole academy course. Golf Director, Matthew Storm, is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the golf office and there are a number of golf professionals, headed by Vincent Trojani PGA, who gives private and group lessons. He is also an authorised dealer and fitter for Callaway, Titleist and Odyssey.
Everything about the Château itself is impressive. The furnishings are beautifully elegant, befitting the era of the Château’s origins, with tapestries and ornately carved staircases and fireplaces, with quiet areas to relax in, to soak up its special atmosphere. There are 25 rooms in the Château, each one individual in its decoration and ambiance, each having had the special attention to detail that makes the Château so appealing.
Near to the Château is the 4-star hotel The Relais, which had its architectural concept based on the traditional tobacco-drying barn, typical of the Dordogne.
The hotel has 44 bright and spacious rooms, ideally suited to golfers’ needs when returning from a day on the course. The Relais is perfect for the touring golfer looking for a high-class residential experience to go with his golf and it allows more people to enjoy the excellent courses. It is a great idea to have two different styles of accommodation on the same site and neither detract from each other.
There are two restaurants within yards of the two hotels. There is “Les Fresques”, which is located within the Château. Head Chef, Didier Casaguana was awarded 1 Michelin Star in between 2014 and 2019. The restaurant offers a suitably sophisticated dining experience in an effortlessly elegant room, with an extensive wine list.
There is also the brasserie “Le Chai”, which is set in an old wine-making building and offers a more informal and relaxed dining experience. Its terrace boasts one of the best views imaginable, overlooking the lake, the 18th green and the stunning Château. On a warm summer’s day, it is hard to think of anywhere else with a view to beat this. The dining experience in either restaurant is memorable and a real treat for any visitor.
The spa is located centrally in the complex and offers a complete range of professional beauty and relaxation treatments together with a range of health and well-being activities. Facilities on offer include:two heated outdoor pools, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, fitness room and beauty shop. A perfect place to truly relax after playing golf, or sightseeing.
The area provides a great number of really interesting activities involving wine and gastronomy available in the area. You can visit the vineyards of Bordeaux and Bergerac, or the many local markets, where you can buy local specialities such as the black Perigord truffle - a local delicacy - or cèpes and foie gras. You can also visit a sturgeon farm and discover the secrets of making caviar in the Dordogne.
The region is famous for its wine and fascinating winery tours are available locally, including wine blending workshops, visiting the Saint-Emilion Wine School, and discovering the subtle differences between the Bergerac and Bordeaux wines. All this, plus guided tours around the historical towns of Saint-Emilion and Bergerac.
Castles are sprinkled liberally along the banks of the river Dordogne, many of which are open to the public and make great day trips. Also, the historic town of Sarlat with its Renaissance architecture and the incredible prehistoric cave of Lascaux are not to be missed.
Certainly this particular area of Dordogne has plenty to offer any visitor, golfer or otherwise. Château des Vigiers possesses such a compelling charm that once visited, it would be hard not to want to visit again, and again.