Like London and Melbourne, Paris has a sand belt and the country's best courses are situated in it. However, Fontainebleau has an additional natural feature not found elsewhere: sandstone rocks and boulders. The entire area is basically a huge forest with boulders strewn all over and the golf course incorporates a hill of that type. Even though the hill is totally in a corner of the property, no fewer than seven holes use parts of it as a tee box, a side hazard, a carry obstacle or as a backdrop for the green. And climbing to the very top (back tee at #12) affords one of the great views in the game.

The first three holes immediately bring the hill into play and after that the scenery changes to one reminiscent of the great heathland courses in Surrey. The front 9 are routed in an outer loop along the borders of the stone-walled property, whereas the back 9 form an inner loop, so that a round at Fontainebleau will usually be a very social affair. Naturally, the turf is very good, especially since the club has started to introduce fescue grass to gradually transform the fairways without disruption to the members. While it is a tree-lined course and some criticism has been levelled at it for that, the tree management program going on is exemplary. The greens and fairways bunkers are not obscured and neither are the playing angles. Some heavy shadows are still cast on a few holes, but the undergrowth has mostly been cleared, so losing a ball at Fontainebleau off the members' tee seems unlikely. The back markers are a different story, there are some veritable chutes, so whoever tees it up there should be a good player.

The bunkering definitely shows Tom Simpson's influence. Near the greens they're mostly small and deep, whereas the larger traps are primarily used as cross bunkers. The overhanging turf faces generally require a lofted club to clear them. Next to the strategically placed sand traps, the other star of the show are the greens. They're not fescue, but they play very firm and the subtle undulations only look subtle. Most putts break considerably, even the shorter ones, so combined with the ambitious green speed they represent a set of classic challenges worthy of the 1920s Golden Age.

It's interesting to note that perceptions of the site vary greatly. Some call it very undulated and full of trees, but in reality there's just the one hill and the trees rarely come into play. But there are many undulations and some downright linksy rolls in the fairways, so the whole course appears to bob and weave, even though there is hardly any climbing involved. Thanks to the three dimensional character of the routing, variability is great, too - there is none of the sameness that ordinary woodland courses have. And year-round playability is superb thanks to the sandy soil.

For average hitters it's hard to find any fault with this course except perhaps that three of the par 3s have the same length. Mind you, these are all good holes, but club selection will be very similar and in the long iron / hybrid category. Unsurprisingly, most players cite the shorter 14th as their favorite one-shotter. It's not a long course, but elite players regularly struggle to shoot more than a couple under par and the lucky members are sure to have a layout that can support a lifetime of golf.