Le Regina Biarritz Hotel & Spa - MGallery by Sofitel

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Discover the Golf de Biarritz Le Phare, which had entertained such influential figures like King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom and King Alphonse XIII of Spain.

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Golf de Biarritz Le Phare’s golf heritage dates back to 1887.


For more than a century, Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa has entertained a historic partnership with the famous Golf de Biarritz Le Phare located right next door. Indeed, countless guests have often made a reservation to play at the Golf de Biarritz Le Phare when staying on-site. The facility first opened at the height of the Gilded Age, after several British expats in Biarritz decided to construct a golf course on the local spot known as the “Plateau du Phare.” Inspired by the town’s brilliant weather, they hoped that the compound would offer a great experience while on summer holiday. Fortunately, the British travelers found eager allies in the Biarritz municipal government, as its members had also been considering the creation of an upscale golf course around the same time. The idea quickly became incredibly popular, and the expats had little difficulty in recruiting many other golfers into membership. As such, the town’s mayor, Alcide Augey, and his fellow officers issued a grant to build the nascent golf course. Work on the destination officially began in 1887 and lasted for many months. It was a mammoth undertaking, too, as the construction crews ultimately built 27 holes, along with a cricket field, a shooting range, and several tennis courts. The newly established Golf de Biarritz Le Phare thus became an immediate success when it finally debuted a year later to great acclaim. Interestingly, Princess Frederica of Hanover was among the first people to play on the course, participating in a tournament held on its inaugural day. (After Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa opened years later, it attracted a sizeable portion of its early business from the golfers who had traveled to experience the course.)

The course’s popularity grew rapidly, prompting the club to expand the Golf de Biarritz Le Phare. To that end, its leaders hired Tom and Willie Dunn Jr, two brothers who were then widely respected golfers. The Dunns transformed the entire layout to feature a winding series of beautiful fairways that offered stunning views of the Bay of Biscay. Perhaps their greatest design component involved the ocean itself—the Dunns had specifically created a feature called the “chasm,” which forced golfers to drive their shots over a massive gap that crossed the water. The new format became an immediate success and served to further enhance the appeal of Golf de Biarritz La Phare. Several prominent French golfers were among those who visited occasionally, such as Arnaud Massy, Jean Gassiat, and Eugène Laffite. Some of Europe’s most influential figures were even beginning to frequent the course regularly, too, including King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and King Alphonse XIII of Spain. But after a few years, the club’s foreign visitors began abandoning it to play on newer facilities nearby. Seeking to remedy the situation, the remaining club members opted to commission another golf course architect, H.S. Colt, to initiate another series of renovations. His recommendations complemented the Dunns’ earlier designs nicely, while also modernizing them for a contemporary audience. The course subsequently returned to being one of France’s best—a status that it has maintained well into the present. Cultural heritage travelers staying at Le Régina Biarritz Hôtel & Spa today are strongly encouraged to experience this fantastic heritage for themselves!

  • About the Location +

    For centuries, the town of Biarritz has existed Gascony, a historic region located in the southwestern corner of France along the Pyrenees. It once served as the homeland of the Aquitanians, a society of people more closely related to the Basques of Spain. The area remained fairly remote until the Roman Empire conquered it during the 1st century BC as part of Julius Caesar’s conquest of modern-day France. It quickly became the central territory in the Roman administrative state of “Gallia Aquitania,” which covered a landmass that stretched from the Garonne River all the way to the Loire Valley. Emperor Diocletian eventually divided the province into three different locales, with the southernmost portion redefined as “Novempopulania,” meaning “the land of nine tribes.” Over time, though, Novempopulania became occupied by large groups of Visigoths, especially after the collapse of western half of the Roman Empire during the 5th century. Emerging as the dominant political society, the Visigoths ruled over Novempopulania until they, too, were subjugated by conquest in 507. Now a part of the Kingdom of the Franks—France’s predecessor—Novempopulania gradually morphed into the Duchy of Vasconia. Over time, its title transformed into the more recognizable “Gasconia” and then just “Gascony.” The people who resided in the area also became known as the “Gascons,” who retained their cultural connections to the Basques further south.

    Nevertheless, the Dukes of Gascony held sway over the local population for generations, although they struggled to protect the coastline from Viking raiders. In some cases, the Gascon dukes accommodated the Vikings by granting them land in exchange for their service. Following this precedent, one group decided to create a small village just south of the Adour River near the town of Bayonne. Calling it “Bjarnihus,” the hamlet specialized in fishing. Soon enough, the mariners developed a reputation for the especially dangerous craft of whaling. Bjarnihus eventually became known as “Biarritz,” with its Scandinavian population integrating peacefully into local Gascon society. Meanwhile, the greater Duchy of Gascony continued to operate as a semi-autonomous subject of the Frankish—and then the French—kings, merging together with neighboring Duchy of Aquitaine by way of a personal union. In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine (the Duchess of Aquitaine) controversially wed Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy. Their marriage elevated Henry as the feudal lord over half of France, including Gascony. Going on to install himself as King of England just two years later, Henry and Eleanor’s massive landholdings made their family one of the most powerful in all of Europe. Soon enough, Gascony was at the center of what historians now call the Angevin Empire, which dominated western European politics for the better part of two centuries. Despite the subsequent downfall of the empire under Henry’s son, John, in 1208, both Aquitaine and Gascony remained under English control for some time.

    The two regions reverted back to the Kingdom of France following the conclusion of the harrowing Hundred Years’ War. In the aftermath of the conflict, the French monarchy dissolved the Duchy of Aquitaine and made Gascony its own separate province once again. Biarritz itself had endured the political tumult well, continuing to exist as a bucolic fishing village for generations. The whole region of Gascony was even among the calmest in France over the next several centuries. But in the 19th century, Biarritz underwent a rapid transformation into one of the most exclusive resort towns in all of Europe. With the advent of new forms of travel, increasing numbers of tourists began to visit the Gascon coast, including Biarritz. By the 1850s, hundreds of travelers arrived every year to experience its charming scenery and quiet atmosphere. In fact, the renowned French author Victor Hugo was among the first to refer to Biarritz as “charming.” The town’s status as a prestigious vacation retreat was solidified when Emperor Napoleon III’s wife, the Empress Eugénie, constructed a brilliant palace along the shoreline. It, thus, became incredibly fashionable for all kinds of European aristocrats and dignitaries to vacation in Biarritz. Many members of the Russian, Swedish, Austrian, and British royal families were frequent visitors to the town for decades. Despite a brief economic downturn during both the Great Depression and World War II, Biarritz has since remained a luxurious holiday destination (especially after the popularization of surfing in the 1950s). Today, Biarritz is a truly enchanting place filled with many gorgeous beaches and fascinating cultural landmarks.

  • About the Architect +

    Tom and Willie Dunn Jr.: The architects responsible for creating Golf de Biarritz Le Phare were two brothers named Tom and Willie Dunn Jr. Respected golfers, their father, William Dunn Sr., was an incredibly renowned player, who had three top-ten finishes at the British Open. It was within this environment that Tom and Willie Dunn Jr. became immersed in the world of golf. Tom was the first to begin pursuing golf as a profession in 1868. But he transitioned away from competitive golf following several disappointing performances, opting instead to specialize in golf course architecture. Taking a position at the reputable London Scottish Golf Club in Wimbledon, Tom Dunn began experimenting with greenskeeping and landscape design. Soon enough, Willie Jr. joined Tom and worked as his apprentice. Together, the two refined their skills in golf course maintenance before taking an invitation to work alongside their father at Leith Links during the late 1780s. Both men soon went their separate ways after several years though, with Tom working at North Berwick Golf Club and Willie Jr. going to The Royal North Devon Golf Club. However, Tom and Willie Dunn Jr. were eventually reunited in Biarritz, where they took turns educating numerous British expats at the Golf de Biarritz Le Phare. In fact, their time spent in Biarritz led to their involvement thoroughly renovating the facility. Upon finishing the construction at the club, Tom and Willie Dunn Jr. went on their own permanently. Tom, who increasingly suffered from debilitating illnesses, became increasingly less involved in golf course architecture until his death in 1902. Meanwhile, Willie Dunn Jr. had used a powerful friendship with William K. Vanderbilt to find more design opportunities in the United States. He became involved in the creation of many legendary golf courses throughout the country, with the most notable being Shinnecock Hills Golf Course and The Apawamis Club. (Willie Dunn Jr. was also an accomplished golfer, placing 2nd at the very first U.S. Open in 1895.)

  • Famous Historic Golfers +

    Arnaud Massy, winner of the 1907 British Open and regarded as one of France’s best professional golfers.

    Jean Gassiat, among the most successful French golfers to ever compete on the PGA Tour.

    Eugène Laffite, renowned golfer who memorably tied for first with Walter Hagen at the 1920 French Open.

    Pierre Hirigoyen, respected golfer who is remembered for designing the Real Golf Club de San Sebastián.

    Jacques Léglise, golfer who served as the President of the French Golf Federation and of the European Golf Association.

    Henri de Lamaze, talented golfer who won the 1948 Biarritz Cup.

    Gaëtan Mourgue D'Algue, three-time French amateur golf champion who helped popularize the sport in France.

    Alexis Godillot, seven-time French amateur golf champion and winner of the 1962 Biarritz Cup.

    Guy d’Arcangues, author known for such publications like the novel Les Tambours de Septembre (September Drums).

    Princess Frederica of Hanover, elder daughter of King George V of Hanover.

    King Alphonse XIII of Spain (1886 – 1931)

    King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (1901 – 1910)

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