Between Bresse and Dombes, one often spends more time at the table than at the driving range! In these lands, wrongly ignored, the golf courses are magnificent between the Gouverneur, the Bresse, the Sorelle and the Commanderie. They complement each other wonderfully, while their tables compete in flavour and pleasure. Enough to make the Ain a reference !
In the land of the Dombes, the country of a thousand ponds, the Golf du Gouverneur evolves between forests and water bodies. In 1989, Didier Fruchet designed 45 holes between the Breuil, the Montaplan and the Soche on these wild lands.
At the end of the 1990s, the Dalloz family, Jurassiens involved in the cutting of stones for the jewellery industry, already owners of the Bresse golf course, bought the resort. After drainage, sandblasting and pruning, the courses have been restored to their former glory. On the Breuil, the highlight is played from the 14th to the 16th, the Amen corner of the Ain, where the grass melts with the water! On the Montaplan, which is “drier”, the game is no less delicate. At Alexandre Porceillon’s table, the ace of homemade foie gras, farmhouse chicken from the Dombes, mallard or arctic char fillets, there is plenty to perpetuate the emotions of a day of golf !
Since 1990, the Golf de La Bresse has enjoyed the tranquillity of a former hunting reserve.
On this land alternating between clearings and forest, dotted with a multitude of ponds, frogs and birds take advantage of Jérémy Pern’s 90-hectare layout to parade and nest in peace. On the outward journey, the holes are quite open. Between the 11th and 12th, close to a two-hectare pond, the danger is omnipresent. Afterwards, the course narrows in the forest density. On the way back to the club-house, the fairway of the 18th, separated from the 9th by a tree hedge, looks good. Enough to sign a last birdie before going to the table where, in this land of good food, the chef puts regional products in the spotlight.
Between the Dombes and the Bugey, the Golf de la Sorelle was created in 1991 under the inspiration of Patrick Jacquier. Since 2014 and its purchase by Philippe Venditelli, a businessman from Lyon, the club has had a second youth.
On a rather marked relief, between wooded areas, a few pieces of water and well-defended greens, the layout has character. From the 10th, the castle of Richemont – a 13th century fortress – is in sight, as well as one of the last poypes of the Ain – a mound of earth raised by a medieval habitat – from the 3rd and 11th. But the essential is hidden in the renovated 15th century brick building, transformed into a club-house and a charming hotel, facing the course. Florent Gourves’ table is in harmony with the charm of the place, and like the eyes, the taste buds are delighted.
Since 2009, the Commanderie Golf Course – a tribute to the Templars of the 11th and 12th centuries -, inaugurated in 1964 on the grounds of the Château de l’Aumusse, has looked good with its new holes. The initial layout designed by Michael Fenn and Claude Soulés – a former club pro – has been adapted to the urban constraints.
Between Mâcon and Bourg-en-Bresse, on a gently sloping course, with small greens, a few out-of-bounds areas, water features and many trees giving volume to the layout, the Commanderie is pleasant even if the design is not very long. In the clubhouse restaurant, the glasses are cheerfully clinking! Olivier Ballufin – the club’s manager – is a wine enthusiast and offers more than 750 Beaujolais, Burgundy, Côtes-du-Rhône and Médoc wines at reasonable prices. A menu which replaces many a birdies…
Where to stay ?
What could be more pleasant in the morning than jumping from bed to tee? This is the case at the Hôtel du Gouverneur**** whose 53 rooms overlook the courses, whether you stay in the former stables of the Château du Breuil or in the more contemporary wing surrounded by greenery. Since 2020 and the arrival of Laure Dalloz – the third generation of the family – as general manager of the Domaine, the emphasis has been placed on golf packages including overnight stay, breakfast and a green fee valid on the three courses of Le Breuil, Montaplan or La Bresse, the other club of the Dalloz group. Having graduated from the Lausanne hotel school, Laure wanted to highlight the resort’s attractions, beyond the 45 holes, and its surroundings. Bike rides, musical evenings, the Bird Park…, activities that have created a dynamic on the site. The club-house table is shared with the hotel table, except for breakfast, a way to live your stay in symbiosis with the course.
The concept of “everything on the spot” is also experienced at the Hôtel du Golf de la Sorelle***, a luxury, or at least a privilege in this magnificent setting, behind these 500 year old walls – property of Lord Gravagnosi in the 15th century – in 12 rooms with enchanting names, Augusta, l’Île aux Cerfs, les Flamants roses, le château de Richemont… Between leisure and rest, the table has its place! Florent Gourves’ restaurant has no trouble seducing gourmet palates. If the unavoidable regional dishes, frogs and poultry, are of course on the menu, the red meats and fish caught in the area will also delight you, in the dining room or on the terrace facing the course.
If Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne made the glory of the Dombes in the Middle Ages, this medieval town has known how to evolve and transform itself while preserving its historical heritage. Today, as a tourist destination, this town takes advantage of its assets, it is proud of them, it maintains its corbelled houses, its paved alleys, and enhances them, well aware of this wealth from the past. On fine days, first thing on Saturday, under the elegant halls – wooden framework from the 15th century – the market awakens.
The stalls take shape, coloured with the red of tomatoes, the green of salads, the golden of onions, while the chickens begin to roast on the spit. At the time when the most valiant of the merchants are attacking the white wine, the live poultry market can be heard from afar. In their open-worked boxes, ducks, chickens and geese wait to change hands under the amazed eyes of the children. The place is warm, you linger, stroll around and leave with a shopping bag full of good products. Châtillon is also a flowery town. Everyone decorates their balcony, their house, the town’s bridges spanning the Chalaronne, a tributary of the Saône. The show is shimmering with the play of light of a changing sky. Seduced by the town’s old-fashioned charm, many craftsmen have taken up residence in old houses, ideal for working and living on the spot. Antique bookbinders, stained glass restorers, jewellery designers, ceramists, potters, blacksmiths, they are approachable, speak passionately about their work and bring the village to life.
In Villars-les-Dombes, in the heart of the ponds, the Parc des Oiseaux is a unique place to observe birds from all over the world. Of the more than 250 species of birds present in the park, about sixty are threatened in the world. For more than 50 years, on 35 hectares, more than 2000 birds have been evolving in a park created by Doctor Jean Saint-Cyr, a veterinarian, to protect the avifauna of the Ain and to make visitors aware of the fragility of the species. The park’s educational vocation allows visitors to get closer to the job of animal caretaker. From the preparation of meals to the feeding of chicks and the maintenance of living spaces. The park is open every day from the beginning of April to the middle of November.
If Lyon is considered as the capital of French gastronomy, it owes a lot to the fame of Paul Bocuse, who passed on his passion and talent for over half a century, but also to the quality of its regional products. The Ain is a land of gastronomy. In terms of culinary delights, Bresse poultry is the most popular. As early as the 16th century, it is listed in the registers of Bourg-en-Bresse. In 1825, Brillat-Savarin, in his book “La physiologie du goût”, considered it to be the “Queen of poultry, the poultry of Kings”. Since 1957, its appellation has been controlled by an association chaired by Georges Blanc, a man who knows how to sublimate it.
At his starred table in Vonnas, his supreme of Bresse poularde with morels and asparagus accompanied by a yellow wine sabayon, makes your mouth water just by saying it. The poularde de Bresse “demi-deuil” from Mère Brazier and Paul Bocuse, truffled under the skin before cooking, is also worth a visit in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, the home of “Monsieur Paul”. In the Ain, nearly one hundred renowned restaurants work with Bresse PDO poultry. There is plenty to enjoy, within your means.
Where Bresse has its poultry, the Dombes has its frogs! The marshes rehabilitated in the 19th century created a multitude of ponds where the amphibians quickly found their home. Unfortunately, the overexploitation of the Dombes frogs has led to their being hunted and banned since 1980.
If the little creatures now come from further afield, while waiting for raniculture – frog breeding – to find its place in Dombes, grandmother’s recipes remain for the happiness of the fine mouth. It is impossible to cross the Dombes without getting your fingers wet in a pan of frogs in parsley sauce! Floured, the frog legs are browned in clarified butter, before being simmered in a pan, accompanied by garlic and parsley. Given the strength of the condiment, a dry white wine is recommended to accompany the dish. Between the Loire Valley, Burgundy, Jura and Alsace, many grape varieties easily enhance the slightly fatty texture of the meat, while resisting the persistence of the garlic. A simple dish to prepare, convivial since it is shared and at a rather reasonable cost.