It’s 2018 and that means The Ryder Cup year! As some of you may have read on the TSG Facebook newsfeed, we recently took up the invite to visit Le Golf National – the host venue in Paris. Here’s our special report from Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review…
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review – The Club…
Although only built in 1990, Le Golf National is a much more established than its age suggests. Designed by architects Hubert Chesneau and Robert Von Hagge.
It is located in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, southwest of central Paris, just 10k from the world-renowned Palace of Versailles, and only 4 hours drive from Calais.
However, Le Golf National differs from any other Ryder Cup venue in that it is a Public course. This means that there is no ‘club’ as such, and no ‘members’, only Pay & Players. The course is also unique in the sense that it is owned by the French Golf Federation (FFG).
In September 1985 the President – Claude Roger Cartier – with his committee approved the creation and development of a “National Golf” venue and it was quickly completed and opened by the French Minister for Sports by R. Bambuck in October 1990.
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review – The Team …
The management team is small but effective and is headed up by Englishman Paul Armitage (who has been at the club since 2014).
Paul, who along with his very dedicated team has – over the last four years – put ‘LOVE’ at the heart of everything they do onsite, and its clear this strategy is paying off as everyone you meet including shop personnel bar staff are full of enthusiasm for the club (not always the case in the UK!)
This means it now rates among the best in the world. In addition, the course boasts an incredibly committed team of greenkeepers and advisors from the European Tour (preparing the track for Sept) but high praise was given to Spanish born Head Greenkeeper Alejandro Reyes, who at only 33 years old is the youngest person to ever prepare a Ryder Cup course.
The grounds, which cover 139 hectares, were originally flat and bare having been used as agricultural land since Louis XIV and the Château de Versailles when it was one of the areas where wheat was farmed.
Constructed to give a ‘stadium like’ feel to events and in time for the 1991 Open de France, The Albatros course has been their near-permanent home for the past 25 years.
In the wind and rain of the first day of the aforementioned first Open de France played on The Albatros, Nick Faldo deemed his score of 71 “Tough but fair”.
The Open de France had found its home. Other players from the European Tour also voiced their approval, mentioning The Albatros as one of their favourite courses.
In addition, to the flagship championship course, there is also The Aigle which was opened in September 1991, preceded by the 9 hole, Birdie Academy Course a few months before.
The venue has recently undergone a €7 million renovation programme to transform this national golf centre. The Championship Albatros course is now a globally recognised course with slick greens and vast undulating fairways dotted with large and small water hazards and innumerable links-style bunkers.
The course is consistently ranked in the World’s Top 100 Courses and Europe’s Top 10 by Golf World (UK) magazine.
We spent a long time chatting with GM – Paul Armitage – while in Paris and he shared much of his vision for the club.
This included an insight into the future of French Golf and while all eyes are focused on The Ryder Cup in 2018, it’s worth noting that Paul and his team have been successful at bidding to be the host venue for the Paris Olympics too.
Meaning, not only is there a legacy planned for the course but Le Golf National is also now home to the next generation of French golfers – with many young players to see as you make your way around the campus. More from Paul in the TSG February newsletter.
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review – L’ Albatros…
As you walk to the 1st Tee, you can sense, you can feel, you can hear the crowd: you realise that The Albatros is the perfect battlefield for one of the greatest duels in Sport.
The spectacular landscape has been created 30 years ago and recently remodelled. You cannot believe that it was constructed on old farmland.
It took more than 1k+ truckloads of rubble from Paris, tons of sand has been laid on the fairways and clever use of rainwater to create majestic lakes, ponds & streams.
Only the best sand has been used for this top European course, home of the French Open since 1991 and a favourite of the European players.
There is a lot of wildlife, from birds of prey to fish, frogs & butterflies, rabbits and many other wild creatures. The Albatros is a public course, so anyone with a minimum 28 handicap may venture and face the challenges ahead. The experience will be with you for the rest of your life.
Every hole is well conceived, extremely aesthetically presented. At this time of the year, the landscape is bare, so the scenery feels delicate, imagine a very “dainty” ink/pen drawing. Obviously the Spring, Summer & Autumn will be a lot greener. A super space for the avid photographer with a suitable lens & eye for beauty.
We played the course on the 10th of January 2018, after 42 consecutive days of rain, the condition of the course is absolutely immaculate, from Tee boxes (choice of 5 colours), to the large & sweeping & undulating fairways, carpet-like feel, to the slick & well-shaped greens.
All with the very subtle slopes towards the water hazards, to the softest and driest sand I have ever played from and were always nicely raked.
However, don’t venture off the fairways, as the rough will punish you! Many other golf courses in the Paris region were closed due to the wetness but The Albatros stood stoically.
All the paths are tarmac, the signage is good, lovely course planner endorsed by the Greenkeeper at each hole, a ball washer & towel, and bin.
The walk is not too strenuous but there are elevations as we are playing a Links type course. We did not have much wind on the day but any wind will alter your thinking.
The pins position can be tricky, I believe the 1st hole will have nine pin positions, while the green is sloping towards a large lake, that will come into play on the 2nd hole as well.
There is a toilet at the end of the 6th hole which also serves the golfers need when coming down the 13th, a water fountain is also located at this point.
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review – Stand Out Holes…
It is very hard to pick my favourite holes as they all have a special attraction & challenge, the last 4 holes provide the most beautiful layout, water everywhere & bunkers! But here are our selected four holes:
HOLE 1 – Par 4, I was so excited to be at Le Golf National’s Albatros Course, that the 1st hole stole the show & set the tone of what to come, I got a good score too: a dogleg right, slightly downhill, wide fairway narrowing to the green with large expanse of water on the left. The pin position can be tricky as the green slopes towards the water.
HOLE 7 – Par 4, This was Ian’s favourite hole. The 2nd hardest hole on the course, it begins with an uphill drive to a plateau, leaving a long iron shot over ‘moguls’ to a very well protected and sloping green – this hole could be a real a card-wrecker!
HOLE 13 – Par 4, A downhill dogleg right, leftish to the green, with a fairly long carry to the fairway sloping to a water hazard on the right, a lake preceding the green. Must be very pretty in the Springtime with all the foliage on the trees surrounding the approach.
HOLE 16 – Par 3, One of the 4 stunning final holes, short but water on the right and three large bunkers guarding the approach to the green. The day we played I had to shout Fore! as my lovely shot went towards one of the bunkers, lovingly attended by one of the greenkeepers, who kindly allowed me to take a free drop… I was very apologetic, who wants to injure such a great team!
The final four holes provide the most beautiful layout, creating an incredible finish: The 15th & 18th greens are islands.
I had the privilege to accompany Monsieur Mullins on this two-day tour of this extraordinary scene at the Golf National.
There is a nice atmosphere in this very well managed golf venue (there are 2 other courses, The Aigle 18 holes, and The Oiselet, a 9 Academy course), a very large open-air driving range, putting greens, a Clubhouse modernly furnished with bar for drinks & food.
A dedicated team, who understand what a golf course & surroundings need to be like, how to create an image, how to treat its visiting golfers, one can feel it is managed with “LOVE” (see above).
Extremely warm, friendly & relaxed welcome in the chic Pro shop/Reception (it tops Wentworth’s), gorgeous & technical golf clothing with all the other goodies one needs for a good round, lots of the 2018 Ryder Cup memorabilia, a very artistic photo book by Claude Rodriguez that got my eye.
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review – The Verdict …
5 Out of 5!
My recommendation is to go, and go now!
You will have a very enjoyable experience on one of the Top 10 European golf courses, L’ Albatros will make history in the 2018 golfing world as its only the second time ever the event has been held outside of Great Britain.
For me, it was a proud moment to be on my home ground, I felt spoilt, I hope from the bottom of my heart that many “Social Golfers” will embrace the opportunity to play The Albatros course before end of August (or from October) and remember, if you need a native speaker, think of me….
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review by Brigitte Lockwood
Le Golf National – Ryder Cup Course Review – How To Get There with Golf Escapes…
We used these experts to make our booking and it couldn’t have been easier. Whether you want to play the course OR attend the event itself, Golf escapes can help.
Here are a few tips to remember when traveling to Le Golf National…
1. Le Shuttle Folkestone – arrive 45 minutes before departure to ensure a smooth experience.
2. Don’t forget the one hour time difference if you are planning to play golf on your arrival day.
3. Once you are in France, remember to drive on the right (this may sound obvious but…)
4. Know your obligations when driving in France e.g. warning triangles & high visibility jackets are a legal requirement. As are headlights reflectors, roadside recovery, a spare headlight bulb, your logbook and a copy of your insurance.
Finally, note, the course itself only closes just under a month before the big occasion.