Le Golf National (Albatros)

Le Golf National (Albatros)

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Course Information

Look to your right when you play the 6th at Le Golf National and you will understand what a fine job the architects and shapers did at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue.

The 6th is a handsome-looking hole off the tee and an altogether enjoyable sporty par 4 that travels along a pleasingly undulating fairway.

Just yards away over the other side of the course boundary is a perfect demonstration of what was here before; the flattest and most bland ploughed field you’ve seen in your life.

This was the site given to designer Hubert Chesneau – in association with Robert von Hagge and Pierre Thevenin (architectural credits are complicated at Golf National) – and their construction team.

Without the contours created by Chesneau, Von Hagge and co, this would have been a bland and featureless inland course.

This course on the south-western outskirts of Paris might not be the most charming or characterful in our Continental Top 100 – and indeed we have it lower than some might expect – but there is no doubt whatsoever its creators got the most from the site.

Without the contours created by Chesneau, Von Hagge and co, this would have been a bland and featureless inland course.

Purists may not enjoy the fact so much earth was moved by bulldozers, that all of the challenge within the terrain is man-made and that there is an unmistakably artificial look to The Albatros, but it was essential and it has worked.

As well as adding visual definition, the rough-covered hills – famously bulked out with truck-loads of landfill – often leave awkward hanging lies and the swales tricky recovery shots.

And of course there are the water hazards, which are the stand-out feature here and give the closing stretch its fearsome reputation.

This is a stadium venue in every sense, a long, tough modern course – during wet spells it can play extremely long but equally the sun bakes its clay-based fairways it can run fast – that serves up drama and misadventure on a regular basis.

The Ryder Cup might have been underwhelming as a contest but The Albatros’ reputation was largely enhanced by its hosting, starting with an opening hole that leaves little in the tank.

It is one of the players’ favoured stops on the European Tour and its imposing clubhouse’s walls serves to remind visitors of its event pedigree with enormous images of players who have triumphed here, starting with Eduardo Romero in the course’s first French Open in 1991.

There are also posters depicting the history of golf in France – it stretches back to 1856 – to remind one of Golf National’s close links with the French Golf Federation and thus its 2018 Ryder Cup backing.

The matches might have been underwhelming as a contest but The Albatros’ reputation was largely enhanced by its hosting, starting with an opening hole that leaves little in the tank.

This 418-yard downhill hole has water left and mounds to the right with a long narrow green with water tight to the left and a bunker hugging its right side.

The green is so slender that pin positions tight to the water are virtually obligatory. Bonjour tous les jours!

These holes around the edge of the property from the middle of the back nine are some of the few without the threat of water, but it reappears on the 9th and the short but narrow par-4 10th.

Three holes later comes the 13th, arguably the prettiest hole on the course, which sits in the area that also has the very pleasant 3rd.

The conclusion sees water effectively running all the way down the left, eating into the fairway at just where we might like to direct our drive.

It has a copse of mature trees in the background as you hit your drive, hopefully between the gorse on the left and the small lake on the right. From there you turn sharply right and send your approach between a narrow gap between the trees that act like sentries to a green protected by water.

Most will likely recall the final four most readily though.

The 15th is a handsome par 4 with a fairway that narrows the longer you hit it, so bold players can leave themselves little more than a wedge into the C-shaped green that is surrounded by water on over half of its circumference.

Next, a 176-yard par 3 that plays towards the hotel with water on the right. From an exposed, elevated tee you must locate a green guarded at the front and left by sand.

There is no water on the 17th but this is a brute of a par 4, all but 500 yards along a narrow fairway up to an elevated green; for normal golfers it is effectively a par 5.

The conclusion sees water effectively running all the way down the left, eating into the fairway at just where we might like to direct our drive. The sleeper end green is surrounded by water – not an island because there is a piece of land that links it with the 15th green.

Beautiful and atmospheric? No. Grandeur and pedigree? No. Drama and excitement. In spades.

And given the unremarkable inland terrain of Guyancourt that surrounds the course, that makes Golf National’s No.1 course a success.

:: The Albatros is accompanied by another 18-holer, the Aigle [Eagle] and the nine-hole Oiselet [Baby Bird].  Chris Bertram

 

Information

Chesneau, Von Hagge, Thevenin

+33 1 30 43 36 00

2 Avenue du Golf , Guyancourt , France , 78286