Reason for a Le Golf National review
Why wouldn’t you want to play at the next Ryder Cup venue? I was a guest of Galvin Green, who are the official outerwear brand for the European team at the 2018 Ryder Cup. That gave me the chance to see the long-time French Open venue for myself and get to know a course that I have watched for years on TV.
Where is Le Golf National?
Le Golf National is near Paris. It’s only 15 miles from the Eiffel Tower as the crow flies. The complex is located to the south-west of the French capital, close to Versailles.
What to expect
A tournament course that challenges from start to finish. The most dramatic – and watery – holes come at either end of the round. These holes will work brilliantly in the Ryder Cup.
The course was created 25 years ago out of completely flat corn fields and the landfill that was used to shape the terrain paid for it.
In some places there is an attempt to create links-like topography with lumps and bumps on the fairways.
Elsewhere, on the holes where lakes are the dominant feature, you could be in Florida.
Many of the fairways feature banking on one or both sides. They will be excellent vantage points for the 65,000 spectators who will attend each day of the Ryder Cup.
The course is similar in character to recent European Ryder Cup venues but it does have its own distinctive features.
You would have to say that Le Golf National is known for its finishing stretch. At the 15th, the lake cuts in on the right from the tee. But being on that side of the fairway shortens and offers a better angle for the approach, over water every inch of the way.
The short 16th, from an elevated tee, is a birdie chance depending on the pin position while the 17th is just a long, hard, uphill par 4 that feels like a par 5.
It all builds up to the dramatic last hole. Here, the more daring the drive, the easier the approach becomes. Play safe from the tee and you will face 200 yards over water – 195 of them carry.
Be bold and succeed in avoiding the sand (right) or water (left) or you’ll be left with a vastly more appealing second.
It would be easy to choose one of the show-stoppers in the closing stretch but the prettiest hole (on what is not, let us be honest, an especially attractive course) is the 13th.
You must find the fairway to consider finding the green in two. The approach is over a pond with mature trees on either side acting as goalposts. It’s an old-fashioned hole – just a fairway wood and a short iron in good conditions – on what is a modern style of course.
My best bit
I took the wrong line off the opening tee but fortunately found a sliver of fairway having cut the corner, bounced through the rough and stopped short of the water. I followed it up with a wedge into the heart of the green. If I played the hole again I’d have at least a 7-iron in.
When I go back
I won’t let the course intimidate me. There’s so much water at Le Golf National. In fact, water is a feature, to a greater or lesser extent, on a total of 11 holes – namely the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th.
But, truth told, the fairways are generous and the greens are pretty flat. So it’s not like you can’t find your way around.