Aa Saint-Omer Golf Club consistently plays as the most difficult course on the European Challenge Tour, but one man who knows the layout intimately well is Head Professional of 28 years, Sylvain Raout, who shared his secrets ahead of the Hauts de France – Pas de Calais Golf Open.
He has seen the biggest names in professional golf come through his golf course and leave having been unable to break par. In 2013, Brooks Koepka finished the tournament in a respectable tie for tenth place, but it was still an over par week for the future two-time U.S. Open Champion.
Tyrrell Hatton never finished under par in two years of playing Aa Saint-Omer, and neither did Alex Noren when he played the Hauts de France – Pas de Calais Golf Open in 2006. Tommy Fleetwood posted an 11 over par 81 in his first round of the 2011 edition, a year after his Ryder Cup teammate Thorbjørn Olesen ended the week on four over par.
“It’s hilly, it’s really hilly,” Raout said. “It’s hilly on the greens, but also on the fairways too, which means that you are always playing from an un-even lie. Even if you have a short iron or wedge for your approach shot, it’s tough to get the ball very close to the hole.
“The greens are undulating and fast, but most importantly, the ball can spin in many directions when it lands,” Raout noted. “Even if you pitch close to the hole, the slopes can take the ball to the right, to the left or backwards, and that makes it really difficult.”
Raout knows of what he speaks and asked what the most difficult hole at Aa Saint-Omer Golf Club is, he mentioned two.
“The third hole is a short one, but it’s a blind approach to a very fast and hilly green and par is always a good score there.
“The 13th hole is really difficult too. It’s a dog-leg, downhill to the left with a tricky green.”
Despite the difficulty, there are a few places Raout identified as being good birdie opportunities.
“You have two par fives in holes seven and nine, and those are really two big chances you have to take advantage of,” he said. “The front nine is your opportunity to score because the back nine is very difficult and there are not many birdie chances.”
Having been present for every edition of the Hauts de France – Pas de Calais Golf Open, Raout offered one final piece of advice, which could be the key to a winning week at Aa Saint-Omer.
“Every year, the winner is a passionate guy. The course will give you something, but you’ve just got to wait and not be too aggressive.
“If you hit pure shots—good shots—but don’t get it close to the pin, don’t be nervous. Take your time and stay passionate. You never have to be too aggressive, stay patient, stay calm and stay passionate.”