By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Le Golf National
There has been no shortage of praise from players and officials alike as European Tour Destination and 2018 Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National prepares to host the Alstom Open de France for a 22nd time.
Situated on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris, the well-established home of the Open de France will become only the second Continental venue – following Club de Golf Valderrama, in Spain, in 1997 – to stage The Ryder Cup when the 42nd edition is contested between Europe and the United States in four years’ time.
Le Golf National bested four other bids from rival nations Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain in an exhaustive bid process and will follow Gleneagles this year and Hazeltine in 2016 in hosting the revered, biennial showpiece.
With its stadium views, risk and reward holes and location close to one of the world’s foremost cities, the 2018 event promises to be quite the spectacle.
“I think Le Golf National is going to be a fantastic Ryder Cup venue for many reasons,” said three-time European Ryder Cup player and defending Open de France champion Graeme McDowell.
“Firstly, I can think of worse places in the world to stay in than Versailles, the Trianon Palace and the great hospitality and great food that we enjoy here.
“But on the golf course, the last four or five holes, in the natural amphitheatre that this golf course creates, I can only imagine how good the buzz will be coming down 15 and 16. They are about as good and dramatic a risk-reward par three and four you'll get.
“Then the 17th is a great par four and for matches that do come down the last, there's not going to be a better par four on The European Tour than the last at Le Golf National.
“I can really picture 40, 50, 60,000 people up on those slopes around that little cauldron of the last four holes, and I think the atmosphere will be amazing.”
Having captained his European team to an astonishing comeback at Medinah in The 2012 Ryder Cup, Spaniard José María Olazábal is also well-placed to comment on what makes a great venue for the transatlantic clash.
“It’s going to be very dramatic and therefore a great course for The Ryder Cup,” reflected Olazábal. “Especially the last few holes where everything will be decided. The 13th, with the water, then a par five which you can reach in two, then the last few holes are really breathtaking.
“On 15 and 16 you have water, 17 being a long par four and 18 water again so a lot of things can happen on the closing holes. It’s going to be quite thrilling.”
The undulating, water-strewn layout, designed by Hubert Chesneau and Robert Von Hagge, was built between 1987 and 1990 and first staged the National Open Championship of France in 1991 when Eduardo Romero triumphed.
But for Le Golf National, the portents of a great future were evident from the outset, as David MacLaren, Director of Property and Venue Development for The European Tour, attests.
He said: “We all know Le Golf National has a great history and heritage, having staged multiple Open de France, but I first saw it during the early stages of the bidding process for The 2018 Ryder Cup when it became immediately apparent the quality of the venue and what a remarkably-designed layout the Albatros is.
“This was not a God-given piece of land for a golf course. It was flat, needing huge amounts of work doing to it, so for someone to create a course which has 18 outstanding holes is something certainly worthy of note.”
Of course, there are a number of factors needing careful consideration when planning the staging of one of golf’s most prized assets but L’Albatros was seen to perform across the board.
MacLaren continued: “When deciding on a venue to host The Ryder Cup, you have to look at the logistics and the mechanics of the golf course at a slightly different angle and from that respective Le Golf National ticks every single box. For someone to design, 20 years ago, a course which is almost future-proofed to a certain extent is a remarkable achievement.
“But on being chosen, Le Golf National of course took its rightful place amongst our network of world-class golf venues – European Tour Properties. All of our 13, hugely-respected properties are delighted to have a venue not just of the quality but of the stature of Le Golf National within the group.”
With less than three months to go until Gleneagles and this year’s Ryder Cup, French eyes are already turning towards 2018 and their moment in the sun.
And for Le Golf National, the future is bright.