9 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE RYDER CUP
It’s going to be a big party . . . for somebody.
An unusual disorder seems to overcome tour professionals who have played the Albatros Course at Le Golf National, site of the 42nd Ryder Cup on September 28-30 in France. Call it temporary amnesia, for the lack of a more clinical diagnosis.
When discussing the Hubert Chesneau/Robert von Hagge design in general terms, the early reviews are typically complimentary.The consensus among players is that you don’t have to be long off the tee to score.And though the need for solid shotmaking to manoeuvre around the numerous lakes, humps and bumps is real, in several spots the course affords the chance to make amends for mistakes.
“It’s a great test of golf,” Justin Thomas said when he got his first glimpse in July while playing the French Open.“It’s not like there are any hidden tricks or anything like that.” However . . . Grab the pros after they’ve walked off the course, and they mention what they seem to have forgotten:The place plays harder than it looks, particularly the four claustrophobic closing holes locals refer to as The Loop of Doom.
“It’s a golf course that can really beat you up if you’re not on your guard,” says Thomas Levet, one of three Frenchmen, with Jean Van deVelde andVictor Dubuisson, to have competed in the Ryder Cup.“You don’t necessarily think about it like that. It’s a bit crafty that way, almost diabolical.”
Consider the devilish end to July’s French Open. A par 4 on the 18th would have given Julian Suri the win, but the American’s approach found the water guarding the green and led to a double bogey. England’s Chris Wood also dropped shots on the 15th and 17th, and Jon Rahm didn’t even last that long, making a triplebogey 7 on the 12th hole. Alex Noren finished more than a half-hour ahead of the final pairing and played the last four holes in two under to win.
Still, if the Albatros Ailment holds, all will be forgotten come September, the adrenalin of the biennial competition fuelling both teams. For the Americans, the goal is to win away from the United States, something that hasn’t happened since 1993. The Europeans are trying to keep from losing two straight matches for the first time in that 25-year span.
This is just the second time the Ryder Cup will be played in continental Europe, the other coming in 1997 at Valderrama in Spain. Le Golf National offers numerous risk-reward opportunities, presenting options that should make it an intriguing match-play venue. Combined with the location – 30 kilometres southwest of central Paris and eight kilometres from historic Versailles – and the not-so-small fact that several players occupying both rosters seem to have their games in peak form, there’s the potential for a dramatic three days outside the City of Lights.
To get you fully prepared, here are nine things to know about the Ryder Cup venue.
it’s not a new course
The Albatros opened on October 5, 1990; the inaugural fourball featured major champions Greg Norman, Jeff Sluman and Raymond Floyd joining French professional Marc Farry. It was the culmination of a nearly decade-long endeavour by Claude-Roger Cartier, the president of the French Golf Federation and a quiet, behind-the-scenes presence in the rise of the European Tour.
Cartier’s idea was to create a permanent home for the French Open – the oldest national Open in continental Europe, played since 1906 – and establish a performance centre for France’s national teams in hopes of increasing the profile of golf within the country.To carry it out, he found roughly 138 hectares of state-owned land in the Paris suburb of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and negotiated a 99-year lease with the government.
The master plan included 45 holes – Le Golf National has a second 18-hole course, the Aigle (French for eagle), and the nine-hole Oiselet (birdie) – and a teaching academy for golfers of all levels. Of course, it was not an entirely philanthropic mission – the property includes a 131-room resort.
One interesting wrinkle in Le Golf National’s creation: Because the property had been used for agriculture purposes, it was decidedly flat. Cartier, who died in 2014 at 93, worked with local authorities to have soil excavated from building projects in Paris and transported out of the city.An estimated 1.6 million cubic metres of dirt was trucked in and used to shape the courses.
Since its opening, Le Golf National has hosted the national Open every year except 1999 and 2001; notable winners include Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen, Graeme McDowell (twice), Martin Kaymer and Tommy Fleetwood.
it’s also a “new” course
After the European PGA Tour awarded it the Ryder Cup in May 2011, the French Golf Federation made good on its promise to upgrade the Albatros. According to Paul Armitage, general manager of Le Golf National, nearly €8 million was spent on course renovations, mostly done in 2014 and 2015.
Chief among the changes was lengthening several holes, including the three par 5s. The course is listed at 7 234 yards (6 615 metres) for the Ryder Cup with a par of 71. Other notable updates:
Creation of a lake, intended as part of the original design, in front of the par-3 11th hole, replacing marshland that had dried up.
Redesigned greens on the first and 16th holes to allow for more pin positions.
welcome to water: the green at the 408-yard 15th (left) and the 471-yard 18th (right).