Lawn­mower man

He won’t touch a club in Paris, but head green­keeper Ale­jan­dro Reyes will play a huge role in the re­sult

Today's Golfer (UK) - - CONTENTS -

The head green­keeper lets us into some course se­crets.

Ale­jan­dro Reyes is in his sixth year as the head green­keeper at Le Golf Na­tional and he’s spent the bulk of that time pre­par­ing to de­liver one of the most ex­cit­ing Ry­der Cups of all time. His dream? “That both teams will be happy with the way the course is set up, my team re­ceives the recog­ni­tion they de­serve for the job they’ve done, beau­ti­ful weather and another his­toric fin­ish sim­i­lar to the one at Me­d­i­nah.”


This is a tee shot golf course. It wouldn’t make sense for us to set up the course as they did at Hazel­tine (wide fair­ways, lit­tle rough); in some ways it will be the op­po­site. It will be sim­i­lar to what we had for the French Open. The fair­ways will be the same width as in 2016, when they were nar­rowed. Noth­ing has changed from then – it’s al­ready one of the tight­est cour­ses on the Euro­pean Tour. The set-up for the Ry­der Cup isn’t easy, be­cause at the end of Septem­ber the pos­si­bil­ity of rain is quite high so im­prov­ing the drainage was a ma­jor pri­or­ity.


I’ve sought ad­vice from sev­eral pre­vi­ous Ry­der Cup head green­keep­ers ask­ing what they changed in the tour­na­ment set-up and hope­fully learn­ing from any mis­takes. It’s been great to share the knowl­edge. We’ll close the course 20 days be­fore the Ry­der Cup to make sure ev­ery­thing is right – I’d like to close it a bit ear­lier to be hon­est, but we are a pay-and-play course so this is very dif­fi­cult.


On com­pe­ti­tion days we’ll be on the course at 6 to 6.30am and work­ing an hour in front of the first matches… we don’t want to set up the course too early. The most im­por­tant thing is the con­sis­tency from the putting green to the first tee to the 18th green. All the greens should be of the same firm­ness, the same hu­mid­ity and the same speed.


We have six semi-is­land greens with wa­ter very close, six greens with run-offs and six pro­tected by bunkers and rough, the way it was de­signed. The greens are huge – on av­er­age 700m2... very big! They have sub­tle rather than sig­nif­i­cant un­du­la­tions, but you do need to read them care­fully. The greens are quite firm – I can’t com­ment on the likely speed.


I don’t think the rough will be any more dense than it was for the French Open, but there might be more of it. In the medium rough you can get out, but if the greens are firm enough you won’t be able to stop it on them. We are keep­ing a clean, well main­tained “rough” around the greens.


The length is still the same, but new tee boxes have been cre­ated to change the an­gle of the tee shot for spec­ta­tor rea­sons. We added two new pot bunkers on the 18th fair­way ready for the Ry­der Cup – any golfer find­ing them won’t have a shot into the green. We’re not putting ob­sta­cles in place for the Amer­i­can team, but look­ing to cre­ate more drama and ex­cite­ment... There are around 45 bunkers on the course, and they’ve all been re­shaped. Pre­vi­ously from the mid­dle of the fair­way, you couldn’t see many bunkers around the green. Now, af­ter the ren­o­va­tion project (2015-16), you can see them all. Also, the 1st and 16th greens are new.


I used to sleep all right, but the past month not so well! This is the big­gest chal­lenge of my life, and I’m very lucky – not many peo­ple get the chance to de­liver the Ry­der Cup, but I have to say I have a great team of 30 green­keep­ers be­hind me.


The di­rec­tion can change from day to day. On the long par-4 17th into the wind, Greg Nor­man hit driver and 3-wood, but still didn’t make the green! He told the ar­chi­tect it was a badly de­signed hole, believ­ing there’s not a par 4 in the world he couldn’t reach in two. How­ever, the next day the wind to­tally changed and he found the green with driver and 7-iron…


We re­ally hope many matches will go down the clos­ing holes. About 45% of Ry­der Cup matches ac­tu­ally go down the 18th, while most should go down 15, which is another spec­tac­u­lar hole… and hope­fully 16, a test­ing par 3 over wa­ter, 17 with its nar­row fair­way with high rough on both sides and the amaz­ing 18th, a nat­u­ral sta­dium.


They’re on the front nine. Five and six are short par 4s and though both have small greens, the big hit­ters could be tempted to go for them. Play­ers will also be look­ing to get on the par-5 3rd in two de­spite the nar­row fair­way, wa­ter on the right and heavy rough on the left, and the par-5 14th – though a lot de­pends on the wind.

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