The birth of Paris Na­tional

If you’d have gone to Paris Na­tional 35 years ago, you’d have seen farm­land. This is the story of its trans­for­ma­tion

Today's Golfer (UK) - - CONTENTS -

How it went from flat fields to glad­i­a­tor’s Colos­seum.

Twenty one miles from Le Golf Na­tional hangs the most fa­mous paint­ing on earth, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It has been on per­ma­nent dis­play at the Lou­vre in Paris since 1797, one high­light in a city where many of his­tory’s most fa­mous artists lived, stud­ied and worked. It seems ap­pro­pri­ate then that Le Golf Na­tional – host of this year’s Ry­der Cup – is also a work of art.

If you’d have gone to the site, some 45 min­utes out­side the French cap­i­tal, in the early 1980s, you’d have been greeted by… not much. Fields. Big ones. Very flat, and full of corn; 139 hectares of bare, flat-as-a-pan­cake agri­cul­tural land that had been that way since the reign of Louis XIV, who resided at nearby Chateau de Versailles. But when course de­signer Hu­bert Ch­es­neau first clapped eyes on the site, he saw po­ten­tial. A blank can­vas on which to paint the per­fect back­drop for golf’s big­gest events.

“Many cour­ses at that time were built on nat­u­ral, un­du­lat­ing ter­rain, but I pre­ferred to cre­ate a land­scape that would be ideal for nat­u­ral grand­stands,” said Ch­es­neau. “So with this in mind there was no choice but to start with a blank can­vas.

“My in­spi­ra­tion was to cre­ate a sta­dium; a golf course that would be able to re­ceive great cham­pi­onships with ideal con­di­tions for not only play­ers, but also spec­ta­tors and the me­dia – par­tic­u­larly tele­vi­sion cov­er­age.”

It was no easy task. With the first plans sub­mit­ted in 1984, it took five years to build, with more than two mil­lion tonnes of soil

moved in by 450 lor­ries a day to cre­ate the man-made dunes. “Even though I had planned the to­pog­ra­phy of the site there was still the ne­ces­sity for a twice weekly visit to en­sure any re­fine­ments or mod­i­fi­ca­tions,” added Ch­es­neau. “From the start, all the top soil was stored so that it could be re-used for the fi­nal pre­sen­ta­tion. Dur­ing the sum­mer of 1988-89 we dug out the nine hectares of wa­ter haz­ards and re-laid all the nat­u­ral wa­ter cour­ses. The first sow­ing of grasses took place in Septem­ber 1989 and this car­ried on un­til June 1990.” That month, an enor­mous storm washed away part of this work, but they car­ried on – and the course wel­comed its first play­ers – Greg Nor­man, Ray Floyd, Jeff Sluman and Marc Farry – in Oc­to­ber. The first Open de France, on its brand new “home course”, was played in June 1991.

Even now, Le Golf Na­tional’s gen­eral man­ager Paul Ar­mitage – who hails from Lin­colnshire – still can’t be­lieve the dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion from fields to fair­ways. “It re­ally is hard to imag­ine that be­fore 1986 the whole area was open fields. It wasn’t easy to do be­cause in those days golf was boom­ing, but in France it was still quite an ex­clu­sive sport and not as open as it is to­day.”

Later named the Al­ba­tros course, the ul­ti­mate cham­pi­onship lay­out was on its way and lead­ing US ar­chi­tect Robert von Hagge was brought in to sprin­kle the magic dust… To keep up with mod­ern times and equip­ment – but es­pe­cially fol­low­ing its suc­cess­ful Ry­der Cup bid – the course has

un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant changes since those early days. With the lat­ter in mind, it was closed for 10 months from July 2015 to May 2016.

Ar­mitage (right) told us: “The place was ripped up. It was a huge project which in­cluded new drainage and ir­ri­ga­tion, a cou­ple of new greens, lake edg­ings, the in­stal­la­tion of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and drink­ing wa­ter sta­tions ev­ery­where. There was a 200yard bunker be­tween the 4th and 5th holes. The story goes that was not in the orig­i­nal plans laid out by the ar­chi­tects, but in 1989-90 they ran out of land­fill and time. So the two holes were mod­i­fied to go back to the orig­i­nal plans, and the bunker on the 4th and 5th was filled in. Also, the par-3 11th didn’t have a wa­ter fea­ture, though it was orig­i­nally there over 25 years ago. It wasn’t cre­ated cor­rectly and just used to dis­ap­pear! It was a swamp­land and just looked a lit­tle bit ugly.”

He may be a tad bi­ased, but Ar­mitage is in no doubt that Al­ba­tros course will present an en­thralling Ry­der Cup. “It could even turn out to be the best ever be­cause of the strength of both teams and the breath­tak­ing qual­ity of the course.

“For France, it’s mas­sive. It’s been a long jour­ney, but the French are re­ally be­hind it. Even though it had the French Open, the course still wasn’t very well known to in­ter­na­tional golfers and was be­ing run, which is fine, as a lo­cal fa­cil­ity.

“It’s a pub­lic golf course, but didn’t have any Ry­der Cup ex­pe­ri­ence feel to it… but now it does.”

On Septem­ber 27, 1985, the Pres­i­dent of the French Golf Fed­er­a­tion (FFG) ap­proved the de­vel­op­ment of a “Na­tional Golf”.

From ap­proval by the FGF to fi­nal con­struc­tion took five years. A fur­ther 26 passed be­fore ap­proval to hold the Ry­der Cup.

The project was ap­proved on June 27, 1986, and plans were drawn up to shape the flat, bar­ren land into two cour­ses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.