A mere 20 miles to the west of Paris lies the Golf National. Here, at Guyancourt, surrounding the Chateau of Versailles – once home to Louis X1V – there’s a hint of Florida, a sprinkling of Ireland and a lot of France.
Golf National took three years to construct and in 1990 the Albatros stadium course opened for play. It was co-designed by Hubert Chesneau and von Hagge Design Associates (now known corporately as von Hagge, Smelek & Baril). The golf course was destined to become home to the French Open and also a centre for both national and international championships. It was also rumoured that a future Ryder Cup could be held here.
The Open de France, which dates back to 1906, is mainland Europe’s oldest top-flight professional tournament and in 1991 the first French Open was played on the Albatros course. Argentina’s Eduardo Romero won the 1991 title and the event has remained at the National Club ever since, except for 1999 and 2001, when it was played at Golf du Médoc and Lyon respectively.
The 2008 French Open was a remarkable event. Spanish rookie Pablo Larrazabal – who progressed through qualification to play in the event – won the tournament, his first PGA European Tour title. The 25-year-old closed with a final round of 67, which included seven birdies, to finish 15-under par, four shots clear of Colin Montgomerie who finished in second place.
So, what have we got? Well, it’s the first course in France to be built to the T.P.C. model and naturally they chose a site on clay, which required the maximum drainage! There’s water and mounding to spare and there’s no doubt that the earth certainly moved for Chesneau and von Hagge.
It’s a firm but fair course that's been built to host competitions and test the Pros. Measuring in excess of 7,000 yards, it’s the toughest test of golf in the Paris region and, given the unremarkable tract of land, we think they’ve created a quite remarkable course. At times you can imagine you’re playing golf on a links course and at other times (especially when the sun is shining) you can imagine being holed up in Florida.
In May 2011 it was announced that France was chosen as the host country for the 2018 Ryder Cup ahead of other bids from Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands. The Albatros course will be the stage. Click here for the full story.
Ross McMurray from European Golf Design was brought in to supervise changes to the course ahead of the Ryder Cup event and his main objective was the reworking of the greens on the 1st and 16th holes, the re-bunkering of the 4th and 5th holes (including the removal of the waste area between those holes) and the installation of a pond at the 11th hole, in front of the green.
New drainage and irrigation systems were introduced ahead of the 2016 Open de France, spectator mounding has been modified and roads and car parks have been resurfaced as part of the infrastructure improvements.
The 18-hole L'Aigle (Eagle) and 9-hole L'Oiselet (Birdie) complement the championship Albatross course at the 45-hole Golf National.
Played here in May 2017. They are doing some refurbishment to the clubhouse, but having nowhere to change, or shower, was pretty shabby. We were sent to the hotel next door for a post round beer, but were then moved about as they were setting up for an event. That side of things was therefore very much below par.
Unfortunately the golf was the same. This will certainly produce a great Ryder Cup, but as a "normal" golf course it left a lot to be desired. It is fairly featureless, and not in great condition, but yes, there are some very good holes onto island greens. However, when you compare it to the K Club, or the PGA at Gleneagles, or even most of the Belfry, for example it scores badly. I am glad we played it, because of the Ryder Cup next year, but its not a course I would be desperate to return to.
I can relate to your words - a disappointing course for me too, yes great tournament holes at the 1st and the 2nd - and a few more decent water holes late on but I agree with not as good as previous Ryder Cup 'stadium' courses.
Personal favorites were 13th, twin holes 15th and 18th and the par 3 16th. 1st and 2nd weren’t bad either. No poor hole there even if 17th was the weakest in my opinion; sure it is a long and tough par 4 (430 meters) but pretty bland.
The French Open is in about a month and their rough is surely ready! The toughest I have encountered ever! Even the first cut is deadly… It has always been referred to as an inland links due to its design but surely doesn’t play like one. Greens were not that fast and some a little patchy, hopefully the month to go will be enough to prepare them (the course is closed to visitors for the whole of June).
Their distance markers on the ground can be quite misleading but the stroke saver is well done. There is no real club atmosphere as this is only a pay and play course that has no members. Club house was rather cold, not very friendly and expensive, as everything else around Paris. Green fees, on the other hand, are rather cheap at only 60 euros week days (maybe only if you are a member of the French Golf Federation FFG?).
Definitely play this course if you are in the area as it is tremendous value for money. One negative point though, a huge one actually: there is a small airfield close by and if the winds require it (which definitely was the case when I played), planes are going to take off over your head every 30 seconds (not kidding!) and Orly international airport is not that far away either. Don’t know how the Pros can stand it during the French Open as they don’t seem to be able to lock this airfield down…
Give the course a try anyway as it is immense fun and a great challenge, but pray for the winds to be in your favor and make the planes take off towards the opposite direction… Cédric