La Boulie is located on the southwestern outskirts of the capital, less than five kilometres from Le Golf National as the crow flies. So near, and yet so far away in terms of the way golf is presented at either location. It’s more old school here with the atmosphere of a traditional club, as opposed to the brash, corporate modernity of the nearby Ryder Cup venue.
And yet, they’re inextricably linked by the Open de France, the oldest national tournament on the continent of Europe. The very first event was held at La Vallée in 1906 (it would host twenty Opens in total) while 26 of the last 28 editions of the competition have been played at Le Golf National. Prize money has certainly increased over the years but today’s golfers still play for the same silver trophy that was introduced by Edward George Steiber more than a century ago.
There are two 18-hole layouts and a short 9-hole course at La Boulie but La Vallée was the course I was keen to see. Not only has there been a score of national Opens held here, the club also hosted the Canada Cup and Eisenhower Trophy, making it one of the most historically important venues in the world for both amateur and professional golf.
The course is set out on really hilly terrain, with narrow, tree-lined fairways leading to relatively large, but heavily sand-protected greens. It’s such a shame that today’s course is too tight and too short to attract top flight professional tournaments the way it once did as the green complexes here are formidable. Then again, build modern stadium courses like L’Albatros at Le Golf National and there’s bound to be casualties along the way, I suppose.
On the front nine, the 3rd and the 7th are lovely little short holes, with cavernous bunkers guarding the putting surface to the front, right and left sides on both holes. On the shorter back nine, which is configured with three par threes, three par fours and three par fives, the holes occupy the most northerly part of the property, with a steep uphill finish at both the 16th and 18th – at least the home hole is a short par five, rated stroke index 18.
I noticed there were various framed items hanging on the walls around the clubhouse, including a portrait of Willie Park Jnr, Seve’s course record scorecard of 61 during a pro-am in 1986, and the signatures of most of the teams that took part in the World Amateur Championships in 1994 (the winning US team included Tiger Woods). Sadly, there was no pictorial tribute to the man who did so much to put French golf on the map, Arnaud Massey, the club’s first professional – quel dommage!
Date: August 01, 2018