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. 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 Albatros course served as a thrilling Ryder Cup stage where Francesco Molinari beat Phil Mickelson securing the winning point as Europe regained the Cup in convincing style (17½ 10½). Sergio Garcia's singles win over Rickie Fowler took the Spaniard to 25½ points, surpassing Nick Faldo to become Europe’s record Ryder Cup points scorer.
The 18-hole L'Aigle (Eagle) and 9-hole L'Oiselet (Birdie) complement the championship Albatros course at the 45-hole Golf National.
I played here with my father in December 2017. I do not honestly understand all these bad reviews for this course. Yes, it's extremely challenging. Yes, the hotel and the club house have no charme at all and the service could be better. The view of Novotel in the last holes it s definitely not the one you get at the old course and it s even quite upsetting since this course would have deserved something better. As a golf course itself though it is amazing. In that area I played at Fontainebleau, Chantilly and Paris International too and, even though they are excellent courses full of charme, i would definitely go play the albatross if i had to choose.
The 2018 Ryder Cup layout was the last of ten courses that I visited on a recent trip to France. It’s also the 10th Ryder Cup course that I’ve played on this side of the Atlantic and the only modern era Ryder Cup course other than the PGA Centenary in Gleneagles where I’ve teed it up. I’ve not been to The Belfry, Valderrama, K Club or Celtic Manor but I pretty much knew what to expect at Golf National from what I’d seen on the television and reading reviews already posted on this website.
Funnily enough, this was the third Robert von Hagge course that I played during my week-long travels, though I understand the late Texan architect’s collaboration in the design is being seriously downplayed these days, which is a bit of a low blow. Why Hubert Chesneau would want to be known as the exclusive architect with von Hagge relegated to “consultant” is beyond me – you only have to look at the opening and closing holes to see that von Hagge’s technical expertise was utilized to the full.
L’Albatros is where the French Open is played nowadays and it’s a testing track for top professionals – the scorecard indicates it has a hefty 155 slope from the back markers and mere 141 from the regular gents tees – never mind the ordinary amateur who tackles this iconic layout. Water comes into play at more than half the holes on the card so, unless you think you’ll have the round of your life, you’re advised to bring a few extra golf balls in your bag as they might well be needed.
Drainage and irrigation lines were redone in 2015/16 to avoid a repeat of the waterlogging at Celtic Manor in 2010 when they had to extend proceedings to the Monday, all the bunkers have been rebuilt and a couple of greens re-laid to allow extra pin positions. Factor in twelve kilometres of new paths and many more kilometres of cables for media and you can understand why it’s cost a reputed 7.5 million euros to prepare for the upcoming Ryder Cup matches.
To be honest, I feared the worse when teeing it up at the first two holes as they’re sited on either side of a small lake so water’s the dominant theme with both greens perched right next to the wooden buttressed hazard – somehow I managed a net par-birdie start and I was on my way with a spring in my step!
The fairways then move away from water for a while but the thick rough lining the fairways is just as penal and lost balls in the tall grass at holes 3 and 4 had me feeling a little less chirpy. There’s a definite linksy feel to the holes in the middle of the front nine, culminating in an all-or-nothing tee shot onto the green from an elevated “dune” position on the par three 8th.
The run from 10 to 14 was the best stretch of the course for me. It starts with a par four that rises and narrows as it reaches the green then ends with a par five that swings left and uphill again to a raised green that sits behind an enormous bunker with a grass island in the middle. Mention must also be made of the 13th (rated stroke index 3) which requires a brave approach across water to a green flanked by trees – it’s one of the best holes on the course, in fact.
The aquatic theme returns for three of the last four holes, with water to the right of the fairway on the 15th and 16th and to the left of the 18th. With huge grass mounding behind the greens on these holes, it’s a very spectator-friendly part of the course, allowing thousands to watch the conclusion of tournaments, though the line of trees screening the new hotel behind the 15th look out of place and could probably do with being thinned out if not removed.
Aérodrome de Toussus-le-Noble sits immediately to the southeast of the property and only the occasional small turboprop aircraft was taking off or landing when I played next door on a quiet Sunday morning but I have a feeling the airfield will be a lot livelier next month with maybe a few private jets flying in the great and the good who’ll be attending the Ryder Cup when Europe and the USA go head to head on L’Albatros.
The course is in great condition due to Ryder Cup preparation. It's a lot better than it used to be (especially during winter months).
Not the best course for amateur golf. It feels like the course is made or TV. Nevertheless some holes are interesting. If you are in the Paris region, you should head to Chantilly, Morfontaine, St Germain or Fontainebleau. So much BETTER!
And the main problem when playing at Golf National : it took us (good golfers) 5h45 for 18 holes !!!!!!!! Unacceptable for the golf course of the French Golf Federation.
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.
It was a warm sunny day in mid- July just a week after The Open de France when I played the Albatros for the first time. Later that week I played it again after a round on Fontainebleau which was just as delightful an experience as Le Golf National. Normally I’m a fan of old courses. Colt and Simpson are among my favorite architects so I was afraid I wasn’t going to like the Albatros having read a few negative reviews about being reminiscent of Celtic Manor and Gleneagles Ryder cup course.
All I can say is the reviewers must’ve caught this course on a bad day because it overwhelmed me from the start. The lay-out is AWESOME. Conditions were AWESOME. The greens weren’t just big but they ran 11 on the stimp as they got grilled by the sun. The course is the hardest one I’ve ever played and yet every bogey you make is your own fault! Make sure to play from the right tees because you’re not going to play your handicap anyway the first time.
You need every club in the bag and you need to strike the ball great; to keep the ball in play in the first place and to make some length. The rough is deadly at best; In some places it looked like US Open rough x2... The course doesn’t feel unnatural at all, apart from the waterhazards at holes 15,16 and 18. The days I played it played like a links course because of the firm and fast conditions.The planes taking off above your head indeed is a shame but it really couldn’t bother me after a few holes.
See for yourself just how good this course is. MO
We played Le National after rounds at Fontainebleau and Saint Germain and while the course in no way disgraced itself it has to be said it felt like a corporate golf course laid out to provide more entertainment for the television audience than the average golfer. It didn’t really bother me that the course was on the verges of an industrial park in the Paris suburbs. If you are looking for beautiful surroundings then Carnoustie probably would never make it onto your list of courses to play either. The fact that the clubhouse is really part of a Novotel is, again, not the end of the world.
Presumably no-one comes here expecting history. If you come looking for a modern-day Europen Ryder Cup course then you will get exactly that. Unfortunately, in early May the greens were slow and bumpy and the fairways patchy and in need of maintenance. The holes had some challenge and almost two months later I can remember at least half a dozen of them clearly which, for me, is unusual!
The last four are set around water and will without a doubt provide a great finish to the Ryder Cup in 2018. For British readers it’s a little like the 2010 at Celtic Manor crossed with the Belfry. A bit of a slog, all a bit boring but it could be worse. You could be playing the Centenary at Gleneagles...
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