Except for the 1999 and 2001 editions, the Open de France has been played undiscontinuously at Le Golf National, a property of the French golf federation. Its host course, the famed “Albatros”, will be the stage of the 2018 Ryder Cup. Find out more about this success story
Le Golf National opened on 5 October 1990, but the idea of its creation dates back to 1985. At the time, golf course designer Hubert Chesneau was the executive director ot the Fédération française de golf. He remembers: “I first imagined and talked about building what would become Le Golf National just a few days prior to a massive heart surgery. I had a two-day break before going to the hospital. I attended the Open de France and was forced to admit that our golf courses were no longer adapted to an increasing number of spectators. I talked a lot about it to ffgolf president Claude-Roger Cartier. He and the board agreed to my project of building a federal center for both training and competition, a true golf stadium adapted to hosting big tournaments.”
Chesneau had his sights set on a piece of land “without topographic or geographic constraints” so he could design, as on a blank sheet, the stadium he had in mind: a world-class championship course equipped with facilities for players, sponsors, fans and media. It would play host for the Open de France every year, as well as other important professional or amateur events. The French golf federation found a perfect site in the urban area of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines to build what would become the golfing equivalent of Clairefontaine and Marcoussis, the training centres for the French football and rugby national teams respectively. The sole difference, but a big one: all year long, anyone can play there. Today, three courses -including the famous Albatros- representing 45 golf holes are on operation.
All praise the Albatros
“How the indented users of a golf course will react when they first play it is the architect's nightmare. Just like a theatre, he has to wait until the premiere is over to be sure of the result, as far as acoustics, stage, lights and actors reaction are concerned,” says Chesneau. He felt just like that during the first round of the 1991 Open de France, until by the end of a cold and cloudy morning British superstar Nick Faldo finished his round. Walking off the 18th green, the Englishman said: “tough but fair”. At that moment, Chesneau knew he had succeeded. Since then, the Albatros' reputation has never been questioned. Quite the contrary: the best players in the world are unanimous about the quality of this layout, which main features are intimidating water hazards, large bunkers, narrow and undulating fairways surrounded by thick rough. It is no surprise that more and more of the world's top golfers play the Open de France, and no surprise either that Le Golf National was chosen as the 2018 Ryder Cup venue.