GUYANCOURT, France -- The transformation is complete.
From the start, Le Golf National was created with one purpose, hosting tournaments at the home of the French Golf Federation.
Even though Le Golf National's Albatros Course has been the home of the European Tour's French Open 24 times, much work needed to be done to throw golf's biggest party, the 2018 Ryder Cup. A renovation costing 10 million Euros was completed May 1, 2016, signaling the launch of France's coming out party to the golf world.
The fearsome Albatros Course, originally designed on featureless farmland outside Paris by Hubert Chesneau and Robert Von Hagge in 1990, is a tangled minefield of mounds and ponds. The architects reshaped the landscape by building up spectator mounding and carving out dramatic holes, a European version of the PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, if you will.
The recent renovation was extensive, mainly dealing with infrastructure. Fifteen kilometers of new roads and cart paths were laid. Nine kilometers of pipes now provide drinking water throughout the golf course. The irrigation system was completely modernized. Seventeen new bunkers were built and 28 original ones were reconstructed. Two new lakes and four new pro tees were added. New bulkhead edging now lines every water hazard, providing a refined look. Platform areas outside of playing areas were leveled for grandstands and corporate tents. All this in preparation for what could be the largest Ryder Cup crowds ever, up to 65,000 spectators per day.
A few holes were tweaked as well. The first and 16th greens were redone to locate more pin placements. The biggest change is a new 11th hole, a well bunkered par 3 guarded by a pond.
Water hazards like these are the course's calling card. The first two holes -- a par 4 and par 3 -- wrap around the same pond. Water makes the par 4s at no. 10 and no. 13 dangerous, but nothing compared to the closing stretch of holes. The par 4s at no. 15 and no. 18 finish at dual island greens attached to the same sliver of land in a lake.
Don't be embarrassed about saying bon voyage to a golf ball or two during the round. Even the pros go swimming at Le Golf National.