SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Soak it up.
Le Golf National will be the best Ryder Cup venue of our lifetimes.
To be clear, the Old Course at St. Andrews and a hundred other tournament venues are better works of golf architecture. Le Golf National, raved about by the Euros after they lowered the Ryder Cup venue bar for decades, is a fantastic arena for an event that traditionally overmatches the mediocre host venues.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the Ryder Cup rarely goes to the places that could play a subversive supporting role. Even with silly rough and excessive narrowness off the tee, Le Golf National will turn in that nuanced performance the Academy voters adore. It’ll pop in for key jokes and cruel hoaxes just often enough. Couple this venue with two stout teams, and the combination should take this Ryder Cup from classic status to how-will-we-ever-top-that.
Granted, the venue bar in Europe is not high, with most of Europe’s modern-era Ryder Cup venues having been chosen for financial reasons and never for their architectural or spectating merit.
The Belfry was a 17-hole snoozefest with one weird drivable par 4, while The K Club, Celtic Manor and Gleneagles were blurs of soggy inland tedium that no one needs to revisit.
In the USA, the PGA of America has been picking A-list name venues with, at best, B-actor golf holes. Hazeltine has a few moments that lend zest to the matches, while future venues Whistling Straits, Bethpage, Olympic and Congressional all have some components that will add to the proceedings. But none of those three has anything like Le Golf National’s routing and ideal areas to pitch a tent to see action coming from many angles.
Yes, a Ryder Cup on a polo field would entertain. But as far as dramatic holes, amphitheater settings and a reasonable scale, Le Golf National will create surreal scenes that we can’t see anywhere outside the gates of TPC Scottsdale or TPC Sawgrass.
Credit goes to some stadium mounds, the routing, the European Tour’s buildout and six primary water hazards.
With just four matches on the course for most of the morning and afternoon sessions, an ideal Ryder Cup venue would gather groups of holes to introduce noise from other parts of the property as part of the match equation. Bethpage’s final four-hole stretch will do this in 2024, but outside of that only Le Golf National does this artfully in multiple spots.
There is the area around the first and second holes, as well as half of the par-4 third. Another swell congregating spot features the seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th greens where captains won’t have to drive far to jump between matches and players will know what’s going on in other matches.
Then there is the incredible conclusion, with the 15th and 18th holes side-by-side, the par-3 16th nestled in just north of them and the drab 17th hole nearby, too. This relatively small area could easily fit all 50,000 spectators with full views of the action, if necessary. Now we just need matches to get to those concluding holes for the unusual sight of players juggling their battles with the antics, noise and interest in nearby proceedings.
Most of all, try to enjoy the role Le Golf National plays in the 2018 Ryder Cup. We won’t be getting another venue like this one anytime soon.