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Netjets Volume 4 (2018)

TEEING OFF THE FRENCH

TEEING OFF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION MAY HAVE JUMPSTARTED DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO GOLF, FRANCE HAS BARELY MODERNISED AT ALL. THE BUTTONED-UP, ANCIEN RÉGIME MENTALITY HAS PREDOMINATED FOR DECADES, meaning the beautiful game in France has been equal parts privilege and pleasure. The first course to break the mould – and some would argue still the only championshiplevel layout in France to do so – was Le Golf National, which debuted in 1990 without any membership scheme, a purely public, pay-asyou-play destination course in Saint-Quentinen-Yvelines on the southwest fringes of Paris, just beyond Versailles. As L’Albatros, Le National’s premier track, prepares to host the Ryder Cup (25-30 September; rydercup.com), there is anticipation not only about the drama of the competition but also, for those looking more broadly at the state of the game, about what the event will mean for golf in France – as well as the rest of Europe. Might it, to be blunt, revolutionise golf? This year’s Cup is only the second to be held on the Continent – the first was at Valderrama in 1997 – and among Europe’s golfing cognoscenti there is a cautious optimism about what it (and the 2022 event, planned for the Marco Simone ▲ Eyes on the prize From top: the two captains, Jim Furyk of the US, left, and Europe’s Thomas Bjørn, pose with the trophy; the competition’s flag flying at L’Albatros ▲ Fan’s favourite The European supporters, enjoying themselves in 2016 in Minnesota, will be out in force again in Paris DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES, ANDREW REDINGTON/GETTY IMAGES, AFP/GETTY IMAGES 36 NetJets

Set for the wet The par 3 16th is one of the many holes on L’Albatros where water is a clear and present danger TIM CLAYTON/GETTY IMAGES Club outside Rome) presage for the future of the sport in Europe. Most of France’s leading courses are as elegant as the homes of the aristocrats who built them, nestled gracefully in the sylvan forests of Fontainebleau or Montmorency or winding between vineyards west of Bordeaux. Le National is a different, brasher sort of creation: set on what course architect Hubert Chesneau calls a “blank canvas” – entirely flat land – it was carved up into a true stadium-style configuration with the intention of hosting blockbuster tournaments, allowing both spectators and TV cameras to have unfiltered access to every moment of the action. Exchanging sketches with fellow architect Robert von Hagge, who consulted on the L’Albatros course, Chesneau crafted a linkslike layout whose every curve, undulation and hollow he designed to the last detail. It is a masterstroke of innovation and creativity, a playground for golfers with a penchant for risk-reward situations – starting from the very > 37 NetJets

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