The 2018 Ryder Cup will be played, for the first time, in France. Here, the course manager of Le Golf National, Alejandro Reyes, talks about how preparations for the event are going, and the work that has made the venue - only opened in the 1990s - to be considered already one of the best in the world.
Le Golf National, which only opened in 1990, is just two years away from becoming, albeit probably temporarily, the most famous golf club in the world. The Parisian club, which has hosted the Open de France almost every year since 1991, has three courses, and is hosting the 2018 Ryder Cup. Its main course is The Albatros, an 18-hole venue designed by by architect Hubert Chesneau in collaboration with Robert Von Hagge and Pierre Thevenin, but it also has another 18-hole venue and a nine-hole course. The course has a capacity for 70,000 fans.
We caught up with the club's golf and courses and estate manager, Alejandro Reyes, to find out more about the course, how the preparations are going for 2018 and to see if he has any course management tips for his peers on the other side of the English Channel.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you currently face?
Our operation is complex and we have a busy golf calendar - 2017 sees the HNA French Open in June, integrating the Rolex Series, the European Senior Tour Paris Legends Championship and the 'year to go' celebrations in October. We try to produce the best possible quality every day for our clients. However we work with living beings and it is very difficult to every day satisfy every client we have. This is probably the biggest challenge at Le Golf National: try to satisfy every client expecting to play the Ryder Cup golf course at a Ryder Cup quality.
A good deal of work has been done to the Albatros course. What drainage construction was undertaken?
Our first agronomy and playability concern was drainage. Thirty years ago the Albatros was shaped in a heavy clay field, over old construction waste and 15cms of agricultural topsoil was added to seed. There wasn't drainage with the exception of some low areas, however I must say that the shaping of the fairways was very well done to have superficial runoffs and to avoid puddles. But it wasn't enough for first class playing surfaces.
We carried out climatic studies with the objective to drain the course in three hours after a 10-year rainfall event.
Two retention ponds of 12,000 and 7,500m³ were needed, 22kms of drains from 65 to 500mm, and finally 140 lineal kilometers of sand slits, 7cms wide.
The challenge was to do this drainage (and all the other renovations) between two French Opens, to grow the fairways back and play the 2016 French Open. We worked incredibly hard to heal all the trenches, always expecting the key areas of play to be presented to tournament standard. Even if the course presentation was improving daily, two weeks prior to the tournament (mid-June) we were still sodding large areas and I wasn't sure of the result.
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