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Le Golf National: The Perfect Matchplay Course

One or two American fans may disagree, but Le Golf National is already serving up a Ryder Cup matchplay treat – and it’s Team Europe looking the more comfortable on L’Albatros. If Hazeltine was a putting contest two years ago, Le Golf National is proving to be anything but, with a premium placed on finding the fairways.

In many ways, this is the key to its appeal. With mistakes routinely punished, there are fewer halved holes. Think back to Hazeltine, where there was virtually no rough, and how often holes were halved in birdies even when a player was out of position off the tee.

The punishing nature of Le Golf National means that no match is truly secure until the final putt is hit. Surely this makes for a better matchplay venue.

What Makes The Perfect Matchplay Course?

If you put 24 of the best players in the world on any course , they’ll produce fireworks. However, some courses make it that little bit extra special – and for the fans, too. L’Albatros is one of those.

For that we can thank designers Hubert Chesnea and Robert Von Hagge, the former whose vision it was to create a golf stadium one that could host major tournaments and offer unrivalled spectator viewing. The par-3 16th is just one example, with mounds and elevated viewing spots all over the course. There’s no place to hide out here, and it helps create a lively atmosphere from one hole to the next.

The par-4 opener epitomises what L’Albatros represents. This hole would strike fear into most weekend golfers, even without a stand seating 6,500 spectators – the largest ever first tee Ryder Cup grandstand. It has provided as many birdies as bogeys at this Ryder Cup.

There are an even combination of long holes and short ones, more challenging hole and slightly easier ones. It is this variety that means it doesn’t favour any one type of player. By cutting back all the rough on a Ryder Cup course and stretching the layout as much as possible, all you do is create a one-dimensional examination paper.

Pundits have regularly said that the set up of the golf course favours the Europeans but the truth is, it rewards those players with a more complete game. That can only be a good thing.

A Memorable Finishing Stretch

L’Albatros certainly ticks this box, with one of the most entertaining finishing stretches on the European Tour circuit. The final hour of drama starts on the treacherous par-4 15th. Water down the right side cuts across the front of the green, and encircles it, making both the 15th and 18th a shared island green. Across the water, the 18th fairway runs parallel and shares a common theme: find the fairway, and find the green – at all costs.

Before that, there’s no better place to wrap up the match than the par-3 16th, and in so doing avoid the stress of the final two holes. This was one of the greens to be modified in 2016 to offer more pin positions, and it’s an amphitheatre that has produced plenty of roars.

Matchplay course

The drama of the par-3 16th at Le Golf National [Getty Images]

Stadium courses may not appeal to traditionalists, but L’Albatros has already proved itself the perfect matchplay course.

The Americans are unlikely to change their approach to setting up their golf courses for the Ryder Cup but there is no two ways about it – Le Golf National is a complete test of golf that places the fan at the heart of the experience. This should be the blueprint for all future Ryder Cup venues.