If you wanted someone to give you the lowdown on the 18 holes the 24 players playing in the 2018 Ryder Cup will face, Alex Levy would be somewhere near the top of the list.
The world’s top-ranked Frenchman has played in his home Open at Golf National every year since 2011 and has made the cut in the last six, meaning he has played 28 competitive rounds on the Albatross course this decade.
So where are the birdie holes to attack and which are the treacherous ones to play for par and hope your opponent makes a mistake? Which holes will create the best atmosphere and which are the ones to fear? The five-time European Tour winner exclusively shares his insight with TG…
Paris National card of the course
Hole Par Yards Average Rank
1 4 419 3.97 14
2 3 210 3.13 7
3 5 558 4.75 18
4 4 486 4.43 2
5 4 405 4.07 12
6 4 380 3.84 15
7 4 457 4.3 3
8 3 208 3.08 11
9 5 579 4.84 15
10 4 375 4.13 7
11 3 178 3.00 13
12 4 433 4.09 10
13 4 415 4.18 5
14 5 544 4.81 17
15 4 408 4.26 4
16 3 177 3.11 9
17 4 480 4.17 6
18 4 471 4.51 1
Total 72 7,183
1st, En Avant
The tee shot is key, and if you can be aggressive you can have a short-iron approach into a green that slopes towards the water. Just keep the ball on the short grass! I will hit a 260-yard shot off the tee here and then you have 140-165 yards to the flag depending on the pin. It’s a nice hole to start, one of the easier holes. But you must be careful with your spin on the approach though…
Just hit the green… just hit the green no matter where the pin is. The easiest flag position is a back right flag. The elevated tee means the wind is usually a factor so take a par here and see what your opponent does. He might gift you a win with a par.
3rd, Le Merantais
There is another elevated tee here and if you hit a good drive you can take it on in two. They cut down the bushes on the left so you are now aiming at the left edge of the fairway; it used to be different, with more stress from the tee, but now you need to play middle left for a good angle for the green. You need to hit a high cut to stop the ball on the green in two shots. It’s a nice hole.
This is a long par 4, so you need to hit the fairway to get on the green in two because it is uphill and long. Making that a bit more difficult is the fact they put a new bunker on the left and a bunker on the right. You need to hit the middle of the well-protected green because it has tricky tiers, but this is a chance for birdie.
5th, Plain gaz
Just a rescue club off the tee on this dog-leg right leaves an iron from there, so you can be aggressive with on your approach for a second consecutive chance at a birdie. It will be attacked in fourballs as well as foursomes. Everyone will be aggressive here I think.
6th, Mais ou colza
One of the easiest holes on the course and a third good birdie chance in a row. You can attack it with a short iron after a long iron off the tee. You might have to let the fans tell you how close your second shot is though, as from many points on the fairway the green is not visible. I’ll hit a 250-yard tee shot then a wedge approach, so you can be aggressive again.
7th, Le Dromadaire
A long par 4 where you need to be aggressive to get on the green in regulation, so it’s all about the tee shot, which is challenging as there is rough on the left that you don’t want to be in. Play down the right, often with a fairway wood to try to get the best angle. It’s still only a middle iron from there. Take a par here.
8th, Le greenkeeper
You simply play for the middle of the green and hope you can stop the ball. If you don’t it is a tough chip onto the tricky green, which is built almost like a dome. If you ht a nice shot though, it will be an opportunity for an unlikely birdie actually.
9th, Vent debout
An interesting par 5 that is really affected by the breeze and is one of the best holes on the course. You need to hit the perfect drive to have a chance with the second. Water on the left and if you avoid that the green – which will have one of the best atmospheres on the course – is on in two unless the wind is against. The slopey green is very, very tough and momentum could shift there. It is a hole know I should play it in three shots, but every time I want to have a go in two…
10th, La mare aux foulques
Under 400 yards so it’s just an iron or rescue club and aim down the right for the best angle in to another sloping green. A good tee shot gives you a chance at being aggressive to any pin position.
11th, Les grenouilles
This nice-but-tough short hole is all about club selection because not enough will be rejected and too much gives you a hard downhill recovery. Like the 2nd hole, a par might give you the hole in matchplay. Even so, I like to go aggressive on this one actually because you have 7-iron in your hand so I attack the flag.
12th, Le goulet
I really like this par 4. I prefer to drive to get closest to the green and from there it depends on the pin location; when it is front left you can go at the flag but when it is back right you have a nice shot to hit. It is such a well-bunkered driving hole and the green slopes from back to front and is slippery if you’re above the cup.
13th, L’ile aux chênes
One of the nicest holes on the course. Here you have options; take on the water on the right for a risk-reward drive, or play safely down the middle of the fairway and accept a longer shot in. It is a huge advantage to hit a brave driver. It will be good fun in matchplay, especially as too much spin on the approach can lead to balls ending up in the water. If you miss the fairway you cannot attack.
14th, Les collines de Colin
This is a nice par 5 and will be a great feeling to walk between the fans onto the tee of this long hole. A birdie chance, yes, but even with no wind it needs two big shots to get up to the well-protected green. If you instead lay up to 110 yards out you can be super-aggressive.
15th, Le juge
This is a lovely par 4. I hit it as far as I can off the tee with a rescue club or 3-wood to get closest to the green. Some prefer to be further back but I like to get close. You have to be careful of water on the right off the tee. Golf National is going to be one of the best Ryder Cup courses and one of the big parts of that is the four great finishing holes. It starts now…
You play for the middle of the green here and club selection is again crucial from this elevated tee, with water waiting in front of the tee. You have to try to place the ball on the target because if you miss on the left side it is a tough chip to stop. Matchplay will be fun here and it will have a brilliant atmosphere with so many fans around the target and the tee.
17th, Le verdict
You must hit the fairway. Miss the fairway and you are struggling to make par. It is a really tough par 4 that plays between thick rough and ends on an elevated green that is shallow. The second shot is not easy, as you can have a 5-iron or maybe even as much as a 3-iron in your hand for the approach. Take a four here any time if the match is on!
18th, La foule
A great finishing hole! The best on the course. A key tee shot because the second is so difficult that you need to hit a long drive. Too left or too long is in the water. And with the pressure… But it’s a great walk between the 17th green and 18th tee, so that helps to raise your spirit. There will be hundreds of fans around the green too – it will be an amazing sight for any matches coming down the last hole. You have two options; you can hit a big drive on the right over the bunker to leave a wedge shot in, or play left and from there it’s a tough shot because it is hard to stop the ball when the green is firm. Hit it in the rough and you can forget about getting there in two. The second shot is the best shot on the course in my opinion and the short right pin position is the most fun.
What the players say about Paris National
It’s a good, hard, championship course. It has that Shinnecock look because of the fescue lining the fairways, but the water kind of throws that out. And then you have all the trees, especially around some of the greens. This place could easily host a Major, and I think it’s going to be a great venue for a Ryder Cup. Justin Thomas
It’s going to be hard for everyone. A lot of holes are going to be won with par, some with bogey. The last four holes ask you to hit good shots over and over and over again, and in windy conditions it’s not an easy task. Sergio Garcia
It’s going to be tremendous. I really believe this is going to be the best Ryder Cup venue we’ve taken the Americans to in a couple of decades. From a spectating view, it’s like the TPC Sawgrass of Europe with natural dunes and a natural stadium effect. Graeme McDowell
You have to be very, very patient. The good thing is the greens are receptive, so you can make birdies. If you make these greens firm, it would be one of the hardest courses in the world. Alex Noren
No matter what Thomas Bjorn and the European Tour do to the course, you still need to play well. You can’t cheat it. You can’t overpower it. There’s not many courses that are up to the standard to hold the Ryder Cup as good as this. Jon Rahm
The course is so difficult. There aren’t many holes where you can relax. Normally there’s two or three where you can just walk your way around. But if you miss the fairway, even by five yards, the rough is pretty thick. Matt Fitzpatrick
This is a nerve-wracking course to play. A lot of high-stress holes. Get it off-line and you’re hacking out. It’s a good test. Russell Knox