The course was the reputed Albatross at Le Golf National, just to the west of Paris and described by Colin Montgomerie, “as one of the most demanding courses in Europe”. It was designed by the FFG (French Federation of Golf) purely for crunch, match-play conditions and as an arena for the climax of major competition golf.
The two contestants, one a contentious 23.4 handicapper on Golfshake.com, having not played golf for 3 months and nursing a hangover. Joining me on this golfing kamikaze mission was my father, whose handicap fluctuates between 20 and 35, and having drunk a sly bottle of Bordeaux more than me the previous night, was tending to a worse headache.
We were ready.
8.32. Loosening up on the grass driving range, my dad manages to top 12 of his 15 practice shots and narrowly misses a fellow range player by a few inches. Things were looking good.
9.45. The first tee couldn’t have been more ominous. A dog leg, left to right, with nothing but water in the distance in front of you. How far? I really couldn’t tell, now latently regretting the comment in the pro-shop, “stroke-savers are a waste of money, there’s no point!”. A sweet drive with a satisfying ‘ping’ goes dead straight. Water.
10.03. On the second tee, I was happy with my 7, my dad not so with his 10. We were on an elevated tee overlooking a long par 3 over water. 165 yards to the front of the green, flanked by bunkers and a dismal excuse of a fairway far to the right. “Nearest to the pin!” I say with imprudent naivety. A 6 iron and I’m in the bunker. My dad hits his 5 iron 158 yards…
12.24. Things are going well. Millionaire’s golf, a beautiful sunny October’s day but the score-card is looking like a 7 times tables. At this point though, I must comment on the quality of the course. It really is superb and would be a perfect host for the Ryder Cup. The difficulty factor is softened by an exquisitely crafted layout which lends perfectly to competitive professional golf. After this mental soliloquy, I’ve found my drive in the long rough and play ensues.
14.00. Standing on the 18th fairway, my solid but short drive and 2nd approach leaves me in the perfect position to attack the legendary island green. My dad’s pink ladies Pinnacle (which he found on the 16th), sits tiredly next to mine. I’ve won our match play, so the only pressure rests on hitting the green and finishing on a high with potentially a par, but a more likely bogey.
I imagine the partisan crowds cheering on those courageous competitors, with this final hole providing ample opportunity for a high adrenaline finish. I take a 9 iron, the wind gently biting my face forcing a prudent club choice. The shot is crisp, the divot larger than I would have hoped. There’s good height, the ball hangs for what seems like an eternity and then the descent commences. With a dramatic ‘plumpf’, my Golfbreaks.com logoed ball falls with brutal conclusiveness. Cue expletive. My dad hits the green with a wry smile of schadenfreude. I foolishly drop a second, only to see the exact replica of my first shot, “At least you’re consistent!” I hear.
14.25 The beer is as good as ever, and the terrace is bathed in the afternoon sun. The course was outstanding, the golf was dire. My score was 107.