Golf Course Architecture: Issue 53 JULY 2018

35 Art fraud? Frank Giordano investigates the strange case of the golf architect whose name was taken off the course that will host this year’s Ryder Cup I n a recent online notice about the upcoming Ryder Cup competition in France, I was concerned to learn that the French Golf Federation (FFG) had identified Hubert Chesneau as the designer of the Albatros course over which the competition will be staged. Similarly, the official website of Le Golf National identifies Monsieur Chesneau as the sole designer of the Albatros course. The absence of due acknowledgement, in the official writings of the federation and the Le Golf National resort, of the enormous contribution of Robert von Hagge and his associates in the final design of Albatros, strikes me as shamefully unfair and needlessly chauvinistic. A brief history is called for here. Chesneau, a building architect with no experience in designing substantial tournament-worthy golf courses, was assigned in the mid-1980s the project of designing and getting built a course that might eventually become the permanent venue for the French Open. A very undistinguished parcel of land was given to Chesneau for this project, a virtual frog that he was tasked to turn into a prince of a course. The original site was unrelentingly flat, with no natural features to influence the routing. However, the FFG’s ambitions required Le Golf National to be a true championship course, and they were specifically interested in a stadium style golf course that had to be challenging to all the best players in the world. This was no task for a neophyte designer. The Federation, apparently uneasy with their selection of a novice designer, granted Chesneau the right to employ a consultant to assist in establishing the course’s layout. Enter Robert von Hagge Design Associates, the team led by a world-famous designer of, at that time, over 100 courses in North and South America. He had just completed his work on Les Bordes (1987), a new course that, upon opening day, leaped into the top five golf courses in France and among the very best in all of Europe, earning for itself the title of Best New Course in Europe for 1987. Rick Baril, von Hagge’s on-site designer for the project, was at the original meeting in 1987, when Claude Roger Cartier, then president of the FFG, explained why the federation had requested the assistance of what was then von Hagge Design Associates. “Our involvement, according to President Cartier, was ‘needed and intended to provide the French Golf Federation a guarantee of success for this important and unprecedented project.’”With verbal assurances his expectations would be honoured (but without getting that assurance in writing, relying on the trust of the client), von Hagge and Baril immediately scrapped the preliminary layout Chesneau established, in order to produce a routing worthy of this national venue. “In fact, we simply disregarded the original routing, as it didn’t have any merit or value whatsoever. We started over – with only an entry road location, clubhouse location and a flat property. It is a von Hagge routing – accomplished independently – it came right out of our office; the routing wasn’t a collaboration!” Because the Federation wanted the look of an American style TPC course, with a stadium-like setting at the dramatic final holes of the competition, von Hagge and Baril focused on an exciting solution for the final Le Golf National