Almost 10 years ago, one mans’ vision (Pascal Grizot – vice chairman of the French Golf Federation and to be Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 42nd Ryder Cup in France) and passion, supported by the French Golf Federation (ffgolf) and now by the whole country of France – changed the destiny of Le Golf National – forever!
It is probably most certainly the best fairytale in the golf business and in the European-wide golf industry today. The following tale should encourage all to, at least, take a second thought when you hear you say – “never me”!
The first choice came in 1986. The Executive director of the ffgolf and golf course architect persuaded the ffgolf to invest in a facility to answer 2 main objectives:
- Host major events such as the French Open (the oldest golf tournament in Continental Europe);
- A facility capable of hosting elite French amateurs in a strive to create a French Champion and detect talent for the future.
After 3 years of massive constructions moving landfill by 300 truckloads per day – the stadium style challenging spectator course opened in great pomp by the then world number one Greg Norman.
The second choice came immediately after the opening – how to position the facility on the market? France was at that time a young nation of golf but most of the game was steeped in tradition with the vast majority of golf clubs being membership based.
Le Golf National chose to lead by opening as a public green fee only facility with large academy facilities to help broaden the base of golfing numbers!
After 20 odd successful French Opens and raving review on the Albatros course from some of the world’s top golfers, it became clearer and clearer that Chesneau and Van Hagge had created a gem. The ffgolf, French golf, and Le Golf National needed more – to develop and grow.
Pascal Grizot, knocked on the door of the President of the ffgolf in 2008, expressed his views on how important it would be for France to host the Ryder Cup – none of the global majors being available to move to France – it was for media, spectators and wealth for the country – an ambitious idea and project, but it received a massive 80%+ approving by all French golf clubs.
The world’s first major sporting event bid to be crowdfunded was launched.
Three years on, in May 2011, the European Tour made the much awaited pan European announcement that France had held off impeccable bids from 4 other nations – but the 2018 Ryder Cup would come to France for the first time.
The hard work would begin – making the successful bid a balanced economic success. This came from the brilliant forward-thinking idea of Pascal Grizot to crowdfund almost one-half of the needed 40 million euros. 3€ per French License player per year would be set aside for 13 years.
The next challenge would be to get state and government (local and national) backing. With Golf not being in the public eye – constant lobbying and meticulous dossier filings would add on some 5 million more subsidies to the budget.
Pascal Grizot, a very successful businessman as well as being a top amateur golfer and national team Captain, would use his excellent relation skills and take part in a huge subscription seduction campaign to his Ryder Cup bid sponsors club – where he finely balanced selling to sponsors no rights to Ryder Cup (hospitality, brand image, or tickets even) but getting them behind a national campaign to put Golf on the sporting map of France.
In 2017 – we can confirm that the Ryder Cup France campaign will leave no deficit legacy and France can serenely enjoy all the benefits hosting the Ryder Cup will bring to the country.
In 2012 and 2013 – it was becoming more and more apparent the ffgolf should not underestimate what Ryder Cup Status meant. The President of the French Golf Federation – Jean Lou Charon, along with Pascal Grizot knew it was time for changes.
In 2013 – Alejandro Reyes was brought in to see through a 5-year plan moving towards preparing Le Golf National, and especially the Albatros course to Ryder perfection.
Moving through massive changes in maintenance, turf equipment, training and staffing – he also saw through the highly sensitive period of 10 months closure of the Ryder Cup Albatros course during which 7 million euros of the bid budget was invested into renovations (irrigation, lake edgings, drainage) and preparations (new tracks, paths and roads, hospitality platforms, course changes…).
All went according to time and budget and the course reopened in pomp on May 1st, 2016.
In 2014 – my time would come as a change was needed to enhance the overall experience at the club.
Over a 3 year period (which is only just coming to an end) – we have completed a vast programme of human resources changes clearly identifying international standards as a norm in customer services.
Adding value to the experience by completing the Albatros offer with caddies, buggies, warm up tee lines, brand new locker rooms, and a modern refurbished pro shop housing Ryder Cup licensed branded goods as well as building the Le Golf National brand for the future.
We also went through a rapid change in sales methods by using online sales, yield management, revenue management and even success on flexible bespoke memberships!
Opening up a development department to take care of a change in our regular customer base was also necessary but has proven to be the key to ensuring a healthy financial future for the ffgolf facility 2019 and beyond.
Ryder Cup will now most definitely leave a legacy of positives for the country (100 new small structures creating new golfers, a balanced bid and logistics budgets, and positioning France as one of the world’s top golfing destinations).
For Le Golf National, it has produced a renovated golf course and clubhouse ready to face the next 20 years. More than that, it has established the facility as a bucket list golf destination for millions of worldwide golfing fans.
From Ryder Cup 2018 to the Paris 2024 Olympics – Le Golf National is well and truly on the global golfing map! From the choices of visionary people and the challenges they bring – you can’t help thinking today that change is worth the effort!
What are your recommendations for other countries who would like to host a Ryder Cup tournament? What are your learnings so far?
No specific recommendations but keep the focus on making this event you will get once in a lifetime as profitable it can be for golf in your country. It’s a huge showcase for golf in your country and take all of it.
What do you expect how many new French golfers will start to learn golf or return to golf as a result of the Ryder Cup?
We are expecting an increase of golfers, specifically members of the federations; Hard to give a precise figure, but a 3% increase of licensees would be great.
Can the Ryder Cup be a profitable tournament? If yes, then why…
It is profitable for golf in general in our country. It has given us the opportunity to build 100 short courses, to increase the number of golfers, to make the Albatros the most modern championship course in France, the opportunity to have golf in all medias etc…
What do you do to be a sustainable golf tournament?
The course went through drainage and irrigation works in 2015/16. This has enabled us to become 80% self-contained water supply and recycling water through storage lakes. Waste management is of prime concern. All of the waste from the tournament will be selected and dealt with accordingly.
We signed a long-term contract with the Museum of Natural History in Paris to help us put the land back into shape after the Ryder Cup and enhance natural floral and animal species to at least where they were before the event. This is ongoing work.
How did you become a GEO Certified® golf course?
We went through a rigorous process of control on our management of fertilizers and sprays. Our water consumption and mechanical prevention methods for disease.
How do you build a strong employer brand?
It begins by creating a strong team in place! Once you can push the inner smile of your employees out by word of mouth, and tell the truth about the dynamics of the company – you seduce the best candidates.
What do you do to attract the most talented people?
Offer a varied day! don’t just give talent one job – give them varied responsibilities and varied missions. Don’t let them get bored doing the same day in day out!
Will you use golf influencers to promote the game and attract more people to the Ryder Cup?
The tickets are sold out a year before the event.
Will you use chatbots to provide better service and extra information about the game?
Yes of course!