Golfing In the Alps
By Bob Enzel
"Smell that fresh mountain air"
my golf cart companion said to me as we traversed the course high
above the village of Megeve in the Savoie Region of France.
years ago I sniffed this same mountain air when I skied this golf
course under several feet of snow . Actually, I skied only the six
golf holes that are permitted for skiing. Things didn't look the same.
At that time the majestic Alps were covered with a white blanket of
fresh powder. But now it was the end of summer and the weather had
turned a bit chilly. (Chilly for me means below 80 degrees.) The day
before it had rained and the course was still drying out, but that
didn't stop a sizable number of local golfers from whacking their
way up and down the hilly course. Mostly up it seemed to me.
My traveling companions and I stayed at the very comfortable and beautiful
Chalet du Mont d'Arbois in the d'Alice Lodge adjacent to the course.
That weekend the course in Megeve hosted a Pro-Am competition where
the cream of French golfers converged for a convivial and fun weekend.
The #1 golfer in France; probably Thomas Levet, also stayed at this
same mountain chalet, but in a separate lodge with his family. I won't
mention the per week cost for the lodge, but anyone rated above #5
probably would want to stay somewhere less convenient.
The village of Megeve just below us,
was a mute reminder that, after a round of golf or a day on the slopes,
nice cafes and elegant shops would welcome us, no matter what score
we shot or how poorly we skied. Megeve in summer is not as popular
as it is in winter, as evidenced by the number of visitors. But this
bodes well for golfers who don't like to be rushed and crowded into
seven or eight minute time slots.
Franck Martin, director of golf at the Megeve course, and I checked
the number of sand traps (50+) and "watering points" (5
or 6) and other obstructions--like trees--to confound a poor swing.
It sits in a pastoral plateau at an altitude of 4,330 feet. The big
challenge is hitting uphill. One leg a bit shorter than the other
could be considered a benefit when swinging a fairway club. Alas,
I didn't have this advantage. Mr. Martin acknowledged that the 18-hole,
71 par Megeve course was a good test of golfing skill.
Pro golfers have no difficulty with these ups or downs. They merely
hit it from tee to green.
The next course I checked out was in Chamonix about 25 Kilometers
down the road from Megeve . A blanket of snow also covered these slopes
on my last visit in 1999. My guide and companion Bernadette on these
recent visits helped me fix the date of my first visit based on two
horrific episodes. A devastating avalanche that took the lives of
12 residents in the town of Montroc in February and the even more
horrific accident that killed 41 drivers and passengers in the March
24 Mont Blanc Tunnel fire. The avalanche covered road was quickly
re-opened and the destroyed houses rebuilt in good time, but the Mont
Blanc Tunnel took three years before the 11 km route under the mountain
to Courmayeur, Italy was again open to traffic.
More skiing memories were brought out of my memory depth while riding
the Montenvers cog train to the Mer de Glace Station. The last time
I rode this train my fellow skiers and I had just climbed out of the
Vallee Blanche in our ski boots on a 30-foot metal ladder up a sheer
wall. This ride was infinitely more pleasant. Just below these train
sits the "Golf Club Chamonix Mont Blanc" neatly resting
at the mounain base. Just below means about two thousand feet down
into the valley.
Unlike the Megeve golf course the Chamonix course is laid out along
the base of the Alps in a lovely Alpine valley setting. The 18-hole
course is low-lying. A very good reason for this is that the mountains
in Chamonix are high, like 12,000 feet high. I'd need to carry an
oxygen tank along with my golf bag should there be such a course.
The 6,644-yard, par 72 course was created by famed American designer
Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
Not far away by auto are two other mountain courses for those who
like to play golf where they ski. Courchevel and Meribel are two very
famous resorts in the Trois Vallees ski complex (see The Blue Book
of European Ski Resorts for full ski information) that also have golf
courses. The Courchevel course is only 9-holes, 3,360 yards, but the
Meribel course is an 18-hole, par 71, 6,000 yard challenge.
Anyone used to playing golf at sea level and wanting to vary the intensity
can come to the mountains of France. In addition to the altitude he
will be faced with a gastronomic challenge that will take the edge
off your score. Over a bottle of local French wine and a plate of
Savoie cheese who cares about the golf score?
Golfing in Chamonix.
Golfing in Megeve.