In Search of a Level Lie: Mountain Golf in the Laurentians
By Jim Edwards,
QUEBEC (Sept, 20, 2002) -- About an hour north of Montreal in the province of Québec lies one of the greatest concentrations of mountain golf courses in North America. From savage tracks chiseled out of mountain forests, to tranquil links that flow along sparkling clear streams, you will find golf that will challenge you, or golf that will soothe you, but you'll seldom find a level lie. Here's a sampling of six courses that illustrate the kind of golf this amazing area has to offer.
Both Le Géant and Le Diable are bigger-than-life courses carved out of hundreds of acres of mountain. Cart paths on both courses measure about 11 kilometers (nearly seven miles). You are often out of sight and out of hearing of players on other holes.
The architect, Thomas McBroom, whose portfolio stretches from British Columbia to New Brunswick, added only a couple of artificial lakes and 52 white sand traps. The rest of the course seems pasted or airbrushed onto the mountain.
Sporting a 73 rating and a 131 slope from the tips, the course comes in just under 7,000 yards. While the slope is less than the 135 of the slightly longer Le Diable, many golfers believe Le Géant is the more difficult of the two Tremblant tracks.
The 5th hole, a 385-yard par 4 provides a good example of the challenges you will face on this course.
The fairway on this hole slants dramatically left to right. A well struck shot will roll 20-30 yards to the right. Even the slightest fade spin will increase this roll down the fall line. If you are lucky, you will still be on the expansive fairway, but unable to see the hole. If not, you'll be chipping out of the spruces. You'll need to chip far enough back up the hill to be able to see the flag for your third shot. If want to shoot at the center of the fairway, you'll need to draw a fairway wood off the tee.
Your second shot cannot be long. A massive granite rock face backstops the green into a drainage ditch from which escape is nearly impossible.
And this hole is the number 11 handicap hole.
Le Diable is similar in challenge, but with the addition of some huge red sand waste areas, and even more dramatic elevation changes.
Designed by Michael Hurzdan and Dana Fry, this par 71 track has five sets of tees to allow the slope and rating to range from 135/73 to 114/66.
Everything on this course is on a grand scale. The sixth hole, "La Piste" is a 221 yard, par 3. If you can keep from being distracted by the view of the cars racing on Le Circuit Mont Tremblant, you can deal with a couple of hundred feet of vertical on this over water tee shot. Like the 5th at Le Géant, this is the 11 handicap hole.
If the holes seem to be pasted to the side of the mountain at Le Géant and Le Diable, they are chiseled out of the rock at La Bête. Director of Golf Colin Swift says the small plateaus that contain the fairways here, and across the river at the gentler and more traditional La Belle, were cut by glaciers during the last ice age making the site ideal for mountain golf courses. As a result of this geology, La Bête is a course that seems more pastoral than the Tremblant courses, yet is plenty tough and sinuous.
Designed by Canadian architect Graham Cooke, whose portfolio include award-winning Owl's Head in Mansonville, La Bête plays to a 131 slope and 73 rating from the tips.
The par 5 13th hole features a forced carry across an oxbow of Rivière Diable from an elevated tee that varies in severity depending on the tee used. Two good shots that avoid a lake on the left will allow you to attack the pin without having to contend with a huge waste area short and right. A kidney-shaped undulating green completes the challenge. The 13th is La Bête's number two handicap hole.
If the fairways at the Tremblent courses are pasted to the mountains, and La Bête is chiseled out of them, Royal Laurentien flows like water through the passes.
And water is something Royal Laurentien has in abundance. Water comes into play on 13 of the 18 holes. There are 16 individually-designed bridges, one waterfall, and even a well on the putting green.
Royal Laurentien flows, but it is certainly no pushover. At 7,000 yards from the tips, it plays to 128/71.8, but unlike the above three, you can occasionally hit a bad shot and get away with it. Julie Menard, Royal Laurentien's engaging and energetic General Manager, calls the course "tough, but a little forgiving".
It is difficult to pick out a particular hole to feature because there are several "signature" holes, but the 12th combines natural beauty and great tactical demands.
Start this 600 yard par 5 with a tee shot to the right of a fairway trap. If you happen to catch the drive of your life, you can shoot a 250 yard fairway wood over the pond to a narrow green backed by three traps. If that shot is not in your bag, continue playing the right hand side with a utility wood or a long iron to give yourself and unobstructed wedge to the green. The more left you play the hole, the more the greenside water comes into play and the narrower the green. While you are playing it, though, don't forget to notice the beautiful views of the alpine valley Royal Laurentien flows through.
Don't you dare call it a pitch and putt course, or even an executive course, because the normally petite and affable Françoise Reyier, president of Manitou may turn vicious. It is properly called a par 58 theme course and to call it anything less really does disparage this beautifully maintained gem. On each of Manitou's 18 holes, Graham Cooke associate Darrell Huxham, tries to evoke the feeling of a famous course, and the holes sport names like Ballybunion, Pinehurst and Medina. The par 3 11th, Harbour Town, looks and feels like the second shot on Harbour Town's 18th, except, of course, for the heat and humidity.
Manitou is an extremely family-friendly course with excellent practice facilities.
Mountain golf in the Laurentians is fun and challenging, but all the uneven lies, rock outcroppings and vertical changes wear down your game. The waterfalls and rivers erode your confidence. You will probably need a place to regroup and collect yourself while "finding your game." Manitiou is that place.
If these courses don't completely satisfy your need for mountain golf, check out some of the more than 25 other courses in the immediate area. The Laurentides area provides mountain golf at its best.
Golf Course InformationLe Géant
3005, chemin Prinicipal
Mont Tremont (Québec) Canada J0T 1Z0
Telephone: (819) 681-5668
Where to StayLa Tour Des Voyageurs
3005 chemin Principal,
Mont Tremblant (Québec) Canada J0T 1Z0
Telephone: (866) 505-2255
Chalets Royal Laurentien
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