Road & Travel Magazine - Adventure Travel  Channel

Travel Channel
Adventure Travel
Advice & Tips
Airline Rules
Bed & Breakfasts
Climate Countdown
Cruises & Tours
Destination Reviews
Earth Tones
Family Travel Tips
Health Trip
Hotels & Resorts
Luxury Travel
Pet Travel
RV & Camping
Safety & Security
Spa Reviews
Train Vacations
World Travel Directory

Automotive Channel
Auto Advice & Tips
Auto Buyer's Guides
Car Care Maintenance
Climate News & Views
Auto Awards Archive
Insurance & Accidents
Legends & Leaders
New Car Reviews
Planet Driven
Road Humor
Road Trips
RV & Camping
Safety & Security
Teens & Tots Tips
Tire Buying Tips
Used Car Buying
Vehicle Model Guide

Golfing Through Switzerland: A Peak Experience

by Tom Wuckovich

The splendor of Lake Geneva and the Matterhorn are irresistible. Apart from the natural beauty, surely one of nature’s most crowning achievements, there are the charming towns and villages at the doorstep of the mountains and lake, medieval castles and abundant vineyards that offer a myriad of vacation experiences to those lucky enough to venture to this area of Europe.

I was standing on the first tee at the Villars Golf Club in the Alps, on the second day of a weeklong golf trip to the Lake Geneva region. I had never imagined that golf could be so spectacular in a place more closely associated with schussing than swinging a golf club. There are literally hundreds of golf courses in Switzerland, though I couldn’t imagine that any were as inspiring or challenging as those in the Lake Geneva highlands.

In fact, on some of the courses, ski trails were still evident, and occasionally, the greens were a bit ragged because the ski season had only recently ended. Those minor blemishes did not deter from the overall experience, nor the scenery that captivates every fiber of your being. Golf became almost secondary to the lush green carpets that were the fairways; the meadows and valleys splendid with wild flowers of every color of the rainbow. Add to this the snow covered peaks of the Alps, with well-known mountains such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, and you begin to understand how small and inconspicuous one could feel in this environment.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Mandarin Oriental Hotel du Rhone

My sojourn to Switzerland began auspiciously in Geneva with an overnight stay at the posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel du Rhone after an overnight flight. There was time for a brief walking tour of the “City of Peace” that included some of the parks and promenades and flower-lined quays that are so popular with the locals. I visited the “Old Town” and marveled at the centuries-old architecture, galleries and museums, outdoor cafes and monuments. As the day wore on, it became evident that it would be prudent to sample some local fare before calling it a day, The Café Papon was the perfect choice to satisfy our hunger after a long day of sightseeing made necessary by the fact that I and two other writers from Canada would be leaving the next day and traveling to several villages with golf courses in the Lake Geneva region over the course of our short stay.

Many of these alpine courses were designed by legendary golf architects—Robert Trent Jones, Seve Ballesteros, Peter Herridine and even Jack Nicklaus—and with Mother Nature’s contribution; they created layouts to be envied. On the majority of the courses, we were treated to unparalleled views of the Swiss and French Alps, and in fact, we played two French courses just across the border from Geneva. Many of the courses in France belong to the Swiss Golf Association because the construction of courses was forbidden in Switzerland since it would take up too much farmland.

After an opening round at Club de Bossey (in France), we traveled along the coast of the Lake Geneva Region on trains to Lausanne, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, before continuing to picturesque towns such as Verbier, Vevey Villars and Crans-Montana, each with golf courses that made our spirits soar — as well as our scores in some instances.

As with golf, the grapevine has a very special place in the hearts of the Swiss in this region. The train rumbled past sunny terraces sloping down to the flat plain where vineyards changed colors with the seasons and sheltered villages from prying eyes. Their harvest produces a light-bodied red wine and delicate white wine consumed only within the country’s borders. We were treated to these views and those of lake towns while we played the Golf du Signal de Bougy in Bougy-Villars well into the twilight hours. After a glass or two of that notable red wine, we boarded the train for a short ride to Vevey, a town where Charlie Chaplin once called home. A statue of the noted actor was only a few minutes walk from the Hotel des Trois Couronnes (Three Crowns) along the lakefront.

Just outside Vevey was the Lavaux Golf Club, a demanding but glorious layout where many Swiss championship events are held. Designed in an alpine meadow, Lavaux tested every club in our bag, and the two par fives on the back nine are the testiest you’ll ever encounter anywhere, though the balls here travel far in the thin mountain air and the long holes can be reached with good shots. Errant shots, however, are lost in deep forests or down hillsides that make it tough to get it “up and down.”

We ended our tour of Lavaux with a light lunch on the terrace where we could gaze longingly at the lush layout and dream that we could conquer it. But there were other mountains to climb, literally, and we boarded the train at Bex (pronounced Bay), where we took a two-car ski train more than 3,000 feet to the village of Villars. En route, we were treated to scenes of towering evergreen forests, glacial streams and snow-capped mountain peaks. From the balcony of the Hotel du Golf near the railroad station, we could see all the way to the lake and several towns and villages nestled in the valley. The Villars course was a mirror image of the peaks and valleys we encountered on the way, and as we worked our way down the course toward the clubhouse, I was more inclined to use my camera than my clubs.

Verbier Golf Course
Mountain views while playing at the Verbier Golf Course

We left Villars for Verbier and Crans-Montana, characterized by the locals as “two of the best courses” anywhere in Europe. It was a boast that was not without merit, as we learned. In Verbier, we were teamed with pro Rico Frankfort, who graciously allowed us the pleasure of using a golf cart for this demanding layout. Verbier’s first tee is at the highest point up the mountain. Golfers are required to work their way down, crossing rushing streams, negotiating downhill and side-hill lies, and generally trying not to be distracted by the surrounding mountains and meadows filled with bell cows.

This was a mountain course in every sense of the word, and we could only imagine what Crans-Montana held in store for us since we had to take a funicular up to these adjacent ski towns.

The funicular (or cable car) took nearly 30 minutes to reach the mountain top. The Hotel Etrier was a short distance away and we arrived in time for dinner and a relaxing evening before we were introduced to the 27-hole Crans sur-Sierre course designed by Seve Ballesteros (18 holes) and Jack Nicklaus (9 holes). There was a tournament scheduled for later the next day, but we managed to get in 9 holes of the Ballesteros layout and 9 crafted by Nicklaus before the event began. The course was quite open, with several adjoining fairways, which was tailor-made for our game.

It was a great way to wrap up our golf swing through Switzerland, though as we reflected upon our golf excursion, we thought it would probably best be labeled as the “Swiss Misses” tour.


Golf Club Villars:

Mandarin Oriental Hotel du Rhone:

Swiss Golf Association: