Golfing in Canada
By BRUCE VITTNER.
Six top-notch courses within ten minutes of each other. Must be Myrtle Beach, right? Maybe somewhere in Florida or Palm Springs? Would you believe north of Montreal?
The Mont-Tremblant area, about an hour and fifteen minutes from Montreal and two hours from the U.S.-Canada border, has become one of the nicest golfing areas around.
We had the pleasure of staying at Gray Rocks Resort on the shores of Lac (Lake) Ouimet. The original hotel dates back 90 years and the first golf course in the area, La Belle (Beauty) was built on the property in the 1920s as a nine-hole layout. It is an old-style course with small greens and relatively wide fairways. Another nine holes were added in the 1950s. It is a nice walking course and not very difficult.
Gray Rocks added a second course to its property in 2001. It was appropriately named La Bete (Beast)-“Beauty and the Beast”- and this beast is beautiful. Designed by Graham Cooke of Montreal, the 18-hole championship course has wonderfully unique holes amidst rolling hills and a meandering river. You will remember the second hole, a long par 4 that requires a layup off the tee and then a long difficult shot over the river and an ecological area. “The course is environmentally friendly with the man-made ponds being lined and everything draining to the ponds,” said Colin Swift, director of golf. The ninth is another tough par 4 that requires a second shot over a large ravine, but all the holes are distinct. The course has five sets of tees that range from 6,825 yards from the gold to 4,995 for the yellow tees. You can definitely find a length that is suited for your game. The greens are large, fast and true, and there are three par 3s, par 4s and par 5s on the back nine.
Intrawest Corporation did a complete makeover of the village of Mont Tremblant (Trembling Mountain) in 1989 with a one billion-dollar investment. The village looks like something you’d find in the Swiss Alps with thousands of hotel rooms and buildings built into the side of the mountain. As part of Intrawest’s makeover, two championship golf courses were built, La Diable (Devil) and Le Geant (Giant). We toured the Devil and played the Giant.
La Diable, named after the river close by, has mammoth waste bunkers and pretty fairways and greens. You need to keep the ball straight on this sand-based course that used to be farmland. The par 3s are very scenic and difficult, especially #6 with a 120 foot drop to the green, and the view from the par 5 15th looking at Lake Ouimet and Gray Rocks Resort is spectacular. This course also has five sets of tees. It is also home to the Tremblant Golf Academy, a state-of-the-art school that is fabulous with six target greens and a covered hitting area when needed.
Le Geant was a fun course to play. This Thomas McBroom course received four stars from Golf Digest recently. We were teamed with a couple from Canada who spoke no English. It would be wise to practice your French before visiting. “Bon, Tres Bon, and Beaucoup” were the words we used most often while playing. The front side is fun, but the back side is memorable. As you head up a large hill to the back nine, you are overlooking the village of Mont Tremblant. We seemed to spend more time looking at the views than hitting our balls. The course has four sets of tees, the furthest called double black-must be a skiing thing. Both the Giant and Devil are rated in the top public courses for women by Golf for Women magazine.
The most spectacular course in the area is Le Maitre (Master). This ClubLink facility designed by Fred Couples opened in 2001. It measures 7,069 from the tips and has large rolling fairways and spacious undulating greens. There is very limited access to this course according to Cynthia Bradburn, resort coordinator, but if you can get on and have the money, it is definitely a course to try.
The newest course is a masterful executive course called Manitou. Most consider it the best short course in Canada as it meanders along the Devils River and its many ecological areas. Tall pines and a wide-open vista give the course a unique feel. The tremendously large practice green could keep you busy for a long time, but you could play the course in about three hours. It is the perfect compliment for a second round on a day of your vacation or the place to play the day of arriving or departing the Mont Tremblant area.
Wildlife abounds in the area. We saw many deer, eagles and black bears are often seen. The majestic trees were blazing in their fall colors, but this seems like a great summer vacation for the whole family. Gray Rocks has a day camp for the children. Besides the two golf courses there are 22 tennis courts, nature trails, horseback riding and many water activities. They also host the Eagle Golf Academy with certified professionals and three exclusive teaching holes. They have a wonderful all-inclusive package with a great restaurant. My wife felt like we were on a cruise as we had the same seats for our meals during our stay.
The Mont Tremblant town has water slides, wonderful shops, a people-mover that glides above the town and many mountain activities for the whole family including hiking, biking and luge. Summer guests now exceed winter tourists, and it is easy to see why.
Gray Rocks has over 100 rooms and 100 condo units just off the premises, Kelley Orr is director of marketing and can be reached at 1-800-567-6762. You can visit their website at www.grayrocks.com. Mont Tremblant has literally thousands of rooms to choose from. You can call 1-88 TREMBLANT for information, or visit their website at www.tremblant.com.