An invitation to a golf weekend at Crans-Montana was extended to us by a friend who has a chalet there – he wanted to return our hospitality during his many trips to China. In order to prevent the oft-repeated and convenient cry of “Sorry, but we’ve run out of time”, a date was fixed. During our home leave in Switzerland, we gave our friend a ring to arrange for a time and a meeting place.
The little town of Aigle
Our rendezvous was at the little town of Aigle, situated in Canton Vaud, about a two-hour drive from our hometown of Lucerne. We could not have chosen a better weekend. In general, Switzerland is a beautiful country – and when it is sunny and warm, the place is without doubt a paradise on earth. That Friday afternoon the sky was a perfect blue with not a single cloud to suggest the coming of rain or storm. The emerald green water of “Lac Lemon” or the Lake of Geneva, sparkled in the lovely afternoon sunshine and a gentle breeze was blowing. In the background, the snow-capped mountains loom over the Aigle fifteenth-century castle, which perches on top of a hill with vines climbing everywhere on the slopes.
Since Aigle’s white wines are among the best in the country, it’s not surprising to see vineyards covering the entire area as far as your eye can see. If the good weather continues, it doubtless will be another promising year.
The drive from Aigle to Crans-Montana took another full hour. We drove past Sion, which is the capital of Canton Valais. The town itself is quite easy to spot because of its two hills, Valere and Tourbillon, upon each of which stands a medieval castle. After some climbing along the narrow and winding road, we arrived at the village of Crans-Montana – which lies about 1600 meters above sea level, or 150 meters lower than St. Moritz, another world famous resort for the rich and the beautiful.
Our friend’s chalet’s in Crans. It lies hidden among the well-trimmed shrubs of luscious pines, separated from a small lake only by a side street. Next to the chalet is a little park with benches for passers-by and a children’s playground. On the shore of the lake, men were fishing.
As we entered the chalet, we could smell the lovely and refreshingly scented timber, since the structure is that of pinewood. The interior decoration is in a light green color, simple and unpretentious, but tastefully done nevertheless. Immediately we felt at home.
The resort of Crans-Montana
It is not easy to define the village borders of Crans and Montana because the latter just merges with the resort of Crans-sur-Sierre, which was established in 1929 and forms the largest skiing area in Switzerland. Ten cable-car runs and twenty-five ski tows carry skiers as far as 3,265 meters above sea level. There are numerous hiking trails. The hotels and bars of Crans-Montana, together with private apartments – many of which owned by foreign celebrities – combine to make this dual resort a favorite among tourists.
We had a late dinner at the “Le Pavillon”, a few minutes’ walk from the chalet. The restaurant was full to capacity, but thanks to our friend who seems to know everybody in the village, we were given a table nearest the window, overlooking the shimmering lake and the mountains. The food was delicious and the wine superb… a restaurant that offers first class cuisine, without being “showy” is something we terribly miss, living abroad.
Rumour says that Crans is rather more snobbish than Montana, but you see people of both villages mixing quite easily in the local “carnotzets” where national dishes based on cheese, such as “fondue” and “raclette” may be enjoyed – to the accompaniment of excellent white wines in the area such as Fendant,Johannisberg, Malvoisie and Arvine.
After a continental breakfast the next morning, we were ready for a round of golf. Unfortunately, we were not able to play at the Crans-sur-Sierre golf course because a pre-qualified tournament for the European Masters was taking place during that particular weekend. We would have been thrilled to have the opportunity to play at this world-famous golf course with the fantastic surroundings… a plateau overlooking 160 kilometers of snowy summits.
Since 1939 Crans-sur-Sierre has been the home of the Swiss Open, today the European Masters, which is the most prestigious golf tournament in Europe after the British Open. Greg Norman wrote in September 1995, “this (golf course) is by far the most spectacular tournament site in the world. Well…
Not being able to play on this course, we had to be content with playing on the no less spectacular Jack Niklaus 9-hole course. By playing a double round, we managed the equivalent of 18 holes. Since no caddies were available, we had to pull the carts ourselves. The course is rather hilly, like most of the courses in the country. So we pushed and we pulled. We huffed and we puffed up and down the slopes, stopping now and then to catch our breath and to view the breath-taking surroundings.
Par 5 of tee no. 4 is only 472 meters long, yet it is so maddeningly steep that I thought I was not going to make it the first round. But somehow I did…. this writer discovered that at high altitudes, balls fly farther than on flat plains. The distance, measured in meters instead of yards plus a lot of “rough” (high grass) and narrow fairways, did not make it any easier to play. Hence my attempt at the first nine holes was nothing to brag about. However, once used to the site, I began to recover on the second round…though not without a struggle.
The whole weekend was spent playing golf. We had a wonderful time, and still hope to play the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Course the next time. And, if you don’t play golf? Just a visit to Crans-Montana will be a pleasant memory that may just last a lifetime.