In Switzerland the golf season may be short but it’s all the sweeter for it. Most of the 91 courses sleep under a blanket of snow for six months, emerging from the thaw lush and fertile.
Its tricky alpine terrain is a mixed blessing. Getting from A to B is trying but the views are wonderful when you get there. When going round the mountain is too arduous the Swiss have efficiently cut tunnels clean through the rock. To give you an ideal of the scale of lambasting the Gotthard Base tunnel will be 57km long when completed on 2017. Mention the Mont Blanc tunnel to any taxi driver and he’s bound to have a story that involves being stuck for so long he’s seen daybreak - twice. Trains are considered the quicker option. Popular with tourists and locals they are clean and punctual and often stop for up to ten minutes at station, ample time to load your luggage and clubs.
It’s best to focus on which part of Switzerland, or Confoederatio Helvetica (CH),you would like to visit. Choose from lakes, city culture or take the rocky route into the famous Engadine valley, home to St Moritz. But whichever area you decide to explore, the courses are generally quiet – the Swiss have always preferred to take a hike without the white ball.
To the east lies Geneva, which is served by many airlines. Hop across the French border and play the jewel of the Ladies European Tour, Evian, or the parkland courses close to the lake, including Geneva and Randa Tasch.
To the south of Lake Geneva lies the Valais region which has a varied landscape. From mountains to gentle hills and courses winding through vineyards visitors are welcomed at pretty much every club including the showpiece for Swiss mountain golf, Crans-sur-Sierre.
Resting on a plateau the Seve Ballesteros course is often ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world. Surrounded by the highest Alpine peaks including Matterhorn and Mont Blanc the course lies at 1500m above sea level which gives the impression that you are golfing with the gods. Home to the Omega European Masters the course is as challenging as picturesque and in superb condition. The nine hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus brings the number of holes to 27 – and you’ll want to play all of them at least once again. Especially when the green fees are a fetching £35.
If you crave more mountain highs the nine hole course at the foothills of the Matterhorn offers a photo opportunity on virtually every hole.
Close by lies Bad Ragaz. Over 100 years old this is one of the oldest and most established clubs in Switzerland. One of the top ten courses in the country the layout has been thoroughly enjoyed by the Seniors Tour. Fairways are level and open so you can let the driver rip but do bear in mind the numerous water hazards.
To the west towards Austria St Moritz is located in the most beautiful valley in Switzerland, the Engadin. Flanked on all sides by mountains with an opal lake on the valley floor the beauty of place must be visited to be appreciated.
Best known for hosting the Winter Olympics and the Cresta Run summers in St.Moritz offer hiking and golf in crisp, clear air. June and July are the best months to visit. Because the town is located high in the Alps it’s a few degrees cooler and August golfers may experience a few snowflakes. Engadine is the highest course in Europe but its location in a glacier means that it’s level and easy to walk. Fairways are generous, with a babbling brook that encroaches on some holes.
In winter St Moritz becomes a fairytale town. The stone chalets are twinkling with lights and fires are lit in the restaurants and bars. The lake freezes over and polo matches and horse races are won and lost. A nine hole winter golf tournament takes place over a snowy Engadine where with a few exceptions the Royal and Ancient Rules are enforced.
In the south the Ticino region offers sunbathing and lakeside golf. Away from the high altitude this is the sunniest spot in Switzerland. The Italian influence seeps across the border, the language changes from gutteral German to passionate Italian. Veal escalope is off the menu and pasta very much in favour.
Closer to Milan both in geography and culture, culture vultures will adore the piazzas, churches and ancient, cobbled streets of these lakeside towns. On the edge of Lake Maggiore, Ascona has some of Switzerland’s most luxurious hotels, including the Hotel Eden Roc which has a spa and offers golf breaks at nearby Patriziale Ascona. The parkland layout is the kind of course which is testing without being too demanding. Also in the region lies courses at Lugano and Losone. The latter is set in a valley with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Food is sophisticated and service is as efficient as the trains. There’s a national obsession with veal flattened out to an inch thick then fried in breadcrumbs. Should your energy levels take a dip mid-round tuck into the mouth watering chocolate. Most clubhouses offer a rich, creamy hot chocolate – the kind which makes your arm ache to stir it but is deliciously decadent. And no trip to Switzerland would be complete without sampling fondue.
Away from the course summer activities are largely limited to the great outdoors. The mountains offer hiking and the lakes fishing and swimming. Take Europe’s longest gondola lift from Grindelwald and walk along the path above the clouds in the peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. If heights are your thing Europe’s most elevated railway station can be found 11,333ft above sea level at Jungfrau. Wherever you decide to visit you’ll be guarantee it will be a breath of fresh air.
Where to play
Here's a small list of recommended courses. For mountain highs St Moritz is well placed, or combine a holiday with the warmer and sunnier south.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Eden Roc is located on the Swiss/Italian border on the edge of Lake Maggiore and offers fine dining, indoor and outdoor pools plus a spa. Ascona golf club is close by.
The Carlton is in an enviable location high up the hillside with dramatic views of the Alps which you can almost reach out and touch from the decked seating area.
Swiss Air flies from London (Heathrow/ London City), Manchester or Birmingham.
More news on events, accommodation and golf courses available from www.myswitzerland.com and http://www.swissgolfnetwork.ch