A Golf Trip to Switzerland

How do you know when golf season starts? Just follow the cows.

Every June, Swiss dairy farmers drive their herds high into mountain meadows to graze, heralding not just the start of the alpine cheese-making season but the arrival of prime golf weather. Few people travel to Switzerland just to play golf; no more than go to St. Andrews for its culinary scene. But you certainly could. Switzerland isn’t called the “Playground of Europe” for nothing, and there’s exhilarating golf throughout modern-day Helvetia. Swiss courses are as varied as the languages you’ll hear spoken on them, but one thing they all share is truly spectacular scenery, highlighted by the snow-capped mountains that glorify every skyline.

Switzerland’s a small country, about the size of Maryland. So it’s easy to get around. Start at the foot of the Alps in Geneva, the lakeside city that’s home to world-famous watchmakers, chocolatiers, diplomats, and an Old Town out of a fairy tale. On the gently sloping parkland course at Golf Club de Genève, Robert Trent Jones Sr. (and later,RTJ Jr.) fashioned a strong test with a trio of thrilling finishing holes culminating at the 18th’s dramatic double green. Up the road in Gland, play Domaine Impérial, a Pete Dye design located on an estate once owned by Bonapartes. Its parkland layout borders Lake Geneva and features tight fairways, meandering streams, and multi-tiered greens like the one at the short, par-four final hole, where the lake and the club’s 1860 clubhouse make for a picturesque denouement. Keep heading north to Lausanne Golf Club, where the tight corridors through fir trees are rollercoaster rides ending at greens that tilt and lean in every direction.

Lake Geneva (photo by Getty Images)

The 9-hole course at Golf Meggen near Lucerne is renowned for its dazzling views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains. Of the two courses at Golf Sempach, Woodside is the longer and more challenging; Lakeside, the more photographic. Together, they make for a great 36-hole day.

Near Zürich—Switzerland’s financial hub with its own charming Altstadt (old town)—Golf & Country Club Zürich is a must-play. Its manicured, 7,000-yard platz offers dramatic elevation changes, particularly on the back nine, which begins with a sharply downhill par four and ends with a steeply uphill, risk/ reward par five. Golf & Country Club Schönenberg is another solid option, with its moorland course sited on a rugged, moraine landscape.

For even more drama, head for the hills—that is, the Alps. The Seve Ballesteros course at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, home of the Omega European Masters, sits at 5,000 feet in one of the golf world’s most spectacular settings. Its views of the Rhône Valley and snowcapped alpine peaks are mesmerizing, and balls fly satisfyingly far at this altitude. The scorecard at Golfclub Riederalp, situated high above the Rhône in Mörel, shows just six par threes and three par fours, but it’s worth a visit if only to say that you’ve played Europe’s highest course. Another valley course, Andermatt Golf Club, has few trees but lots of water hazards, courtesy of the spring runoff from the surrounding mountains. In the northeast, Golf Club Bad Ragaz dates back to 1905, and its championship course in the floodplain of the Rhein has hosted the European Legends Tour’s Swiss Seniors Open
since 1997.

Down south near the Italian border, two courses merit visits. The tight, tree-lined campos at Golf Gerre Losone and at Golf Ascona both run through verdant valleys surrounded by towering mountains, and while neither is exactly claustrophobic, it’s straight hitters who’ll have more fun recounting their rounds there over mugs of frosty-cold Feldschlösschen, the local lager

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