The course at Evian dates back to 1904, when the Société des Eaux Minérales d’Evian commissioned Willie Park Jr. to construct a 9-hole layout on a wonderfully scenic site overlooking Lake Geneva. Eighteen years later, the number of holes in play was doubled, with each and every fairway on the extended course enjoying fantastic views across the shimmering waters of the lake.
Cabell B Robinson revamped the hilly course over a two-year period shortly before the inauguration of the Evian Masters in 1994, when Helen Alfredson of Sweden claimed the first of her three victories in this Ladies European Tour event.
The course was completely overhauled by Dave Sampson of European Golf Design in preparation for its staging of the first Ladies Major – the Evian Championship – on the continent of Europe in 2013.
As part of EGD’s major renovation work, hole 5 was changed to a par three, the 13th was extended to a par five and the closing four holes were all redesigned. Dozens of new trees were planted and more than seventy small pot bunkers were installed around the course to intensify the challenge for the best women professionals in the world.
Of a dog walking on its hind legs, Samuel Johnson is reputed to have said, “The wonder is not that it’s not done well, the wonder is that it’s done at all.” The same could be said of the construction of an LPGA tour caliber golf course clinging precariously to the steep hills on the south side of Lake Geneva. Fitting 18 holes into a plot with nearly 300 feet of elevation change was no small feet. The steepness affords numerous fine views of the lake, but C.B. MacDonald’s exhortation about separating the canvas from the artwork applies here.
It’s hardly surprising that the routing is convoluted. Nearly half the walks from green to tee are excessively long and in half a dozen cases, a road must be crossed. And while many fairways are located on relatively flat ground, it’s impossible not to have some challenging sidehill situations. On the 13th, for example, there’s a bunker in the driving area that pinches the fairway to a width of 22 yards. But most tee shots landing in the left third of the fairway carom wildly left or into trees. Number 13 is not the only hole with exceedingly narrow fairways. There are not a lot of fairway bunkers, but this reduces the strategic challenge, requiring little thought as to the ideal placement of one’s drive.
The greens are Evian’s strongest feature— wildly contoured and not at all repetitive. A few even fall away from the approach shot. But little thought is required on most other approaches. All but three are elevated, leaving only the aerial option. And many are designed in a repetitive fashion, with a small flat area to the right or left, bordered by a steep falloff to a chipping area that fronts most of the green. On the 8th, where the angled green provides a Redan flavor, this configuration is quite appealing, but when nearly half the approaches are built this way, the novelty wears off quickly.