The 18-hole course at Golf de Lavaux is a 1999 Peter Harradine production that’s complemented by a 6-hole academy layout at this quintessentially Swiss club where the Alps provide an ever-present backdrop.
The Lavaux golf club is the second youngest on the Swiss side of Lake of Geneva where the only flat hole on the card arrives at the par five 5th. All other holes range from lightly undulating to severely hilly (the par-four 8th).
Lavaux is not a very long course (6,163 metres from the white tees), but it will give everyone a fair golfing test nonetheless both in terms of golf and exercise.
A very pleasant day in the hills chasing the white ball: this is probably the impression the Lavaux golf course will leave on the first time visitor. There is nothing extremely difficult about this course, although there is nothing really easy about it either, as there seems to be some kind of obstacle lurking on the player on every hole. Add to this fairways and greens in very good condition and magnificent views all around, plus very good fare at the 19th Hole (the clubhouse restaurant), and there will be no regrets at the end of the day!
The starting holes seem pretty easy. The par-four 1st is not particularly long or narrow, but you need to be either in the center or on the left side of the fairway to have a shot at the sunken green. The par-three 2nd may be longish on paper, but it is markedly downhill and apparently open; you cannot be short though, because of the bunkers in front, or long, because of the severe slope and out-of-bounds behind the green. Then the par-four 3rd is the hardest hole on the card, although it looks like a classic, slightly uphill dogleg. The trick is in the bushes and row of trees inside the curve, which are so inviting when one is not careful! The next par-four is not long, but the approach shot is barred by a row of trees and a river which makes the use of a driver off the tee hazardous if you are long. Two par-fives in a row follow, and they are quite different one from the other: the 5th is not very long and pretty flat, but the smallish green is tucked in the right side and protected by a lake and several bunkers, so getting there in two will require both distance and accuracy. The 6th goes around a hill and up, with a slant in the first part of the fairway that makes it easy for the drive to bounce away from the “Tiger line” and add distance for the next stroke. The elevated green is blind for the uphill, approach shot. After negotiating the relatively benign par-three 7th, you face a bizarre, par-four 8th: it is a short dogleg right, its fairway starts straight for some 200 meters out of 294, but it is definitely slanted to the left because the 120 meters leading to the green are strikingly uphill so you have a choice: driving over some trees and close to out-of-bounds to hopefully rest your ball on a very small, flatter portion of the fairway some 220 meters away, or “laying up” on the lower tier and facing an approach shot that will probably require an extra two clubs to reach the green at the top. I chose the latter… and my ball landed well in the middle of the fairway, trickled down… and I never found it in the rough at the bottom.
And so this course goes on, never boring, each hole very different from the previous and the next ones, and always in pleasant, natural surroundings. On the back nine, the more striking numbers are probably the 11th, a straight par-four where you drive from the hill across the vale to get an uphill approach shot to the green, and the “Amen corner, the 12th, 13th and 14th holes. The 12th is the longest hole on the course. It zigs and zags along hills, with a first fairway for your drive, and then a second, separate fairway for the narrower and slightly uphill remaining distance to the green, where remaining straight is the key. Reaching the green in two is a feat, and the second shot must avoid the trees on the right and the hill on the left. The par-four 13th presents a different challenge: You want to be straight off the tee, otherwise you will have a very challenging approach from either some trees or a hillside lie, over a lake to the green. Then the 14th is all going back uphill so even though it is not as long or narrow as the 12th, it will require quite a very good length to have a chance to reach the green in two strokes.
The last holes are easier to negotiate: two short par-threes where birdies are definitely an option, a shortish par-four where precision is better than length and a last par-four where the length is augmented by the uphill relief, and the putting may be rendered a bit more difficult by the stares (and cheers?) from the gallery on the terrace of the clubhouse just a few yards away.