Although most of architect Jeremy Pern’s work is dotted around his adopted homeland of France, he also has a number of courses that he either designed (Gruyère in 1993 and Les Bois in 1995) or renovated (Lausanne in 1996) just across the border in Switzerland.
Vuissens is another of Pern’s Swiss creations and it opened with an initial six holes in 2001, seven years after its current owners acquired Château de Vuissens.
The full 18-hole course was in play by the end of 2002, laid out as two returning loops of nine holes. A little earth had been shifted, over 5,000 trees planted and several water hazards brought into play during the construction process to add definition to the layout.
The outward half plays to a par of 35 with three of the five short holes on the scorecard played on this nine. In contrast, the back nine plays a lot longer as three of Vuissen’s five par five holes are faced on this circuit.
Course architect Jeremy Pern commented as follows:
Since its opening, Vuissens has been considered as one of the top five course in Switzerland, despite its rather out of the way location. Nestling into the rolling hills between the Jura and the Alps, Vuissens includes the finest elements of a parkland course.
Mature woodlands bordering the site, strategically placed streams and lakes, rolling greens with links-like bunkering, fine fescue roughs and immaculately maintained fairways combine to form a distinctive whole – a Swiss golf course that defies a simple description.
Although it is not a long course, and with an unusual configuration of five par 5’s and five par 3’s, it is a real golfing challenge for the more able golfer whilst the less proficient can still enjoy a rewarding round without the humiliation that longer courses can cause.
The Club House and surrounding buildings date from mediaeval times, where atmosphere is bucolic rather than daunting; a place where first time visitors are surprised and usually can’t wait to return.
The course was built on and around a narrow valley and the two hillsides along it. This terrain heavily influenced the layout. First, every hole lying at the bottom of the valley or crossing it includes a water hazard. This concerns eight holes out of eighteen (holes 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 14). Second, holes that are built on the hill sides either have slanted fairways or go up or down, sometimes sharply (holes 4, 10, 11, 15 through 18). Lastly, holes that do not belong to the previous two categories are long (holes 3, 6 and 13, all par fives).
Add and combine hillocks, deep bunkers, doglegs, blind greens, a very lush first cut of rough and and voilà! A varied parkland golf course where you might be in for a few surprises. Where else can you find a couple of par threes rated as the two most difficult holes on the course, while three of the par fives are rated among the four easiest?
The 1st hole provides a good hint as to what to expect. It is the only hole spanning both sides of the valley. The tee shot is sharply downhill, but beware of the water hazard inside the turn on the left and of the out-of-bounds on the right (the driving range). Your approach shot is then sharply uphill and blind to a green surrounded by steep hillocks right, left and back, and defended by two deep bunkers just short and left. It is rated as the fourth hardest hole on the course, so a strong, intimidating start for the first time visitor and enough elevation change to warn you: save your breath, plan your game carefully and conserve your energy!
Holes 7 through 9 make also for an interesting stretch. The par four 7th ( 390 meters from the tips) runs against the prevailing wind. The approach shot aims at a long, narrow green wedged between two water hazards. The 8th is a rather long par three, 179 meters from the back tees. Landing on the green or close to the hole is no warranty at all, which is why it is rated the second hardest hole on the course. The par five 9th seems easier with a wide fairway and apparently no great danger but the rough inside the slight dogleg can be penalizing. The approach shot is blind because the green is noticeably elevated and if you miss it, the chip will be delicate wherever you take it from.
The first time visitor may not know it, but it is useful to save stamina and energy for the final four-hole stretch. Even though on paper they don’t seem overly challenging as the lowest-rated is the 17th with the 9th rank, they run up, down and over a substantial enough hill. The 15th is a long par five (517 meters from the back tees) with a relatively narrow landing area, and the closer you get to the green the sharper the uphill slope it seems. The short par four 16th comes back down the hill but it is defended by a large, deep bunker in the middle of the fairway at the drive landing distance and another, even larger and deeper next to the green. The par three 17th is sharply uphill, to a slanted, very fast green back to front. Finally, once you have climbed to the tee, the long 18th provides a softer landing and a picturesque end to the round: even though the drive is blind over the top of the hill, the second shot and approach allow you to have a great viewpoint onto the tall barn-turned-clubhouse with its enormous roof (the largest one-piece roof in the canton I was told). There is room for a good score just before taking solace on the bar’s terrace above. Then, maybe lunch or dinner either at the clubhouse or at the very well regarded restaurant inside the medieval castle fifty meters away.
This is one of the top courses of Switzerland in my opinion. Not easy, physically and mentally tiring, but a lot of fun! Its only weakness being that it is far from just about everywhere, and not easy to find. The many waterfowl, ducks and herons that live and multiply around the ponds love the peace and quiet though.