Today is my final one in Tremblant with the kids. I’ve had the chance to play three courses in the area — and was intrigued by all three in very different ways. So here are some thoughts I’d like to share — completely random and in no apparent order (which is typical of my way of thinking):
- Speaking with Eric Ward, who runs the two Intrawest courses here — Le Geant and Le Diable — people are pretty evenly split on which they prefer. Having played them first off on back-to-back days, I understand the split. Geant is target golf where your 3-wood will do double duty, while Diable is wider, with more intriguing options and (largely) on less challenging land. I’ll go into more detail next week, but I thought Diable had one silly hole (a ski slope par-5 on the back nine), while Geant had a couple of head scratchers as well. Generally both courses were solid, though Geant was very wet after a summer of rain — including areas that simply could not be cut.
- I played a lot better at Le Geant than I did at Le Diable — which makes no sense to me considering how questionable my driving has been in recent weeks. I hit a lot of 3-woods (or 3-metals as they like to say on TV) at Le Geant, but the driver would not cooperate at Le Diable, despite being wider than wide in some places (one hole is actually named “football field” for obvious reasons — and I found that fairway). Golf is a confounding game — beautiful in its simplicity and remarkably complex in its execution.
- Speaking of Ward, he has a tough job to do at the two courses. Compounding the wet weather is the fact his staff is fully unionized, making nearly $20 per hour. That really limits what he can do with the courses.
- Le Diable is a “Raven” course, but Ward admitted the Intrawest premium golf brand has all but disappeared. It started with a lot of hype a couple of years back and was used when Lora Bay opened in Ontario. I don’t think it ever meant much to consumers, and now it apparently doesn’t mean much to the courses either.
- Service in Tremblant village is fascinating, staffed by a group that appears to be students who are always interested in a good time, even while working. Yep, that means they don’t care too much about the customers — those who are kicking out the cash to rent the condos and pay for real estate in the area. Most seem put out that you want them to do their jobs. We’ve had one exception — a waiter at the local pizza joint last night — but most seem more keen on looking cool than dealing with the paying customers. The worst was the life guards at the beach, who spent all their time on the job listening to their iPods and trying to pick up the girls who apparently staff some other place in the resort. If anyone yelled help while out in the water, it would assuredly be drowned out (and yes, I picked that wording carefully) by the latest sounds of Billy Talent or the like. Interestingly, the service level at the golf courses was outstanding — completely the opposite of what you find in the village.
- Showed up yesterday to tour Le Maitre, the ClubLink course allegedly designed by Freddie Couples. Let’s be clear — Couples did nothing at the course, which was actually designed by former Graham Cooke associate Darrell Huxham. Couples was parachuted in after the course was nearly complete as a name to sell the project and nearby property. Is there any bigger fake in the golf design business than Couples? Maybe, but readers don’t like me mentioning this former British Open champ’s name, so I won’t. Le Maitre was wide with modern bunkering and relatively plain greens. But the site was terrific — at least what I saw of it. See I showed up at the course with my 5-year-old in tow, hoping to take a cart out to tour the course while my little guy had his afternoon nap. That wouldn’t fly — ClubLink has a policy that says no one under 12 can be in a cart even if they are not playing golf. Now Syd has been in plenty of carts from the age of 2, so this wouldn’t have been an issue with her, but a policy is a policy apparrently. So instead of touring the course, Sydney grabbed her putter and took to the fairways with me, playing the first six holes (and searching for butterflies, flowers, etc.), which loop back to the clubhouse. For the last three holes she rode my pull cart, determined to make the experience of more like an amusement park ride in slow motion. I enjoyed the course, especially the green site of the par-5 fifth hole, which might have been the best I’ve seen on this trip.
- Just to prove that every good experience has an opposite, once we finished our holes at Le Maitre, we grabbed a couple of drinks and went up to the parking lot. It was a hot day and when we got back to the car, which was parked near the gardens, I opened the windows to get some air in. That’s when some genius from the grounds crew decided to use the remote sprinklers, covering us, and the interior of the car, with water. Nice. When I looked around and yelled for him to turn it off, he just shrugged and did it grudgingly. Laissez-faire indeed.