Laval Sur-le-lac (Green Course)
Designer: Willie Park Jr. (1917)
There are a number of Willie Park courses across Canada, and interestingly all of them – Weston, Mount Bruno, Calgary G&CC, and Laval – are intriguing private courses that well represent the Golden Age of Golf Design in Canada.
Next year Laval sur-le-lac will garner some new attention when its Ian Andrew/Mike Weir-designed course opens for play. It will deserve it – it could well be the best course in Quebec. However, it’ll overshadow Laval’s Park course, which though subtle, is a delight to play. Sure there are too many trees, and the club’s apparent love of cedars is mind boggling, but it overcomes that with a great mix of holes, a majestic finish and some terrific green sites. All of Park’s Canadian work is comparable and all of it is rock-solid. Laval’s Park course is probably Montreal’s version of Weston – a timeless classic worthy of repeated play and study.
- • There are some great green sites on what is basically a lay-of-the-land course starting with the first. The greens often have a fair amount of movement in them, making them tricky. The short fourth hole has a well-protected green, but it is the 10th, the conclusion of a short par five, that is perhaps the coolest, situated with a hard drop on the back. Very cool.
- • Mix of holes. While not overly long, Laval has a mix of holes that keeps you interested. The first is a long five, while the second is a short four. That theme runs throughout the course. Even then there are some monsters out there – like the long sixth and 12th holes, both of which require a big drive and a deft iron. Park threw in a long three and some mid-length fours for variety.
- • The hedge. I’ve seen some strange things on golf courses – billboards, hotel signs, 110 degree doglegs, greens that were simply short of a clown’s mouth – but the hedge that runs in front of the 14th hole at Laval is right up there. To be clear the horrible hedge makes an otherwise attractive hole and smears it with a drunken application of lipstick. There’s debate in the club about whether to cut it down – which is fascinating because I’ve rarely seen such an egregious feature on a course. Man the chainsaws!
- • Cedars have no place on a golf course. But they are all over Laval, though the course has started cutting down some of them. Cedars don’t allow for recovery – unlike most other trees. The concept at Laval was to add isolation to each of the holes. That worked in some places – there are a wall of cedars in some areas of the course. Unfortunately it worked in some places and there’s no doubt Laval would be a better and more interesting course with all the cedars
Adding it up:
Laval is a great club with a very solid classic golf course. It’ll never be ranked among the best in Canada – and it may lack a couple of holes that would elevate the course into the next league. But as a sum of its parts, Laval sits together really nicely. With some trees removed and some areas opened up, it might be held in higher esteem than it currently is – but Laval is a pretty exclusive French club and something tells me the club is pretty happy with its current standing.