Trip Dispatch: Body language, scenic mountain golf in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec

By Jason DeeganSeptember 10, 2013, 7:42 pm

MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada – As first tee introductions go, this one was strained, leaving me with the disconcerting feeling that the next four hours might feel much longer.

The starter at Le Diable introduced me to my player partner. I said 'hello', he said 'bon jour' and that was it. Silence.

I’d been in Quebec – Canada’s French-speaking province – for three days before I finally slammed into the language barrier. Here, I was paired with a French-speaking Canadian who didn’t know any English. Off we went without a word on Le Diable, a sand-splashed design by Ohio-based architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry located in the Laurentian Mountains 75 miles northwest of Montreal.

I never did catch his name, nor have any sort of meaningful dialogue during the round. We spoke the language of golf instead. I gave him a thumbs up on a couple of fine shots. He returned the gesture with a golf-clap when I sank a long putt. On the 18th green, we shook hands, friends forever linked in this grand game.

Communication snafus are part of the charm of playing golf in Quebec, which has held onto its original language since its colonial days as a French settlement. I regularly teed it up with non-English-speaking players on my five-day golf journey through the province. Often, there was another golfer who spoke both languages, a middle man who kept each party entertained and engaged with conversation.

For whatever reason, Quebec isn’t highly revered as a golf destination, even though there are plenty of quality choices. The private Royal Montreal Golf Club, the site of the 2007 President’s Cup and the 2014 RBC Canadian Open, remains the province’s most famous venue. It’s the oldest club in North America. The city offers other nice places to play, but Quebec’s best public golf sits tucked in the surrounding mountains.

Six courses showcase the rugged natural beauty of Mont-Tremblant, a ski resort village centered around several pristine lakes. A trio of area courses ranks among the top 100 in Canada by ScoreGolf: Le Maître (no. 37), Le Géant (no. 45) and Le Diable (no. 71). Le Maître, a private ClubLink course that translates in English to ‘the master’, is accessible only through a hotel such as the Fairmont Tremblant where I stayed.  

Le Diable

Le Diable in Mont-Tremblant

Robert Weissbourd of Chicago has been playing golf in the region for 20 years, sometimes for the fun of a team competition pitting Americans versus Canadians called the 'Easy Ryder Cup.' I met him at Le Maître, a gorgeous collaboration by Fred Couples, Graham Cooke, Gene Bates and Darrell Huxham.

'Chicago is great for golf, but you don’t have the mountains or the lake,' he said. 'These are fun courses. You don’t get the elevations like this back home.'

Intrawest runs the strong sister courses of Le Géant (the giant), a rocky adventure by Canadian Thomas McBroom, and Le Diable (the devil). Gray Rocks Golf operates the other 1-2 punch in town with the old school La Belle (the beauty), the region’s original course, and La Bête (the beast), a difficult but scenic track designed by Cooke. Faster, cheaper, slightly easier golf is offered at Manitou, a short course with 14 par-3s and four par-4s.

Don’t spend all your day in a golf cart, though. Wonderful restaurants, shops and tourist excursions are scattered throughout the walkable resort village. The four-star Restaurant La Quintessence & Winebar serves the most decadent meal in town in an intimate setting overlooking Lake Tremblant.  

The Fairmont Tremblant offers free rental bikes. Even the most inexperienced peddler will love the paved trails that skirt the village and head into the forest and along a secluded river.

Speaking of rivers, it’s worth the hour-long drive to discover another fabulous Fairmont, the Fairmont Le Château Montebello, the world's largest log-cabin hotel set along bank of the Ottawa River.

The clubhouse at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello Golf Club was built with the same spectacular brown-stained logs as the hotel. The brilliance of Canadian legend Stanley Thompson lives on at the 6,308-yard course, a 1929 classic that stayed private until 1970.


Fairmont Le Château Montebello Golf Club

Montebello plays much longer than its yardage thanks to breathtaking rises and falls in elevation. It took three feeble attempts that landed in the tangled mess of rocks and trees short of the ninth green before reality set in: It’s a four-club climb to reach this 180-yard par-3. Only one of our foursome made it uphill safely. “The first time you play the course, you won’t appreciate it because you lose so many balls. You have to come back, so you can master it,” said Yves Bellavance, a resident of Terrebonne, Quebec, who drove in for the day with his wife to enjoy a golf-and-dinner special at the Fairmont.

The terrain dips and jumps even more dramatically at the 6,768-yard Heritage Golf Club on the outskirts of town. The tee shots up the ridge at the dangerous par-4 ninth and 18th holes will terrify low-ball hitters and the distance-challenged. The course owners, who built a 34-room addition onto the clubhouse in 2006 for stay-and-plays, celebrated the club’s 20th anniversary this summer.

Club du Golf Heritage

Heritage Golf Club near Montebello

The playing partner I met on the putting green spoke no English. Fortunately for me, his friend, Stephane Giquere of Saint-Constant, Quebec, did.

'In Montreal, there are a lot of flat courses,' he said. 'This is a mountain-type course. The scenery is nice, and it’s got some challenge. They keep it in pretty good shape. There are lots of undulations. You learn to play with the ball lower and the ball higher (in your stance) when the ground is not level.'

My first introduction to the French language, culture and food of Quebec was memorable, just in time for the real thing, the 2018 Ryder Cup in France.

Oh là là.

View tee times in Quebec on GolfNow

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.