MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada -- Ski country always makes for good golf -- as long as the course architect takes what the land gives.
The Laurentian Mountains, 75 miles northwest of Montreal, has blossomed into one of Canada's premier golf destinations over the past two decades. Such tumultuous land had to be tamed to make golf viable -- and playable -- in the region. Some architects had more success than others.
Ohio architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry found that delicate balance at Le Diable, where the 535-yard par-5 15th hole drops so dramatically downhill that it plays like a long par 4. The views from that elevated tee soar across Lake Tremblant to the mountains in the distance. It's a memorable moment.
Graham Cooke did a fine job designing La Bete, but let a few holes get away from him. The 430-yard second drops precariously off an elevated tee to a tiered fairway. It's best to layup on the top tier, leaving a long shot over wetland into the green. It's a quirky hole, too perplexing for first-timers and too difficult for most of us most of the time.
Minor design hiccups like that tend to distinguish a top 100 course from one that isn't. A trio of Mont-Tremblant golf courses ranks among the top 100 golf courses in Canada by ScoreGolf: Le Maitre (no. 37), Le Geant (no. 45) and Le Diable (no. 71). This renowned ski village might be even more fun in summer than winter, according to golfers anyway. Here's why:
Le Maitre -- which translates to "The Master" -- is a private club run by ClubLink that remains accessible through a resort hotel such as the Fairmont Tremblant. The 7,025-yard course, which opened in 2001, doesn't possess the wild terrain of its neighbors. Fred Couples, with an assist from Graham Cooke, Gene Bates and Darrell Huxham, built wide fairways on flatter ground. A pond featuring a landscaped waterfall separates the sixth green and 18th green. The region's best clubhouse sits on the ridge as a backdrop.
Le Diable -- which translates to "The Devil" -- can be downright evil for players who fear sand. Penal bunkers and waste areas line the 7,056-yard par-71 course. Hurdzan and Fry peeled back the grass on seven holes, digging out deep sandy waste areas. The more mountainous back nine provides some relief, climbing into a secluded forest without fairway bunkers on holes 13-15. Water makes brief, albeit memorable, appearances on the front nine. Misses on the first two par 3s -- the 199-yard third hole and the spectacular 221-yard sixth hole -- could end up wet.
Le Geant -- which translates to "The Giant" -- spearheaded the golf course construction boom in the region when it opened in 1995. Flat lies don't exist on Thomas McBroom's 6,836-yard creation, especially on holes 3-6. Two rocky par 4s and two pretty downhill par 3s play tough but look photogenic. The back nine shines with shot making. The short par-4 11th hole plays just 311 yards from the tips but tortures players who are too aggressive challenging the narrow dogleg to the right. The fun 380-yard 14th hole plummets off an elevated tee before veering left and back uphill to the green. It takes two stellar shots, including one heroic carry off the tee, on the home hole to end the round with par.
La Bete -- which translates to "The Beast" -- strikes fear into players with a 6,825-yard layout that opened in 2001. Water, including the appropriately named Devil's River, comes into play on half the holes. The second hole dissected above is not the only one designed to give golfers fits. A ravine at the 425-yard ninth hole causes concern on the approach shot to an elevated green. Moments of bliss -- like the scenery from the par-5 11th hole and par-3 15th hole -- remind golfers why they're willing to put up with such punishment.
La Belle -- which translates to "The Beauty" -- plays more forgiving at just 6,330 yards from the tips. It was created the old-fashioned way, by horse and plow, more than 80 years ago. The most intriguing holes are the back-to-back par 3s near the end of the round. The 14th green is cut from a shelf in the mountain. Tee shots either clear the 150-yard carry (from the tips to the green) or disappear into an unplayable lie. The views from the 15th tee stretch to the horizon. This par 3 drops to a green 250 yards away but plays someone shorter due to the elevation change.
For the quickest and most affordable round, stop by Manitou, a unique 3,355-yard par-58 short course opened in 2002. Huxham created 14 par-3 and four par-4 replica holes from famous courses such as Turnberry Resort's Ailsa Course in Scotland, Ballybunion Golf Club in Ireland and others. It's a perfect complement to the area's tougher tracks, catering to juniors, families, couples and the better player who wants to sharpen his or her short game.