St.Moritz – Glitzy Swiss Golf

By: David Bowden

St. Moritz - Swiss

David Bowden flies on SWISS into Zurich and then onto St. Moritz to play golf in one of Switzerland’s smartest year-round alpine sporting destinations.

St. Moritz doesn’t need too much introduction to jet-setting skiers, but golfers may be surprised to learn that there are three summer courses to play within close proximity to this glamourous Swiss alpine town. Located in the Engadine (or Engadin) region of northeast Switzerland, the narrow streets of St. Moritz are lined with boutiques of all the world’s leading fashion houses and it’s easy to see just how popular it is with jet-setting travellers. It was also the home of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympic Games.

HISTORIC GOLF

St. Moritz - SwissGolf is nothing new to St. Moritz and in fact the Engadine Golf Club is the oldest course in Switzerland, dating back to 1893 when a nine-hole course opened near the picturesque lake. The idea for the course was first mooted in 1889 when one of the region’s leading hoteliers travelled to England to find out about the new game of golf.

Now there are three courses to play around St. Moritz with the 18-hole championship course located in Samedan (which adjoins St. Moritz) along with its sister 18-hole course at Zuoz- Madulain. Together, these two courses constitute what is known as the Engadine Golf Club. The third course, Kulm Golf St. Moritz is located right near the town centre of St. Moritz but it’s only a nine-hole, chip and putt course.

Switzerland’s first golf championships were staged at the Samedan course in 1904. Despite the golfing heritage of these three courses, innovation is something that is important to all. Both courses of the Engadine Golf Club are par 72 but are completely different in character. While Samedan is situated on the plain between Samedan, Punt Muragl and Celerina, the golf course Zuoz-Madulain stretches from Zouz to Madulain along the River Inn and between hills and woodlands in an alpine setting.

Golfers familiar with Indonesian scenery and tropical conditions will be seriously distracted while playing most Swiss courses especially those in St. Moritz. At an altitude of 1,700m, snowcovered peaks are a year-round feature with some 20 rising above the St. Moritz town exceeding 3,500m with names that were all new to me. Golfers will notice their ball will travel a little further and they may become a little more breathless in the rarified alpine air.

It’s usually easy to get onto the Samedan course from mid May to the end of October but after that you’ll need to turn up with your skis as it becomes a cross country ski field in winter.

CHIP N’ PUTT

St. Moritz - SwissWhile a chip and putt course may not initially appear challenging to many golfers, you just have to remember the location in which the course is situated. This is St. Moritz after all and the chance to play in such as a glamorous destination rarely arises. Kulm Golf St. Moritz is part of the famous Hotel Kulm (and hotel guests play free of charge) dating back to 1856, but non-guests are welcome to also play the course. An 18 hole (two rounds of the nine hole course) game here is just 1,700m long but precision is essential and golfers need to ‘pitch in and putt the green’. At 1,860m altitude, it’s a good course that, while it only takes 1.5 hours to play, provides the opportunity to hone one’s skills as accuracy is paramount.

The 120m-long sixth hole has remained unchanged since the course’s inception. Parts of its fairway are noticeably slower as it can’t be cut so low in order to protect the alpine meadows growing here.

A natural ice bob run starts from near the second hole and is a big St. Moritz attraction in winter. Dracula Club, offering St Moritz’s most exclusive entertainment is also located within the club grounds and it’s worth befriending a member to obtain access.

St. Moritz Golf Academy has a driving range with 16 places of which six are under cover. Also included is a practice putting green and bunker. The Clubhouse Chesa Al Parc has brilliant alpine views and showcases Swiss cuisine and beverages.

ALPINE SCENERY

St. Moritz - SwissTravellers flock to St. Moritz to admire the alpine scenery and the glamorous lifestyle associated with its winter skiing. While St. Moritz is a year-round destination, some outlets close out of the main winter season.

While there are many dining options in St. Moritz, travelling up the solar-powered Punt Muragl funicular railway to Muottas Muragl is highly recommended. One of the advantages in travelling to St. Moritz in summer is that the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm, so enjoying dinner in the ‘magic hour’ of the high alpine setting of the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl is especially memorable. From the veranda, a score or so of snowcapped peaks shimmer in the early evening light and the lakes in the valley make for an unforgettable evening.

At 2,456m, the restaurant here has spectacular views over St. Moritz and the food served matches the scenery. Enjoy local delicacies of pizokel (homemade pasta and mountain cheese) and grilled veal steak with morel sauce and summer vegetables. Local beers such as Engadiner Bernina and Swiss wines like Gerald Clavien Miège Syrah are served at prices below those in Indonesia.

RAIL JOURNEYS

Switzerland is blessed in having many great golf destinations to visit and countless journeys to enjoy along the way. The nation’s train system is the best in the world and, for many travellers, the only way to get around Switzerland is by train. This means hiring clubs at golf courses so as not to be restricted by lugging a golf bag.

As there are no direct flights from Indonesia to Switzerland, visitors have to travel via Singapore or the Middle East. My preferred carrier was SWISS, which just reintroduced daily flights from Singapore using Airbus aircraft. Their flight arrives into Zurich just after 6am and by the time you have cleared immigration and collected your baggage, it’s time to catch a train from the station beneath Zurich Airport.

Several famous train journeys can be made in Switzerland with St. Moritz being the departure point for the famous Glacier Express; the world’s slowest express train. The 8-hour Glacier Express journey departs St. Moritz at 9.15am precisely and arrives into Zermatt in the early evening after passing through some of the world’s most spectacular alpine scenery.

A grand three-course lunch accompanied by Swiss wines and beers is possible and a highlight of the journey. I travelled while listening to an informative commentary on the features of the landscape we passed through. We passed Switzerland’s ‘Grand Canyon’ located in the Rhône Gorge. Later, the cogwheel train of the Matterhorn Railway was connected for the steep climb that starts just after Disentis Mustér. Snow-capped mountain peaks covered in ski runs were traversed at Nätschen. This moveable feast is one of the most indulgent ways to enjoy Swiss trains, but there are many other journeys within the country that offer just as much.

Travel File

ARRIVING

Travel to St. Moritz by flying first to Zurich on daily flights on SWISS (www.swiss.com) ex Singapore with connecting flights from Jakarta. From Zurich, catch a train (prepaying for a Swiss Pass enables first class travel on all Switzerland’s public transport) to Chur (pronounced her) and then on to St. Moritz on one of the most scenic train rides in Switzerland. Travelling time from Zurich to St. Moritz is three hours.

STAYING

Hotel Steffani (www.steffani.ch) is a fine hotel ideally located in the middle of St. Moritz township and within walking distance from the lake, restaurants, bars and Kulm Golf St. Moritz.

CONNECTING

Engadine Golf St. Moritz (www.engadin-golf.ch), Glacier Express (www.glacierexpress.ch), Kulm Golf St. Moritz (www.stmoritz-golfclub.ch), Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl (www.muottasmuragl.ch) and Switzerland Tourism (www.MySwitzerland.com).

About David Bowden

David Bowden is a freelance photojournalist specialising in travel, golf, food, wine and the environment. He is an Australian national although he has been based in Asia for well over a decade. He has written various children’s books, travel books and guides including the Globetrotter’s Guide to Taman Negara which is the definitive guide to Malaysia’s largest national park. He is also the author of various travel books in the Enchanting Series to Asia including his recently published book Enchanting Bali and Lombok (John Beaufoy Publishers, UK).

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