Quebec's Greens Scene
Sunday, April 1, 2001
French-speaking Quebec is famous for defending its culture and language. The fast-food chain known the world over as KFC -- or Kentucky Fried Chicken -- becomes PFK, for Poulet Frite de Kentucky.
Some English words, though, manage to slip in. "Golf," for instance, passes muster with the language police. Ditto "drop" and "mulligan." But the latter two are words of shame and misfortune, so they hardly count. Then again, as we missed a turnoff coming out of Montreal's Dorval Airport and wound up in a suburb on the outer edge of the metropolitan area, we weren't sure we were going to show, let alone count, ourselves.
Hence the pit stop at PFK. "Do you speak English?" I asked the guys at the counter.
"Non!" said one. I looked to another. "Non!" he said. Never have two people looked so proud not to speak English.
I ruminated. And then I plunged headlong into all the French I had to get us through this crisis: "Tremblant?" I said, shrugging and pulling what I figured was a French sort of face. "Tremblant?"
"Ah, oui, Tremblant!"
"Oui, oui, Tremblant!"
It was amazing how much goodwill this attempt at French engendered. Of course, the meaning of everything that was said afterward had to be inferred from hand gestures, which went something like, left, right, left, right, then curve. Either that or they were threatening to slap me across both cheeks unless I bought a drumstick to go along with the free directions.
Once we got to Route 15, it was a fairly straight shot for 90 minutes through the dramatically beautiful Laurentian Mountains, of which Mont Tremblant is the touristic centerpiece. Lured by decidedly spring-like temperatures and off-season prices made still better by the favorable exchange rate, we had planned a long weekend to sample a few of what we'd heard were 11 championship-caliber courses.
Our first stop: the Golf Royal Laurentien, where the front nine was closed due to soggy conditions and we had the back nine to ourselves. We decided to walk, toting our clubs in handcarts. Walking is a rare luxury in the world of daily-fee courses, and it added to the treat of a fine venue. A crafted route of aesthetically pleasing, often nifty holes, the course wends through a wide, rural valley. At about $27 a round, it's a deal.
The back nine has three par threes, three fours and three fives, an unusual configuration. The most difficult hole is the par-five 12th, measuring 606 yards, with a stream bisecting the fairway and a lake guarding the green. Holes 13, 17 and 18 move around a pond with a covered bridge on one side and a stone bridge on the other, and under mountains tucking gently into each another around the edges of one side of the course. A pretty chalet that is part of the property sits on a high hill overlooking the scenery. I was sorry we weren't staying there.