Montreal's Eastern Townships A Great Area For Golf!
by Scott A. Sumner
Quebec is a province I always enjoy. The people seem to know how to have fun each and every day. I was fortunate to be able to play three golf courses in the Montreal area. Air connections are great to Montreal from Thunder Bay and quite inexpensive. You can leave Thunder Bay on Air Canada at 7:20 am and with a short stop in Toronto be in Montreal by 11:30 am.
Our first destination was Golf Inverness in the Eastern Townships at Knowlton, a 1 1/2 hour drive. Here we met Marc Fontaine, owner of the golf course as well as assistant professional. Marc is also grandson of the founder of Bombardier, as his mother is a Bombardier. At the age of 24, the 36 year old Fontaine bought Golf Inverness and has made many improvements to this idyllic course in a very beautiful rural area, still quite close to Montreal. As I am an avid snowmobiler as well as golfer, it was fun to talk about Ski-Doo and its history with Marc who is an owner of Bombardier through the family trust.
Golf Inverness is an 18 hole, par 71 layout that plays to 6326 yards from the blue tees. The club house is very beautiful and has had a major expansion completed by Marc. The equipment building is the original barn of the former farmland and is perfect for the setting of this very nice course. The weather has been hard on the course this year as heavy rains early in the summer affected the greens but Golf Inverness is a great course requiring some challenging shots and situated in a peaceful rural setting, with tree lined fairways. Green Fees are very fair at $40 per round. It was a goodstart to our golf trip. Next it was off to the Auberge Georgeville, founded in 1889, and the oldest operating historic hotel in Canada. It was built in 1889 as a hotel and stage coach layover on the journey from Boston to Montreal and a steam boat stop from Newport to Magog.
The pink Auberge Georgeville is on a hill overlooking the picture postcard town of Georgeville and Lake Memphremagog. The hotel has been extensively renovated inside and provides a very elegant room with separate bedroom, sitting area and bathroom. No phones provide a peaceful setting. "We know almost all our guests by first name as they come back each year," stated Steven Beyrouty who along with his wife Megan Seline owns the inn.
Steven is an award winning chef and the dining room is award winning and has held the prestigous CAA/AAA Four Diamond Restaurant Award each year since 1998. Our evening dinner was fabulous as well as the complimentary breakfast.
After a good sleep we were off to our next course in the Eastern Townships, Owls Head, located in Mansonville Quebec. This 18 hole Par 72 layout was designed by well known architect Graham Cooke. The drive to the course is a treat as the country side is simply beautiful. The leaves on the trees were just starting to change and I was told that two weeks later the views are spectacular.
The club house at Owls Head is extremely impressive and it a focal point from many areas on the course. The terrain is hilly and offers some great views of the ski hills in the area including Vermont which is very close by. Our playing partner was Marc Beauoin, Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing. Marc showed us the best way around this great layout of 6671 yards from the blue tees. The holes have many dog legs and water with Graham Cookes traditional large number of strategically placed bunkers. The sand in the bunkers was silicone and played well, as I found out on numerous occasions. A signature hole on the course is a water surrounded par three which along with 3 other holes around this water can accept many water balls. In our peak times we can retrieve 4000 balls per month from this pond. We have a scuba diver come in and retrieve the balls which are then sold back to the club and elsewhere in Quebec, said Marc Beadoin. I really enjoyed the changing elevation of the course and mountain views as back drops. In May you can even see snow in the peaks. It reminded me of playing golf in Vancouver earlier this summer.
There are some great golf deals at Owls Head where you can get 1 round of golf, 1 breakfast, 1 supper and 1 night lodging for $95.12 per person per night. Owls Head is a year round operation with downhill skiing on its property, golf, tennis and a marina. They have one, two or three bedrooms in an apartment hotel. After a drink on the deck overlooking the course we were off to Montreal where we would stay in a fabulous boutique hotel in the Old Montreal section called Hotel Nelligan. Staying at Hotel Nelligan was a real treat as it is very well appointed in a modern, trendy way. The rooms are luxury complete with whirlpool and business work area, stereo and television. The brick interior walls and design make you feel very welcome and I am coming to really like boutique hotels. They give you a very warm feeling. The setting of Hotel Nelligan is so special on Cote de la place Darmes in Old Montreal. You just have to visit this part of Canada to experience a unique area with narrow streets and stately buildings. This is like being in Europe in Canada. You need time to explore Old Montreal. It is very beautiful with many fine restaurants and shops.
Our dinner that night was at La Brunoise on St Andre Street. This new trendy restaurant offered a fresh dining experince with a thoughtfully selected wine list. The young 32 old owner of this 50 seat restaurant in a store front location has a great staff. They work as team to ensure the patron has a good dining experience. We had three different servers and the experience was special.
An earlier start was needed to play our last golf game in Montreal at The Challenger course in the heart of the city towards the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport. Challenger is surely a must play course for every golfer. This course is just awesome. The fairways were like greens and the greens fast and perfect. The Graham Cooke design is owned by the Bombardier family and is very special. The course is 18 holes par 72 and plays to 6813 from the gold tees. It is just the best conditioned course I have played this summer and maybe ever and is PGA Tour quality. The links style layout is in the heart of the city and located in great development on a former Bombarder plant location. Even though you are in a large city you feel very insulated on the course. I never once noticed noise. The course captivates your attention. The greens staffat Challenger number 30 and its shows as the condition was perfect. Oh to be able to play such a great course every day! Green fees are quite reasonable at around $85.00 depending on the time. Playing Challenger was fun for me as your good shots on the fairways produced a perfect lie. A good stoke on the green allowed for a very true putt. It was pleasure to play! The $11 million course also has a spectacular $5 million clubhouse facility with everything you would ever need. Challenger is a gem for Montreal and Canada! You must play here.
After almost beating the rain we packed up our clubs and off to the nearby airport for the return to Thunder Bay. I was home by 7 pm after a great trip. In three days we played three interesting different and very good courses, saw some beautiful country side and had some great food and hospitality. It doesn't get any better than this!