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ANYONE who has played the Royal & Ancient game will at some stage have heard a joke beginning, "A golfer dies and goes to heaven…" I managed to reach the destination without the inconvenience of travelling via the mortuary.

Golf in Canada in the autumn was an experience which I have filed away in my memory banks to be retrieved at moments when the British climate is at its greyest, coldest and wettest.

I should confess I may have embarked for a week's golf in Montreal and Quebec City without packing my usual supply of objectivity. Autumn is my favourite time of year for playing, so a visit to Canada in early October was always going to appeal.

Even so, I underestimated the visual allure and sensual delight of golf in an environment for which the word breathtaking might have been created. From standing on the first tee on day one at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu's course in Charlevoix overlooking the awesome St Lawrence river, to attempting to hole out on the last hole in moonlight at Saint Raphael, close to Montreal, there was seldom a moment when the senses were not stunned.

Quebec, the province, is spread over 650,000 square miles – that's seven times the size of the UK – and half is covered with forests. Pictures and words can provide an idea of the stunning backdrop of gold and red which the turning leaves thus provide, but will only do it partial justice.

Mark Twain's comment that "golf is a good walk spoiled" for the first time had some resonance to this devotee of the game, for it did seem folly to concentrate on hitting a golf ball from A to B, normally via points C to Z, when there was so much more to assimilate than whether a putt broke from the left or the right.

As if to admonish me for possibly failing to properly acknowledge my surroundings, a fox accosted my partners and me on a green at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, striding to within a few feet, staring us down and then attempting to make off with a club left at the side of the putting area. The point was well made: there were more things to admire than just my companion Jeff Wallach's immaculate iron play.

The one-mile drive up from the opulent hotel to the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu's redesigned 27 holes gives a hint of what can be expected: fabulous views across the St Lawrence are also to be had on a layout which undulates like a roller-coaster. Have no fear that this means fairway-splitting drives are hurled contemptuously into the rough; the mown areas are immaculate and receptive to the well-struck ball.

As they are at the second course played, Le Diable at Mont-Tremblant where $10m has been invested in a Golf Academy with sheltered practice facilities where a lesson using V1 digital technology can prepare you for the challenges to come. Le Diable, as its name portents, has some fiendish aspects, notably its tight, tree-lined fairways. But even on a grey, rain-sodden day it was an experience not to be missed.

The holes are named and the appellation for the 12th, a 195-yard par 3 which is Stroke Index 2, is Dynamite. Having faced the long shot across a ravine to a green bounded by a rock outcrop, I wasn't sure whether it referred to the power needed in your swing or a historical reference to how the ravine was formed.

 The last is called Satisfaction and that perfectly sums up the feeling of having played this challenging but gratifying and spectacularly splendid course.

Gray Rocks, also in Mont-Tremblant, is not an epithet which gives the right impression of the resort although La Bête – the Beast – is a little more indicative of the third course encountered on my trip. Another day, another great golf course full of undulating fairways, thought-provoking tee shots and captivating views. After a gentle par-4 to start, the course's visual mien is indelibly stamped at the second, La Cascade, where only the longest hitters will attempt to reach the lower plateau, separated from the upper by a hazard area. As wonderful to look at as it is fun to play, this hole is pretty much the embodiment of golf in the Laurentian mountains.

Heading back to Montreal, the fourth and final course played was at Saint-Raphael, which has two 18-hole layouts. This is a fairly flat, parkland course where the challenge of hilly lies is replaced by strategic placement of water and sand. Testing without being demanding, it provided a memorable ending to the golfing aspect of my stay as the moon rose through the trees to offer a slightly surreal but appropriately ethereal climax.

So we know the golf in the Canada is great, but how, you ask, does one sustain the body through such a physical onslaught of four rounds in five days? Well, you could try a diet of sugar pie which is exactly what it says on the menu. This is pastry crammed with sugar, a culinary experience not to be missed but a dessert order to be shared with at least half a dozen fellow diners. Or while on the road, snack at Tim Horton's, a chain of doughnut coffee shops which provide a vast selection of both commodities – the former colourful, enticing and surprisingly light.

That's the in-between snacks taken care of; what of the real dining? As a guest at Fairmont's Le Manoir Richelieu, Charlevoix, and Queen Elizabeth, Montreal hotels, and Le Grand Lodge, Mont-Tremblant, sustenance was not a problem.

Food in Canada appears to reflect the Canadians' thinking on life; they want it to look good and be enjoyed, so I obliged. Eating duck on three consecutive days may not have been helpful to either my waistline or the neighbourhood's web-footed population, but it sure tasted good.

I was also grateful to a fellow guest at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu at breakfast one morning who gently chided me when I closed the lid on a tureen without taking any maple syrup-drizzled crepes.

“No, no – you must," she urged. I showed her I already had waffles on my plate. "You must," she said, more insistently but still charmingly. I did as I was told – and was grateful.

So I leave you with one tip: take some golfing trousers with expandable waistbands. You might need them by the end of your stay.

Quebec &

Published: December 8, 2007

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