Golf has long been associated with lush greens, blue skies and a Whitman's monster of riotous throws and checks. But few know that the sport has also quietly embraced winter whites, especially in ski-crazy Switzerland.
In 2021, the Engadin Snow Golf Cup will enter its 42nd year in Switzerland's Engadin Valley, home to St. Moritz, and its famous diamond dust skies and scenic alpine golf courses date back to 1889. What started as a lark in one of Switzerland's sunniest winter sports destinations, it has become a bona fide sport that attracts not only golf enthusiasts but second-home buyers looking for winter leisure activities bordering the snow-covered piste.
Winter golfing may sound strange, but the Alps of Southern Switzerland are particularly sunny and provide a haven for golfers from Northern European countries who may not feel like putting their nine irons on a plane for a few rounds farther away . In addition, snow golf offers an active but less risky alternative to skiing. All of this has led to a surge in popularity in predictable places like Germany, Austria, Canada and the United States (including popular golfing destinations such as Colorado, California, Wisconsin and North Carolina) as well as off-the-wave radar spots such as Argentina , Greenland and Finland
It has also attracted enthusiasts to buy property in the area. “Winter golf is just one of the many offers that make the Swiss Engadin Valley attractive to second-home buyers, and a few have even bought here for that reason,” said Ramun Ratti, the director of Engadin Golf Course, home of two 18 – hole courses; in January the Snow Golf Cup is held here. "But snow golf is and will probably always remain a niche."
Although depictions of winter golf on frozen lakes can be found in 17th-century Dutch paintings, some believe that modern snow golf began with St. Moritz's former resort manager, Peter Kasper, who conceived the idea in 1904. came to convert the putting greens to whites, which became a reality with the first tournament in 1979, which was held on a frozen lake in St. Moritz. (The tournament was rescheduled in 1996 and today nine holes are played in a snow field in Surlej by Lake Silvaplana.)
There are, of course, significant differences from regular golf. The "whites" need a lot of manual grooming to compact the surface around the hole, and the balls are orange and the golf holes are three times the normal size. But the trade-off is something special, enthusiasts say.
"Winter golf is a great experience," said Caroline Rominger, a professional golfer born in Engadin. "It can be quite cold, but when the sun is shining, we often play without a coat."
Another tournament is being held in the Alps, the Barnes Winter Golf Cup, which will enter its fourth year in 2021. The annual host of the event alternates between four different alpine resorts: Courchevel, Megève and Val d & # 39; Isére, in France; and Crans-Montana, in the canton of Valais of Switzerland, host the Omega European Masters and one of the eight golf courses in the canton.
As the popularity of snow golf tournaments grows, so does the demand for real estate in the area.
Switzerland has opened a wave of new golf residences, resorts and courses in recent years, including Bürgenstock, a resort complex of hotels and residences above the turquoise Lake Lucerne and once home to Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren. In 2017, the scenic nine-hole course was reopened with views of mountains such as Eiger, Jungfrau, Pilatus and Titlis. Andermatt's network of high-altitude residences and an 18-hole golf course just below the Gotthard Pass were opened in 2016, while Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, the spa, reopened in 2019 with three hotels and seven restaurants, two of which have two Michelin stars.
The next generation of golf communities in Switzerland includes Golf Resort La Gruyère, which will reopen in 2023 after a major renovation. Not all courses offer snow golf, but demand is growing and fun is the goal.
"Snow golf isn't about scores," said Eveline Fasser Testa, a regular who lives in St. Moritz. "Chances of finding your ball in the deep snow are unlikely. It's more about the experience of winter golf and having a great day."