The Hills Are Alive: A New Course Pops Up in Switzerland

As Monty Python’s Flying Circus used to say before one of their mad skits, ‘And now for something completely different.’

Following the trend for limited-run, one-time-only bars, restaurants and shops, the world’s first pop-up golf course will make its debut in Adelboden, Switzerland on Sept. 10. It will remain open until Oct. 10. Get out your climbing boots, unfurl the lederhosen, dust off that old set of clubs. In an age when the architectural nuances of each new course are studiously articulated by the game’s cognescenti, be assured that there will be no such critiques of Golf Mountain, as the course is called. An ‘Alps’ hole, maybe, but nothing more formal than that.

Located on the Engstligenalp (where are the Pythons when we need them?), a beautiful nature reserve in the Bernese Oberland, the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ course features breathtaking views over the village of Adelboden, a charming hamlet of traditional wooden chalets. The layout, if you can call it that, sits at 1,964 meters, making it one of the highest courses in Europe.

Offering a full 18-hole challenge, Golf Mountain promises to test the fittest and most skilled golfers to the fullest. Players will be asked to contend with rather unusual obstacles, including rushing streams and rocky outcrops, not to mention high-altitude pastures dotted with bell-ringing cows. The weather in the Swiss Alps can change quickly in early autumn. One minute bright sunshine, the next dense fog. Maybe a brief snow shower. Players are advised to dress in layers.

As a temporary pop-up course, the only part of Golf Mountain that will be recognizable to players will be the targets, i.e., the greens, which will be surfaced in artificial turf. For 30 days, the course will offer a driving range and a traditional wooden Alpine hut that’s been converted into a clubhouse, complete with changing rooms and a pro shop for club rentals. In addition to a cozy 19th hole, a rustic restaurant will serve local specialties such as fondue and raclette, both long-time staples of mountaineers.

A typical well-grazed fairway at Golf Mountain

Leave it to the Swiss–all-inclusive golf packages are available. The Cambrian, a member of Design Hotels, has created a package that enables guests to enjoy the Golf Mountain experience in style. The program includes two nights’ B&B accommodation in a deluxe room, two green fees, a four-course dinner one night, transfers to the cable car that carries golfers to the Engstligenalp, a sports massage, “and a small golf present.” No details on exactly what that present might be. Maybe a pick-axe.

While the pop-up golf course may be a late-season promotional lark, the sterling 71-room hotel, readily accessible by train from Bern, has an outdoor heated pool, a superb restaurant and a sun terrace with spectacular views of the Jungfrau region of the Alps. I like the description on the hotel’s website: “The Cambrian offers the kind of location that tense desk huggers spend their days dreaming about.”

The Cambrian is managed by a hotel group headed by Horst Schulze, the ex-CEO of Ritz-Carlton who has done for boutique hotels what Monty Python did for humor in the ‘60s–and what the pop-up course at Golf Mountain will do for players in need of a break from the real thing. Nobody asked me, but the U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams might consider visiting Golf Mountain for some carefree fun following the duke-out in Wales.

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