An ordinary golf course in an extraordinary setting, Crans-sur-Sierre was first opened as an eighteen hole course in 1927, though golf on the site had been played prior to the First World War. The present site was reborn as a golf course by hoteliers looking to provide recreation for their guests, shortly after the 1927 opening English architect Harry Nicholson was commissioned to improve was was recognized as an unsatisfactory challenge. The Nicholson revisions were wide-reaching, and included a number of new greens, the addition of several key bunkers and a change to a routing that is still largely in place today.
The biggest change since the Nicholson improvements happened in 1997 when champion golfer, turned course designer, Seve Ballesteros was employed to bring the track up to modern specifications and enhance its difficulty for leading professional events. Ballesteros made sweeping changes here, and without knowing the older version it is hard to fairly compare the two. what we can review are the holes on the ground today, and largely these are forgettable save for the fact they have hosted many of the game's great players. Tournament history doesn't make for great golf, though, and the disappointing thing about Crans-sur-Sierre is how charming the resort town is yet how utterly charmless the course has become.
The 7th is the signature hole here, with its beautiful snow-capped scenery and delicately perched green out on a ledge, but the rest of the short fours are poor and even the 7th is a touch all or nothing with its aggressive bunkering. Like a number of Seve's greens here, the slopes are a little contrived with the tiers and built-up fronts looking either forced on the ground or failing to really suit the nature of shot required. The thrilling valley approach into the 12th green, for instance, is played to a target with such a severe diagonal tier that only one area is realistically pinable. Some of the driving holes are a bit awkward as well, especially the 18th with its sharp left-to-right angle followed by an approach that needs to navigate a bizarre shallow pond short and to the right of the green. As all drives kick right no matter how sound the tee shot your approach will have to cross the water.
The bunkering here is also pretty average, both in terms of placement and construction. That said, Crans-sur-Sierre clearly has its fans and this is a great part of Europe to visit. With great shopping, great skiing and a charming chalet atmosphere there is no end to the appeal of this region - if only they also had a decent golf course.
Home to the Swiss Open/European Masters on the European Tour since 1939, Crans-sur-Sierre has played host to many of the game’s great players with notable champions here including Dai Rees, Bobby Locke, Kel Nagle, Sir Bob Charles, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Craig Stadler, Jose Maria Olazabal, Eduardo Romero, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia.