Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
I don't know why the early settlers to the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec named the beautiful river that flows through it Le Diable (The Devil). But the name stuck, and when Intrawest, the resort company that runs the world-famous Mont Tremblant ski area wanted to add another golf course along the river, the name Le Diable seemed natural for the course.
Hurdzan/Fry was thrilled to be selected to design the course, even though the site has lots of steep, rocky slopes with not much topsoil. Spring comes late at this latitude and winter returns early, which is probably why this has been rated the best ski resort in eastern North America. But the site had many hidden blessings, not the least of which was a mountain meadow of pure sandy soil that we could truck in as topsoil.
Our first task was to create a routing plan that would, by necessity, move play up and down a small mountain on one nine, play the other nine in the fairly flat meadow on the far side of a major road, and make it feel like one continuous experience. The next task was to develop construction documents that dovetailed with the plans of the predominantly French-speaking engineers, consultants and environmentalists involved with a project of this magnitude, keeping in mind our French "weren’t too good." Thank goodness they all spoke reasonably good English (although with a distinctively Inspector Clouseau accent), and we had Robbie Hellstrom as our point of contact. Robbie is bilingual, a powerful motivator of people, has boundless energy and had previously supervised the building of an earlier golf course at Mont Tremblant. He was the primary reason we were able to build the entire golf course complex in the space of six months. Until we saw it happen, we thought it was physically impossible.
We started in snowshoes in April, tying ribbons on trees for clearing. The clearing began in four feet of snow in early April. By September 1st, the entire golf course was seeded. Even today, we think of Robbie as a miracle worker, as well as a friend.
The design concept was to fit the back nine into a rocky hillside, blasting away problem areas and disposing of the rock in an environmentally correct way, then plate the entire nine with sand taken from the front nine meadow. It sounded logical and simple, but doing it required some inventive engineering of haul roads and some incredible construction equipment. Intrawest, with its "No Fear/Can Do" attitude and extensive resources, provided both, and the golf course plan became a reality.
Because the highway separating the nines is also the main entrance to the resort village of Mont Tremblant, it was decided to create two cart path tunnels under the road and no more. This sounds logical, but it wasn't easy, if we were to maximize the assets and narrow corridors we had for golf holes. But we worked it out and in the process created some superb golf holes, like the par-3 sixth hole that plays downhill 120 feet from tee to green. We're also fond of the 535-yard par-5 15th, which also plays downhill about 200 feet. But it was only a driver and short iron for John Daly when he played in a Canadian Skins game against Fred Couples, David Duval and Mike Weir.
As the front nine meadow became the borrow pit for the topsoil of the mountain holes, our approach was to create Pine Valley-type waste areas and bunker complexes for the meadow holes. That also saved a number of trees and provided a believable appearance to the grading and shaping. The finished meadow holes are unlike any other in eastern Canada and have become the signature of the golf course. Ironically, the native sand used in the waste areas, had a distinct reddish tint, which turned out to be perfect for a golf course named for the devil.