Monte-Carlo Golf Club: Golfing on top of the world
If the gods played golf, then the Monte-Carlo Golf Club would be their home course. As you thread your way up the hairpin bends of this particular Mount Olympus – in fact the 1000-metre Mont Agel behind Monaco – the anticipation mounts. A spanking new Roller purrs past the Reporter’s puffing Panda, and emerald fairways and pristine greens come into view. The doors of the elegant clubhouse are open in welcome. You have arrived. And if you are lucky enough to be a member here, then you have arrived big time.
At 860m above sea level, the heavenly club house doors welcome you to a magnificent course, where Hole 5 gives you views of three countries
Shane Heminway is one such fortunate soul; I am his guest on this azure summer’s day. The views stretch into infinity, or at least from Corsica in the south to the snow-bearing Mercantour in the north, from the Gulf of St-Tropez in the west to Italy in the east.
We are here to golf not gawp, however. Shane is a big unit with a great swing and drives the ball distances undreamt of by the 18-handicap Riviera Golfer. He is also very laid-back and speaks with a slight Texan drawl, which I find puzzling for a third-generation Monegasque.
“It’s true my family has been here for a while now,” he says, selecting a 9-iron for his 150-yard approach. “My grandmother was a close friend of Princess Grace, they had been at acting school together, and she came to live in Monaco after her marriage to Prince Rainier.
“I went to college in Austin – a great centre for golf of course, and these days I spend some of the year in Texas, so I guess that explains the accent.”
Shane’s company, Monaco Star Events, is heavily involved with both the Monaco and American Grand Prix. But golf is for fun.
MCGC’s Hole 4, Par 4, 366m
As we come towards the turn, I get a pleasant surprise. When I last played here a few years back I was less than impressed by a Mickey Mouse hole near the clubhouse that involved taking on a neighbouring swimming pool from the tee. Three completely new holes have ironed out this problem magnificently, and I notice there is work currently under way on new back tee positions. The aim is to put the MCGC back on the international pro golfing map where it belongs.
Henry Rey President Monte-Carlo Golf ClubThis unique club’s origins lie with the British colony in Monte Carlo before the First World War. The Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) responded to the Brits’ insatiable appetite for the game with the little ball by embarking on the audacious project of building a golf course on Mont Agel. More than a hundred workers were despatched to the mountain, and in 1911 the course opened its 18 holes constructed on the site of the present-day holes 1-12. SBM also built tennis courts and a clay pigeon shoot. The club is on French soil, in the commune of Peille.
Fast-forward to the 1980s, and the dawn of the club’s golden age. Jean-Charles Rey, in his second term as president, inaugurated the Monte Carlo Open, attracting the world’s best players to this jewel in the sky. But as the 1990s wore on, bigger courses lured the European Tour away from Monte Carlo. There was a brief re-flowering of international prestige in 2000, when Shane’s uncle, Mike Powers, created the Monte Carlo Invitational, a great success in its first outing.
However, the second edition of the event, scheduled for September 12th of the following year, was cancelled for obvious reasons, and it never got back on its feet. But with the lengthening of the course and palpable sense of dynamism that now pervades the club, I expect Monte Carlo to be making international golfing headlines before too long.
It will come as no surprise that green fees at Monte-Carlo Golf Club are not the cheapest in the region, peaking at €160 for a weekend round. However, with SBM’s “Cercle Monte-Carlo” card the rate for a weekday round drops to €65, almost a bargain. See www.montecarlosbm.com for details.