Darrell Huxam has built golf courses throughout his native Canada and as far away as Korea. But only one of those hundreds of holes was a potential wedding location for him and his wife: the stunning par-5 opener on the St. Laurent nine at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, two hours north of Quebec City, Canada. The hole’s elevated tee provides one of the most dazzling views in all of golf — with the St. Lawrence River as the backdrop — and kicks off a memorably scenic stretch at one of Canada’s most underrated golf resorts.
The original 18 holes at the resort (the Richelieu and Tadoussac nines designed by Englishman Herbert Strong) was almost like a raised valley,” Huxham says. “The new nine was built on the side of a mountain, so we cut tiers in every hole. It wasn’t going to be walkable, so that gave us more latitude in the distance between tees and greens. I could put the holes where they would get the best views and most playable landing zones.”
The tree- and rock-filled landscape gave pause to many who simply could not envision what Huxam would eventually build there, especially on the first hole.
“I was an assistant golf pro at the time when he walked that part of the property,” recalls current Head Professional Jean-Phillipe Moffet. “It was just woods then. When he did the central line of the course, we all wondered, ‘How is he going to build a hole there?’ It was impossible for me to see that hole coming. It was then that I understood that architects are good. When it opened, it was absolutely unimaginable. It’s such a great hole and such a great vision of Darrell’s.”
The par 5, which took three months to build, drops 200 feet from tee to fairway, and the approach shot is aimed at an infinity edge green. The tee is steps away from a clubhouse that was built at the same time. Previously located in a structure now used as an observatory near the fifth tee of the Tadoussac nine, the new clubhouse offers long-range views of the river, as does the driving range.
The entire St. Laurent nine opened in 2002. Its sibling nines, both enjoyable to play, were renovated soon thereafter: Tadoussac in 2003 and Richelieu in 2005. Last year Canada’s SCOREGolf Magazine named it 76th among the country’s Top 100 courses, the first time it has reached that lofty standard since the late 1990s.
Despite its somewhat remote location, don’t be surprised if you hear American accents at the course and resort. The surrounding Charlevoix Region has long been a favorite vacation spot of Americans, who have traveled here for cooler summer weather dating back to the late 19th century. In fact, the golf course was inaugurated on June 18, 1925, by none other than former U.S. President William H. Taft, who spent his summers in nearby Pointe-au-Pic.
The region’s golf season starts in early May and usually runs until a week after Canadian Thanksgiving (October 10). But there’s much more than golf to explore.
“The Charlevoix scenery is fantastic, and it’s a peaceful getaway,” Huxham says. “There’s fine dining, nature walks, superb cheese and small towns to see. It has a very French European feeling. It’s also much easier to get to than Cabot Cliffs (the heralded course at the 36-hole Cabot Links Resort in Nova Scotia), and there is so much to see in Quebec City (including the legendary Fairmont Chateau Frontenac).”
Small towns like La Malbie and Petite-Rivière-Saint-François are well worth visiting, as are the various stops along a Flavour Trail, which showcases local produce, craft beers (stop at the Microbrasserie Charlevoix in Baie-Saint-Paul), cheeses and wines (including tomato wine by Omerto, the first of its kind in the world) that are used by many restaurants in the region, including the elegant cuisine led by Executive Chef Patrick Turcot at Le Charlevoix restaurant, the Fairmont Le Manoir Charlevoix’s superb formal dining experience. There are also plenty of outdoor activities, such as whale watching (including sightings of rare Beluga whales) where the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers meet.
From the resort, it’s a scenic five-minute cart ride up a steep hill to reach the the clubhouse and three nines, where the green fee during peak season (early July through the first week in September) ranges from $65 to $119.
With 27 holes, the 18-hole layouts are mixed throughout the day. From 6:30 until 9 a.m. you play St. Laurent and Richelieu. From 9:10 to 11:40, it’s St. Laurent and Tadoussac. Then from 11:50 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., Richelieu and St. Laurent. After 2:30 p.m., it’s Tadoussac and Richelieu.
Locals still enjoy playing the original course,” says Moffet, who estimates 20,000 rounds are played each summer. “99 percent of our hotel guests want to play the St. Laurent nine because it is so scenic. I would say the Richelieu and Tadoussac are better courses than the St. Laurent, but there’s nothing as scenic as the latter.”
And there’s that first hole.
A lot of Americans own houses in this area and come up for the summer from California, New York or Connecticut,” Moffet adds. “They have traveled extensively and often say the only thing comparable is the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. But this hole is much higher up and there’s nothing really like it. What makes a huge difference is that the St. Lawrence River changes every day. So you never have the same exact view on that hole.”
As for Huxam, poor weather forced his wedding ceremony indoors. But he and his wife did eventually take some pictures at that first tee. “It’s a place I had fallen in love with as a special getaway while I was working there,” he recalls. “I took her around the course and she fell in love with it, too. I was very happy when she agreed to taking pictures there that day. There’s no higher compliment than your wife loving your work.”
2017 Le Manoir Richelieu Golf Packages:
- Two Fore 1 Package — Available until early July, and again after Labor Day until season end ($299 per night)
- Ultimate Golf Package — Available all summer and includes room, breakfast and unlimited golf with cart per day. ($399 per room)
For more information, visit the resort’s website.
Tom Mackin is the editor The Grain, a digital golf magazine, and a former Senior Editor at Golf Magazine. He also never passes up a maple-syrup donut from Tim Hortons when visiting Canada.