By Erik Matuszewski
After hopping into a golf cart just outside the main entrance of the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, the winding, uphill drive to the golf course clubhouse takes several minutes and traverses well over a mile before you get close to the first tee. Scenic views abound along the way, but once reaching the clubhouse’s hilltop perch, the sweeping vistas of mountains on one side and the sprawling St. Lawrence River on the other rival some of the best in the game.
In fact, as I deconstruct my recent, and revelatory, golf trip to Quebec, it strikes me that a photo from the tee box of the par-five 1st hole of the St-Laurent nine serves as the background image on my laptop computer. A few steps from that dramatic tee box view is the driving range where world leaders took panoramic photos during the 2018 G7 Summit held at the resort.
The 27 holes at Le Manoir Richelieu are similarly loaded with stunning river and mountain views, with a design that showcases the natural beauty of the Charlevoix region.
The original layout was designed by English golf architect Herbert Strong and inaugurated in 1925 by former U.S. President William H. Taft, who spent his summers in the area. Upgraded in 2004 by Darrell Huxham, who also added an additional nine holes, the Club de Golf Le Manoir Richelieu is understandably well known and well regarded by Canada’s legion of serious golfers.
For me, the two days I played golf at Le Manoir Richelieu helped cement Quebec as a delightful and surprisingly accessible alternative to a European getaway. For those in the Northeast U.S., it’s a trip that can be done over a long weekend. Fair warning, though, it will leave you wanting more.
My recent jaunt was full of surprises, starting with an easy flight of under two hours from Philadelphia to Quebec City, the cradle of French civilization in North America. For those coming from other parts of the country, there are convenient connecting flights through hubs like Chicago, Newark, and Orlando.
Approximately 95 percent of Quebec residents are native French speakers, making you quickly feel immersed in another culture. Almost four million visitors a year travel through Quebec City; it was our first stop, with a short stay at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. Perhaps the most eye-catching landmark in the walled part of the city, the brick castle is said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, with a central tower almost 260 feet high, 7 ½ miles of corridors within its walls, a green copper roof, and close to 2,000 windows that provide extraordinary views of the St. Lawrence River, the dramatic architecture of Old Quebec, and the hotel’s interior gardens.
Walk out of the hotel and you’re transported to what could be a section of Paris, with old world architecture, terrific coffee shops and bakeries, tight cobblestone alleys, and even a funicular that takes visitors down a steep hill to the shops and hotels along the riverfront. A cozy cobblestone square known as Place Royale is truly a step back in time, boasting the oldest church in North America (1688), and was used by Steven Spielberg as a fill-in for sections of Paris in his 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can.
Minutes outside Quebec City, a host of golf courses are worth a look. There are several just off Route 138 close to Montmorency Falls, which is almost 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls and an impressive sight, whether from within the park or in full view from the highway. Golf history buffs will be drawn to nearby Orleans Island in the St. Lawrence River and the nine-hole Club de Golf Orleans: Three holes date back to 1868 on what claims to be the first golf course in North America.
But to get a real taste of the region, we drove about 1 ½ hours northeast of Quebec City, following the river to the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. For those seeking an alternative to a European getaway, it truly fits the bill, because while the golf is good, there’s so much more. The Charlevoix Flavor Trail features unique products that showcase the area, including an emu farm with more than 400 birds that produces meat and oils used to create skin care products; a sheep-milk cheesemaker; and a vintner that bottles a one-of-a-kind organic tomato wine.
Sitting on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence, the sprawling Manoir Richelieu has extensive hiking and biking trails, exceptional dining options, a casino accessible from the hotel by an underground tunnel, and a health club with indoor and outdoor pools. All in addition to the 27 holes of great golf on the fun and scenic St-Laurent, Richelieu, and Tadoussac nines. And that ride up to the clubhouse before the round is a memorable experience in itself.