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Golf fever returns: for many, April is the month that marks the annual return of spring fever: longer days, kids playing barefoot, life stirring in the garden, and golfers anxiously awaiting the start of the season.

Sometimes being an expat means feeling like you've been left out of the loop. Things that seemed simple at home, now appear menacing or a complete hassle. Golf is no exception, though perhaps it doesn't need to be. At home, you can easily ring up the course, book a tee-time, then show up to play and away you go.

The majority opinion would seem to be that golfing here is easier said than done. But frankly, it's not that hard. Swiss News presents the inside scoop on how to reclaim your passion for the green.

Insider info

The most important thing to know, if you are a member of a golf course in your home country, is that you are entitled to play golf here, period. All but the most elite Swiss courses will honour your overseas membership and allow you to book a tee-time on their course. Just make sure you come prepared with your up-to-date club card or letter from your home course.

It really is that simple.

Simin Hofstetter from the Swiss Golf Association (ASG)--the umbrella organisation for Switzerland's 89 golf courses and their individual members--told us that in order to play by just paying a green fee at a club (not as a member), a player would be asked for his/her membership or handicap card. "If he can produce one," she says, "chances are he will be accepted for play" although obviously, clubs are free to set their own conditions.

In general though, Swiss clubs aren't intentionally trying to make your life difficult. In their eyes, by requiring you to show a membership card or take a playing, rules and etiquette test, they are simply protecting their multi-million franc course from golfers who don't know the rules, or perhaps, wouldn't respect the course.

According to Hofstetter, "there are practically no public courses in Switzerland, only semi-private courses."

She concedes that "it might be said that there are not enough public facilities but the construction of golf courses is very expensive, starting with the land, as are the running costs including maintenance and club personnel." This explains why it is difficult to make a profit with low green fees, and why clubs aren't willing to give beginners free-reign on the course until they have proven themselves.

Never played before?

If you have never played golf before--or are still searching for your golf-legs--and would like to play in Switzerland, don't despair. Many Swiss golf courses, especially Migros courses, have golf schools set up to help you get your Swiss 'green card'.

Receiving your green card gives you almost the same rights as members of international golf clubs and allows you to play on most courses. To start with, beginners are advised to take a 'schnupper kurs' or beginners course at the golf school of their choice.

If you don't have a set of clubs, don't worry. Every golf school will have clubs for you to use during your courses. They may not be Tiger Woods quality, but you won't be out any extra money either.

At the Migros Golfpark Otelfingen, a Swiss PGA pro teaches groups of 6-12 players (two hours for SFr 75) and offers individual lessons (50 minutes for SFr 100) that focus on the basics of playing, rules and etiquette.

Carl Robinson from Golfpark Otelfingen says that lessons are prepared for beginners because they "must achieve the required playing standard, while also knowing the rules and etiquette. All of which are tested under exam conditions," through his or another chosen golf course.

The purpose of the 'Platzreife' or PR-exam is to determine whether the practical playing ability of the individual meets the proficiency required on golf courses.

When you have practised and studied enough, "potential golfers take the PR-exam, which consists of a written rule and etiquette test, and a practical playing exam all under the supervision of an examiner," Robinson says.

Before you give in to flashbacks of high school history tests, or seemingly-impossible phys-ed challenges, remember the clubs are only trying to ensure you aren't going to whack divots with every stroke and will be a sporting golfer on the green.

"I've known some people to not even try, because they think it is too much work or the PR-exam will be too difficult, but as long as you pay attention, it is really quite easy," says Pascal Truniger of Breitenloo Golf Club.


Once you have earned your green card, you should be able to book a tee-time at most public or semi-private courses. Swiss clubs are free to set their own rules, and while most do recognise the green card, some of them opt not to.

The Independent Swiss Golfer's Association (ASGI) is the organisation to join if you aren't a member of any golf club, but want the feeling of club membership and the right to play in Switzerland.

Most expats do not join private Swiss golf clubs due to the yearly membership fee, which is usually in the thousands of francs. "You won't find a typical Swiss golf course with any percentage of foreign [expat] membership because of the sheer cost to join. Most people don't see the benefit of dropping SFr 20,000 to join a club and only play for four months out of the year," says Robinson.

It's that kind of attitude that keeps Migros and other public courses in business. They cater to those of us who don't want to spend large sums on golf but still want to play; those who don't mind playing on more crowded courses and can't benefit from a long-term club membership in Switzerland.

Important websites for golfers: Golf Association Swiss Golfer's Association

Golf courses for the masses

Public golf courses

* Golfclub Bern / Golfpark Moossee (18+9+6 holes)

* Golfclub Bubikon (9 holes)

* Golfpark Holzhausem / Ennetsee (18+9+6 holes)

* Golf Club Heidiland (9 holes)

* Golfpark Otelfingen / Lagern (18 holes)

* Golfpark Nuolen (9 holes)

* Golf Parc Signal de Bougy (18 holes)

* Golfpark Waldkirch (18 + 9 + 3 holes)

* Winterberg Golf Club (9 holes)

Private but accessible golf courses

* Golf Aaretal (9 holes)

* Appenzell Golfclub Gonten (9 holes)

* Golfclub Arosa (18 holes)

* Golfclub Domat Ems (9 public holes)

* Golfclub Engelberg-Titlis (18 holes)

* Golfclub Fluhli-Sorenberg (9 holes)

* Golfclub Gotthard Realp (9 holes)

* Golf Club Klosters (18 + 9 holes)

* Golf Kyburg (18 holes)

* Golf & Country Club LaLargue (9 public holes)

* Golf de Lavaux (18 holes)

* Golf Club les Bois (18 holes)

* Golf Club Lipperswil (18 + 9 public holes)

* Golf Club Sedrun (9 holes)

* Golf Sempachersee (18 + 9 public holes)

* Golf Club Thunersee (9 holes)

* Golfclub Vuipera (9 holes)

* Golf Club Ybrig (18 holes)
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Title Annotation:GOLF ADVICE
Author:Clinton, Kati
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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