In the winter months, Crans-Montana—set 4,920 feet above sea level in the Swiss Alps—is a super-chic ski resort frequented by Europe’s most influential business people (and the occasional royal). In the summer months, the bucolic burg attracts a whole different set of players. Enter: the golfers.
In July, Crans-Montana played host to the Omega European Masters (OEM)—an exciting weekend for golfers and fans alike. On day three, two players were tied for first place. In the end, Englishman Danny Willett ended up winning the Red Jacket with 17 under par, moving him to second place in The Race to Dubai behind tour leader Rory McIlroy.
While the names of the players may not be as recognizable to North American golf fans, Crans-Montana is an important stop on the European tour. The winner took €450,000 in prize money (and was presented with an Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial).
It’s also an important date for fans. The serious spectators were up early to walk the course (designed by Severiano Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus). They also emulate the dress of their favorite players. The more soigné fans prefer country club chic with V-neck sweaters draped elegantly over shoulders and Goyard bags hanging effortlessly from crooked elbows. Many players at the OEM are younger; there is a third group of followers, hipsters wearing floppy hats and tunic dresses (girls) and retro golf gear (boys), who are styled more for an outdoor music festival than a sporting event.
In the winter, Crans-Montana is a classic Swiss resort town (one American spectator was overheard saying that it was like Vail, until his companion gently suggested that it was probably the other way around). There are breathtaking slopes and luxe lodges for après ski lounging, and that relaxed vibe is carried on in the summer months, with fans and players taking to the main square post-play, drinking Tattingers and eating street raclette.
While the event is usually held in the fall (it was moved in 2015 so as not to conflict with the British Open), we imagine that ambiance this summer was similar. Moving the date of the event does have a silver lining for players: the courses will be open for duffers in the autumn. According to Stephen Urquhart, the president of Omega, who was in Crans-Montana to present Willett with the traditional winner’s red: “In the fall, the air is crisp and the ball moves through the air faster.”
Because the OEM is such a big draw, the events sponsors also invited valued clients to take part in off-course activities. For example, guests of Omega took a ride to Chetzeron, a former gondola station that sits 6,929 feet above sea level. On the ride up, actors dressed as centaurs and other half-human characters swung from the trees. At the top, they took in panoramic views of famous mountains, from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc. We suspect that this is not something that has ever happened at Augusta.