This year’s Swiss Challenge presented by Association de Golf has been widely proclaimed as the most successful in its six-year tenure at Golf Sempachersee and it could not come at a more appropriate time for the spectacular Lucerne venue, as the club celebrates its 20 year anniversary.
The mountain-side club, which boasts some of the most spectacular views on the European Challenge Tour schedule and has almost over 1,200 members, was founded in 1994 by the family of its current owner Daniel Weber.
It was an idea which spawned not from a passion for the game but from a business plan to make use of a plot of land that was lying idle and could not be developed for agricultural purposes, after new laws were introduced in Switzerland.
The whole growth of golf in Switzerland has come in the last 20 years and we have been part of that history
But it was vision which developed to produce one of the finest golfing facilities in the country, one that has played host to the Swiss Challenge since 2010 and has seen some of Europe And the world’s finest young golfers pass through its gates – including 2012 winner Gary Stal and American Brooks Koepka, who made his professional debut here that same year.
“It’s a special year for us,” said Weber. “The project itself is naturally a bit older than 20 years – it took a few years to get authorisation to build it – but the official start of playing golf here was 20 years ago.
“It has come a long way. We started as an 18-hole facility with an additional nine-hole training facility and the next big step was back in the beginning of 2007 when we were able to open the new clubhouse, where the restaurant area is based, and also the addition of the second 18-hole course.
“My family had been involved in real estate for many years. We owned a good piece of the land you see here, although not all of it, and we were looking for solutions because at that point in time the laws for agricultural land changed in Switzerland.
“We were looking for alternatives to agriculture and I have to say that nobody in my family played golf at the time. The options were to do something with horses or other similar ideas.
“I remember the night like it was yesterday. There was a lot of wine involved and at some point somebody said, hey why don’t we build a golf course.
“That was the beginning of the 90s in Switzerland, when we only had like 30 golf courses and it was viewed as something really elitist. But the whole growth of golf in Switzerland has come in the last 20 years and we have been part of that history.”
Of course, the Swiss Challenge has played a big part in the growth of Golf Sempachersee and, while Weber admits it took some time to convince the members to bring such a large professional event to the club, he believes it has paid off in spades – not least because of the massive praise the course has received, this year in particular.
I think we have now found our place in the Swiss golfing world
“When we lost our initial title sponsor, the Swiss Association jumped in and we have a big advantage over the other courses in Switzerland because we have a 36-hole facility here,” he said.
“We all know that if you want to host a tournament like this you basically have to tell your members that you’re shutting down for 10 days at least. It’s a big hassle, and to motivate members to do that is quite a tough task.
“When we look today, it’s remarkable that now over half of the 300 volunteers are members of this club and that for me is the sign that the members embrace and believe in this tournament. Swiss people are very cautious by nature and, like everything in Switzerland, it took time to establish this idea, but I think we have now found our place in the Swiss golfing world.
“I must say that the height of the rough has been forced upon us due to environmental laws where we cannot cut the heavy stuff until June 15, but we were curious to see how the players would react to that and I must say it’s really nice to see that they have accepted and welcomed the change.”
Golf Sempachersee has played a big part in the recent history of the Challenge Tour. Here’s to many more successful years ahead.