Switzerland's flagship golf course has been described as "deficient" by the top two players at this year's European Masters tournament in Crans Montana.This content was published on September 5, 2002 - 17:58
As the world's golfing elite teed off on Thursday, South Africa's Ernie Els joined his compatriot Retief Goosen in criticising the greens, saying they are "really not up to Tour standard".
His comments came after Goosen - who is ranked fourth in the world, one spot behind Els - said the greens lacked variety and all fell off at the sides.
Els, who came joint 16th at Crans Montana last year, went on to say that the greens were deficient in design and condition, and were probably the worst that he had played on in ten years.
The upturned, bowl-shaped greens were redesigned by Spanish golfing legend, Seve Ballesteros, in 1999.
Despite the criticism, Crans Montana has still managed to attract a world-class field, including Nick Faldo, Craig Stadler and Ballesteros, to play the 6,239-metre course.
All eyes will be on the Bramois course over the next four days to see if Els can take the first prize of SFr370,000 and strengthen his bid to finish top of the European Order of Merit.
Organisers were unsuccessful in convincing world number one Tiger Woods to tee off at the Swiss Alpine resort.
The event's entire budget of SFr7.5 million was little more than double his usual first-place winnings.
Nevertheless, the 50,000 spectators expected to watch the tournament will not want for top-class golf.
The field also includes three Ryder Cup players - Thomas Björn, Lee Westwood and Phillip Price - and winners from the past two years, Argentina's Eduardo Romero and his fellow countryman Ricardo Gonzalez.
Els will be trying to fend off Goosen's challenge, as well as Denmark's Björn who won last Sunday's BMW International.
The first golf tournament in Crans Montana was held in 1939, and since then it has become a firm fixture on the European circuit.
"This tournament is a real blessing for the resort," Walter Loser, director of Crans Montana Tourism told swissinfo.
"According to studies conducted by Lausanne University over the past few years, the economic benefit of staging the event amounts to between SFr12 and 15 million," he continued.
The arrival of new sponsorship last year has ensured the tournament's longevity - until 2005 at least.
swissinfo with agencies
Over four days, 150 professional and six amateur golfers will vie for prize money worth SFr2.3 million.
The course is 6239 metres long.
It is costing organisers SFr7.5 million to stage the tournament.
In compliance with the JTI standards