Fly & Swing to new heights with The Alpine Flying School & Gap Bayard

Bernie McGuire

Image by Gap Bayard GC

Bernie McGuire

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Here’s an adventure for the golfers out there who enjoy discovering new heights. Now that restrictions to travel are being lifted, why not treat yourself to a double French alpine flying and golfing adventure? This is what we did recently thanks to Alpine Flying School and the Gap Bayard Golf Club.

The Alpine Flying School and Gap Bayard club have their homes high in the stunning French Alps with the Alpine Flying School located overlooking the pretty village of Apres-sur-Buech and the golf course just a short distance away on the outskirts of the town of Gap.

Start the adventure at the Alpine Flying School as it’s just the perfect take-off point to explore and wonder at some of the finest scenery in Europe. No sooner are you in the air and you’re surrounded by eye-catching and camera-grabbing scenery.

The excitement of jumping aboard a flight with Alpine Flying School begins with being able to drive your car or ride your motor-bike and park right beside the hangar where the school’s aircraft await. It’s just so different than having to park your car miles away and needing to catch a shuttle ride to the terminal.

The Team At The Alpine Flying School …

First there’s a very friendly welcome in meeting the Alpine Flying School’s leading instructors Remy Desbenoit and Dr. Christian Lahaye. Remy has been a pilot for more than 30 years and has more than 12,000 hours of flight experience as a glider and microlight instructor while Christian proudly boasts well over 500 flying hours. Whether you’re looking for a ‘discovery’ flight over the stunning scenery or taking a first lesson in learning yourself how to fly, Remy and Christian are there to help fulfil your dreams.

What Makes Your Alpine Flying School Adventure So Special?

We sat down with Remy & Christian for a small question and answer session to learn more about the delights to be savoured in stepping aboard one of the school’s aircrafts.

Qn: What can people expect to see when arriving at the Alpine Flying School?

“The first reaction is the stunning location of the school amid such breath-taking scenery. It is like a picture postcard. The school is located at altitude above the village of Apres-sur-Buech with the aerodrome first used in WW2. The landing areas have been improved while the planes are state-of-the-art aircraft with modern hangars in place to house the planes.

“What has not changed is the delight of being surrounded by some many stunning mountain peaks and that thrill of adventure in getting a birds-eye view and also flying of magnificent-looking lakes, rivers and towns.

“This region of France also boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year and that is why it is a magnet for travellers the world over. People come here to ski in winter as the school is very close to skiing stations and in the summer months, the region is a mecca also for dozens of activities including camping, hiking, bike-riding, canoeing, hang-gliding, paragliding, golfing and, of course, our very strong passion of flying. The school also offers the hire of motor-bikes and we can also arrange golf outings at the close-by Gap Bayard, one of the finest Alpine golf courses in the region.

“It’s relatively easy getting to the school as we are located around a 90-minute easy drive north from Marseille while it is just a two-hour train journey on the TGV from Paris to the close-by town of Gap while Grenoble is also not very far away, so there is no excuse is not being able to find you way to the school. We’re also surrounded by many excellent villages, boasting many wonderful restaurants.”

Qn: What type of planes does the school fly and what are the procedures in place before you take to the air?

The Alpine Flying School offers a choice of planes. We have a Sinus Pipistrel Motor Glider which is a two-seat, single-engine ultralight motor glider, a Dynamic WT9 ULM which is a fantastic two-seater, ultralight and light-sport aircraft and a superb Savage Cub ULM. What everyone admires is the modern, smart design of our aircraft as we have three high quality machines that combine safety and performance.

“All our guests are warmly welcomed and for those who would like their flying experience to go a step further, we host initiation lessons as a first step in learning in hopefully flying a light aircraft yourself. To do this, we have within the hangar a modern briefing room where our guests can sit in air-conditioned comfort. We use the room also to conduct our briefing and debriefing classes before and after each flight.

“Also, we know that not everyone may be comfortable stepping aboard a small aircraft but both Remy and I can assure you we will do everything possible to dispel any fears you may have to make you feel as comfortable as possible. The opportunity to explore this spectacular region of France from the comfort of our aircraft is an experience to be enjoyed and, who knows, if you choose to attend our instruction courses you could one day find yourself piloting a plane on your own.

“So, before taking to the air you will be knowledgeable in the basics of the aircraft then once aboard, it’s just a matter of fastening your seatbelt for the discovery sensation of a lifetime.”

Qn: It is very clear this is also an experience that can be shared with family members and friends?

“Yes, very much so and this is what the school promotes. Families flock to this region and so many now are visiting the school to experience the adventure that awaits. You’re never too young to fly and again, it’s a first step in getting over any fears and that sense of accomplishment the younger ones can go back to their school friends with tales of the adventures they’ve experienced flying among the alps.

“We are often complimented on our affordable prices with flights very inexpensive, including our combined flight and motor-bike riding packages. (See offer below) Also, there’s a camping ground on site along with a bar and restaurant while you can drive your car or ride your bike and park right beside the hanger. How many flights have you flown that allows such convenience?”

Qn: And, as you mentioned, you have a few motor-bikes for hire.

“Yes, they’re very popular and it allows us to offer our guests the opportunity to also explore the many magnificent villages with the choice of a new Africa Twin 1100, a 500 CBX Honda or a KTM 790 Adventure R to explore the region.

“It means you go flying in the morning and then spend the afternoon riding your motorcycle. We rent motorbikes from a half day to a week, or a weekend. Also, you can combine the flying/riding experience by choosing one of many packages we offer. It’s why a visit to the Alpine Flying School is doubly enjoyable!”

Golf & The Alpine Flying School …

After taking to the skies with the Alpine Flying School, it’s time to take to the fairways of the spectacular-looking Gap Bayard golf course. The Alpine Flying School can help make this happen by arranging for you to tee-up on this course located on the outskirts of Gap. The Gap Bayard course was designed by renowned French-born designer, Hugues Lambert.

Lambert knows the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region well. He is a specialist in mountain layouts where golf courses have been laid out in the heart of some emblematic landscapes. When you arrive at Gap-Bayard, you will note the clubhouse and driving range are grouped together which is a trait of Lambert’s design work.

Then from the first to final holes, Lambert has used the topography of the terrain to design a golf course that weaves its way for some 6,000 metres off the ‘tips’. Though for much of your Gap Bayard golfing journey you will find yourself being distracted by the spectacular sights of the surrounding peaks, or in the case of standing on the ninth, staring down at the town of Gap located some 500 metres below.

The golf course is the usual mix of four par-3s, four par-5s and 10 par-4s. From the uphill first hole, measuring 309-metres, to the signature hole – the par-4 18th, four metres longer than the first, Gap Bayard is a golf course where a good drive will be rewarded with a strong chance of par, at worst. This was the beauty I found in playing Gap Bayard.  You will stand on many tees with plenty of towering trees for company but the view ahead is mostly wide-open fairways, and on my visit, with little rough at all.

What I liked about Gap Bayard is that a good number of tee shots such as the fourth, sixth, ninth, 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th holes saw you playing to fairways or greens below the level of the tee. Standing on these particular holes seems to give you a little sense of authority, so much so, you just want to get away a good tee shot, and more so at the last where the stately-looking clubhouse is proudly staring at you in the distance.

If I had to choose a favourite three holes, and while thrilled to have played a second shot into the uphill par-4 12th to just two-feet for a birdie, it would be the back-to-back par-5 eight hole and the par-3 ninth along with the par-4 15th.

The eighth, at 491-metres off the yellow tee, is a very slight dog-leg right-to-left hole and after getting your tee shot away from between the trees, you arrive on the fairway to be greeted by the impressive sight off to the right of the mountains staring down on you.

Leaving the eighth you take the path through the pine trees emerging onto the raised tee of the 184-metre par-3 ninth holes and where your attention is immediately drawn to the stunning view to the town of Gap well below.  The ninth hole is rated 15 index on the scorecard and guarded front left by a bunker that I managed to find on route to a bogey ‘4’.

My birdie on the par-4 12th was initially luck more than anything. We know in golf when the game is a little off, it helps to change something. I had made a mess of the 11th so I arrived on 12 tee deciding to change my golf ball. Though the sight of a brand new Callaway Chrome ‘Soft’ heading right into the trees was not planned but I had the fortune of the ball running between two towering pines and emerging on the other side presenting me with a clear shot to the green. An 8-iron second shot to just a couple of feet to walk off with a ‘3’ had me pretty chuffed with myself.

I chose the par-4 15th again because of the stunning backdrop of the Alps. As I pointed out, you stand on a raised tee looking down a hole measuring 356-metres off the yellow tees and another hole at Gap Bayard that cries out to send your tee shot soaring to the fairway well below.

The closing hole at Gap Bayard is your first sight of the clubhouse since teeing-up though it’s a kind of Augusta National 18th hole tee shot where you first have to thread your way between the trees on both sides of the tee to a fairway below.  With the tee shot proudly well down the fairway, and having managed not to be blocked by a clump of trees on the left side, it was also a clear shot – a 9-iron – finishing the round with a very satisfying two-putt par.

Gap Bayard was truly Alpine golf at its best with the golf course in wonderful condition, the fairways generous, the greens very receptive and all the time, the surrounding Alps making for an imposing and impressive sight.

And here’s a great Alpine Flying School introductory offer!

Enjoy a 45-minute discovery flight and the use of a motorcycle for two days for only €150.  Usually €186. So, what are you waiting for? And don’t forget to pack the clubs!

…….. Special thank you to Remy, Christian and everyone at the Alpine Flying School and also a big thank you to Gaetan Demard at Gap Bayard Golf Club.  Looking forward to returning.


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