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Czech Republic - The Golf Republic!

The Czech Republic is earning a good reputation across Europe as a prospective golf destination. Golf in the Czech Republic means great natural beauty, a mix of superb golf courses and a unique atmosphere.

Golf has deep roots in the Czech Republic. The history of this sport began to be written here at the beginning of the 20th Century in the valley of the river Teplá in the spa town of Karlovy Vary (www.karlovyvary.cz) when, after several requests from the local spa clientele, the first nine hole golf course opened in 1904. In the same year, the oldest golf club was registered here, and last year it celebrated the gala 100th anniversary of its existence. Later, on August 21st, 1905, this was followed by another nine hole course in Marianske Lazne (www.marienbad.cz), opened with pomp and ceremony in the presence of the English King Edward VII. Contemporary golf in the Czech Republic now flourishes in the new social climate created after November 17th, 1989. After 40 years of restrictions, golf could again begin to develop freely. This showed itself very rapidly in the growth of both players and courses. In the 1990s, the number of players almost doubled.

In spite of its high quality sports facilities, the Czech Republic is not too well known as a golfing destination. The “Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year 2007” title awarded to the country in 2006 by IAGTO only confirms this fact. Only a few thousand people a year come to golf in the Czech Republic out of the total millions of foreign golf tourists. Let us now imagine the Czech Republic as a golfing destination, and see if our golf courses could in the future become an attractive draw for visitors.

The Czech Republic is a country where golfers can experience a unique combination of natural beauty, historic sights and golf. Czech golf has at this point managed to cover almost the entire map of the country. The boom in golf course construction (15% annual growth) is still going on, with investors concentrating mainly on high quality courses and their amenities, including accommodation and wellness programmes. Golf courses in the Czech Republic are generally remarkable for the high quality of services offered, the availability of all necessary equipment for rental, and even the sale of beginner’s courses for new players. Proof of the quality of Czech golf courses is also the fact that many have been designed by top foreign architects and golf players. We can name Gary Player (the golf course in Cihelny u Karlových Varů), Miguel A. Jiménez (Čeladná), Les Furber and Jim Eremko (Karlštejn) and John Burns (Konopiště). The best courses with the highest standards of service are in the vicinity of Prague, in the west Bohemian spa triangle, and in Northern Moravia. For example, there are exceptionally attractive courses in Karlštejn (www.karlstejn-golf.cz), Konopiště (www.gcko.cz), Marianske Lazne (www.golfml.cz), Karlovy Vary (www.golfresort.cz), Cihelny u Karlových Varů (www.agc-cihelny.cz), and Šilheřovice (www.golf-ostrava.cz) or Čeladná (www.prosper-golf.cz).

Golf near Castles or Chateaux

The golf course in Karlštejn (www.karlstejn-golf.cz) is unique for several reasons. It is located above the river Berounka in the Protected Nature Reserve of the Český Kras hills, only 50 minutes’ drive from the centre of Prague. The wooded hilly countryside, with its limestone rocks, abundant flora and fauna, and the majestic scenery of the gothic castle of Karlštejn (www.hradkarlstejn.cz), is a real oasis of peace and tranquillity. The course provides a high quality par 72, 18-hole, game. The changing terrain, natural cliffs, two lakes, and many sandstone obstacles, create a very attractive setting that will satisfy even the most demanding player. Thanks to the ‘easy bogey but hard birdie’ strategy, players of very different handicaps can play here. Moreover, in 2008 a brand new nine will be opened at Karlštejn and thus the golfers will be able to enjoy 27 holes in total. The golf course at Konopiště, too (www.gcko.cz), is named after the nearby neo-renaissance castle of Konopiště (www.zamek-konopiste.cz). At the present time, there are 36 championship holes in operation, and a nine-hole public course. The ambience of the Tvoršovice castle makes it an ideal place for the club house, which offers exceptional amenities, including a four star hotel, restaurant, conference rooms, golf accessories shop, dressing rooms and club rooms. The Golf Indoor Centre (golf simulator, driving range, putting and chipping green) is not just available in winter, but all year round. Hluboká nad Vltavou Golf Club (www.golfhluboka.cz), in South Bohemia, is a 27-hole facility set below Hluboka’s chateau (www.zamekhluboka.cz). The club has an 18-hole, par-71 golf course measuring 5,800 metres and a nine-hole, par-3 course as well as chipping and putting practice greens and a large driving range. Similarly, set in the fairy tale landscape of South Bohemia spotted with tenths of castles and chateaux, we will find Golf Club Mnich (www.golfmonachus.cz). One of the longest courses in the Czech Republic (5955 m), which was opened in 2004, is situated near the Austrian border in the area known as Czech Canada and offers 18 championship holes, par 73.

Golf and a spa

The golf course in Karlovy Vary (www.golfresort.cz) is located only few kilometres from the famous colonnades and springs of this largest Czech spa town (www.karlovyvary.cz). It offers players 18 holes, par 72, in hilly surroundings that are demanding on both the skill and the strength of the players. Amenities at the course are such that top level international events are held there. The golf course in nearby Marianske Lazne (www.marienbad.cz) has a royal birth certificate to show off, because it was opened in 1905 by the English King Edward VII, and in 2003, Queen Elizabeth II gave this golf course the right to use the title of Royal (www.golfml.cz). You could say that this course is the most beautiful example of Scottish and Irish landscape architecture from the end of the 19th century. Its 18 holes, par 72, in level park terrain are set in charming wooded countryside at 787 metres above sea level, which is why the season here starts later than on other Czech golf courses (May – October). The course is surrounded by pine and birch forests, so it is ideal for playing on hot summer days. It has special charm at the beginning of the fall, when the surrounding countryside takes on an unbelievable palette of colours. Proof of the quality of the course is the fact that several PGA European Tour championships attended by world class players have been held here. The youngest member in the golf family of the West Bohemia spa triangle is Golf Club Františkovy Lázně (www.gr-fl.cz). New 18-hole golf course, par 72 with the length of 6038 metres is only a few kilometres away from the pictureque spa town of Františkovy Lázně (www.franzensbad.cz). In the charming spa town of Poděbrady (www.lazne-podebrady.cz), only 50 kilometres east of Prague, is the Poděbrady golf course (www.golfpodebrady.cz). It was founded in 1961, has 18 holes, par 72, and is interesting for its numerous water hazards.

Golf and horseback riding

Some golf courses make it possible to combine golf with horseback riding. The Prosper Golf Club Čeladná (www.prosper-golf.cz) provides just such an opportunity, because it has at its disposal a Horse Ranch, with outdoor and indoor riding halls. Besides horseback riding, clients have two championship 18-hole, par 72, golf courses at their disposal, designed and very tastefully set in the picturesque surroundings of the Beskydy mountains by the Spanish professional PGA player, Angel Miguel Jiménez. The Nová Amerika Country Club (www.novagolf.cz) is the second largest golf resort in the Czech Republic, and there is a large selection of additional activities. Horseback riding, in the riding hall or outside, is one of them. Visitors can rent bikes, play table tennis and badminton, or try archery. The 27-hole course in Nová Amerika is made up from three independent 9 hole championship courses of different characters (Bohemia Garden, Maple Hills and Woodland). There is also an 18-hole Academy, par 3. The Bohemia Garden gives the impression of an English golf links. The setting of the course is such that it allows the wind to blow through. Fairways are sanded to decrease the acidity of the ground so that the grass grows much more slowly, and it is tougher in comparison to other courses. Maple Hills is a typical American style course with long fairways surrounded by large bunkers, wide ponds, big fountains, two small waterfalls and greens on small peninsulas. Finally, Woodland is a classic forest walk with characteristic narrow fairways, bunkers placed in strategically suitable places and with water hazards. They all have lovely big greens.

Golf boom to be continued...

Let´s get familiar with some of the recently opened golf courses which can easily bear comparison with the highest European standards. In West Bohemia, close to the home of Pilsner Urquell beer - Plzen, you can find Golf Park Plzeň (www.golfparkpl.cz) opened in 2004. While it is not among the longest courses, it is very technical due to the high number of water hazards and hilly terrain. Only two years later Golf Club Sokolov (www.golf-sokolov.cz) was opened. Created by land reclamation after the closing of a lignite mine this 18-hole golf course, par 72 is a good example of the positive influence of golf on the environment. If we move towards the center of Bohemia we will discover another new golf course called Sand Martin´s Holes (www.golfmladaboleslav.cz) close to the town of Mladá Boleslav. The 18-hole championship course was opened in 2007 and apart from other things it boasts the longest hole in the Czech Republic (hole No. 15 – 652 metres from white tees). 121 km north of Prague we will find other golf pearl Ypsilon Golf Resort Liberec (www.ygolf.cz). This 18-hole championship golf course was opened in 2006 and in the same year it was voted the Course of the Year 2006 by the Golf Digest magazine´s Czech version. Golf Resort Kunětická Hora (www.gckh.cz) is situated 117 km east of Prague and was opened in August 2007. One of the longest courses in the Czech Republic is spreading over 140 hectares and is designed by world-renowned Australian golf architect Graham Marsh. The golf course promises to provide the golfers with the top class experience in all aspects possible. Moravia in very the east of the country is not lagging behind. In the north there is Ropice Golf Course (www.beskydgolf.com) designed by prominent Austrian architect Hans Georg Erhardt. In the south golfers can fully enjoy 27 holes of Golf Brno Kaskáda (www.golfbrno.cz) designed by the British architect Jonathan Gaunt.

Indoor golf

In the Czech Republic, golf is a seasonal sport. Play starts at the beginning of April and ends at the end of October. Off-season it is possible to play indoor golf – of which the Czech Republic has a wide range, in comparison to other European countries. In Prague alone there are two large indoor full service centres, including play from bunkers and putting. Many of the larger Czech cities have indoor golf centres where golf is played on simulators in the winter season. Among guaranteed tips are these indoor golf courses: Golf Centrum Čechie in Prague 8 (www.hotelcechie.cz), Erpet Golf Centrum in Prague 5 (www.erpet.cz), Indoor Golf in the Štiřín Conference Centre (www.rgc.cz), or Villa Golfista in Marianske Lazne.

Practical information

Most of the clubs and golf courses in the Czech Republic are semi-private. Golf clubs hold their own tournaments, and they are also open for a fee to non-members as well. Fees start at a minimum 15 Euros on 9-hole courses up to maximum amounts of 100 Euros for a weekend game. Average fees on a good quality course are between 40 and 70 Euros. In the Czech Republic at the present time there are more than 80 golf courses. Standard amenities include restaurants, shops and rental of golf equipment.

Standards organisations such as the Professional Golf Association of the Czech Republic (PGAC) (www.pgac.cz) operate in the Czech Republic wherever golf is being taught. In the majority of golf courses you can also reserve a golf lesson from a professional. Czech golf clubs also offer the opportunity to participate in several day long courses in playing golf. Prices for the lessons are advantageous for foreign visitors. A single lesson with a Czech professional begins around 20 Euros. Other organisations which can provide useful information about golf are the Czech Golf Federation (www.cgf.cz), the Czech Golf Travel Association (www.cgta.cz), or even the www.golf.cz internet portal.

Czech golf courses are of high quality, interesting to play and have a unique appearance thanks to their surroundings and the options they offer. Proof of the increasing prominence of the Czech Republic as a golf destination is the fact that in 2005 the important international Golf Business Forum 2005 conference (www.golfbusinessforum.com) was held here followed by St. Andrews and Jacques Leglise Trophies www.standrews.cz (golf tournaments) in August 2006.