|Golf Resort Karlstejn's design maximizes views of the namesake 14th-century castle. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)|
KARLSTEJN, Czech Republic -- On a fine day in 1348, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV stood at the site of his future fortress in the hills of Karlstejn, 30 kilometers from his post in Prague, and gazed across the valley.
"Six hundred years from now, this castle will serve a grand backdrop to the country's most prestigious golf course. It will be revered the world over, and even Samuel L. Jackson will come to see it."
Okay, Charles probably didn't have Hollywood celebs in mind when he built Karlstejn. It's just that the 14th-century castle seems such a perfect fit for the late-20th-century Golf Resort Karlstejn.
Charles' majestic country home was most certainly on Canadian architect Les Furber's mind when his design firm plotted the course.
Furber sculpted the hillside and routed the track to maximize the view, particularly on the first, 17th and 18th holes. Eyed from the proper angle, the pin at No. 12 is perfectly aligned with the castle's top turret.
Depending on whom you ask, Golf Resort Karlstejn is either the best course in the Prague area, the Czech Republic or all of Central Europe. Opened in 1993, it hosted the 1997 Czech Open, a European PGA Tour event (won by Bernhard Langer). The club proudly displays a photo gallery of famous visitors, from Czech hockey hero Dominik Hasek, to movie stars Sean Connery and Samuel L. Jackson.
The club is also working with Furber to construct an additional nine holes in hopes of alleviating some of the heavy traffic it currently sees. It's a very popular venue for corporate tournaments - 90 of the club's 140 prime-season golf days are taken up by competitions - and the 600 members have agitated for greater access.
"Having an extra nine holes will allow the members to also be able to play on days we host tournaments and outings," Director of Golf Michal Abraham said. "It will keep them much happier."
Scheduled to open in fall 2007, the new nine won't have the prime castle views of the original 18, but, perched on the other side of the hill, it will be less subject to the always prevailing winds.
"Wind plays a very big factor here," Abraham said. "I think out of this whole season, there were maybe 10 or so days with no wind."
The strength of the championship course is its short par 4s and four diverse par 5s. The 13th is a thinking-man's hole, playing 526 meters. The semi-blind tee shot is followed by a bottleneck lay-up to an approach shot into a small, heavily guarded elevated green.
No. 2 is arguably the most exciting hole, a steep downhill par 4. At 280 meters with a rightward twist, it's drivable, but a pond guards the left side of the green and a small creek runs in front, leaving most players to launch an iron into the sky and watch it drop into a large landing zone in front of the pond. Brave souls (who use mulligans, probably) can take a crack at the green with a driver or 3-wood from the tee.
You aren't going to find a better (or more expensive) golf club in the Prague area. Golf Resort Karlstejn is the pick of the litter. Local golfers and businesses know it, so best to call in advance to secure a tee time.
Furber's modern, North American-style design features more than 80 bunkers. Fairways are wide, and aside from Nos. 4 and 5, which play through low ground aptly called the "Valley of Death," there is usually a bailout zone on at least one side.
Golf Resort Karlstejn is fun to play - most holes are wide open enough to really bomb it (especially given the wealth of elevated tees), and the variety is excellent. You never feel like you've played the same hole twice. And golfing atop a valley in the Bohemian countryside with a 14th-century castle looming in the background never gets old.
November 27, 2006
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
While golf for the masses may be a recent phenomenon in the Czech Republic, that doesn't mean there aren't clubs with a rich tradition and storied history. Take the Golf Resort Karlovy Vary, for example. Dating back to 1904, the course has become a favorite for travelers, locals and especially corporate guests who come from all over Europe. Westerners who take a trip to central Europe, and Prague in particular, may want to consider a side trip to this region. It would be worth it.
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