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Golf Resort Karlovy Vary expanded to 18 holes in 1933.
Golf Resort Karlovy Vary expanded to 18 holes in 1933. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)

Golf is thriving at the historic Golf Resort Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- While golf for the masses is certainly a recent phenomenon in the Czech Republic, it doesn't mean there aren't clubs with a rich tradition and storied history.

One of those is the Golf Resort Karlovy Vary, a club and facility with a tradition more than a century old.

Located in the spa city of Karlovy Vary (founded in 1370) in western Bohemia about 80 miles west of Prague, the golf resort is a perfect fit for its surroundings of great shopping, arts, restaurants and, of course, hotels and spas.

While the city is known for 12 hot curative springs, it also has the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, glass manufacturing and a special plum called Carlsbad Plums, which are candied in hot syrup. Karlovy Vary was also the setting for several movies, including the James Bond flick "Casino Royale," as well as "Last Holiday," which used the 300-year-old Grandhotel Pupp, which provides dining and lodging for the resort.

Golf survives at Karlovy Vary

As for its golf history, there's a little of that, too. The original golf course, which opened in 1904, was just nine holes, next to Geyser Park in the southern part of the city. As the popularity of golf grew, the founders decided to build an 18-hole course, which opened in 1933 at its current location. French architect C. Noskowski designed it.

Golf, however, fell out of favor as the economy soured and World War II approached, and the political climate changed. Golf was labeled an "undesirable sport," but a small group of earlier members managed to preserve the deteriorating course. On April 3, 1949, the club was reborn. Since 1951 it has a tradition to hold the so-called "New Year's Day Drive," which takes place every Jan. 1 at 1 p.m.

Today, the club is the biggest in the Czech Republic with more than 900 members. Owned by Golf Resort Karlovy Inc. since 1996, the course is a partnership between private investors and the city. The course received a complete renovation in the late 1990s, got the clubhouse its earlier members always dreamed of and built a new maintenance facility. The 6,800-yard par 72 has become a favorite for travelers, locals and especially corporate guests who come from all over Europe.

Situated in the center of the resort, the clubhouse has a bar, VIP studio, beauty salon and relaxation room that offers steam, whirlpool and massages.

Playing the course at Karlovy Vary

The golf course at Golf Resort Karlovy Vary is traditional parkland golf at its best. With views of the surrounding Krusne Hory Mountains and countryside, the holes meander gently throughout the property, offering a few elevated tees, doglegs and elevated greens. Bunkering is largely strategic and the course is playable for all levels of players.

While it's difficult to argue a signature hole, plenty are memorable and pretty, like the par-3 17th, with a stream crossing in front of the tee, accented by a scenic bridge and an assortment of trees, including a majestic weeping willow. From the first elevated tee to the reachable par-5 18th, golfers will enjoy this walking course. Ponds also come into play on several holes, but they aren't a prominent part of the design.

One of the more memorable holes is certainly the seventh, an uphill dogleg-left par 4 with a large bunker complex left of the hole. Pulling an approach shot can lead to all sorts of problems.

Certainly the key to playing the golf course well, as it seems to be with most old layouts, is course management. Driver off the tee on all par 4s probably isn't a good strategy. Accuracy, of course, is more important than distance, and once you get to Karlovy Vary's bentgrass greens, more fun begins.

Golf Resort Karlovy Vary: The verdict

Located in one of the most popular destinations in the Czech Republic outside of Prague, the Golf Resort Karlovy Vary is an easy vacation destination for golfers, especially from Europe.

But westerners who take a trip to central Europe, and Prague in particular, may want to consider a side trip to this region. Combined with the spas, shopping, and excellent Bohemian cuisine and beer, visitors won't be disappointed. Plus, the Karlovy Vary golf course is just one of several in the area, so golfers will have some variety if they so desire.

As for the golf at the resort, conditions, scenery and the old-school feel are all there. The clubhouse is certainly one of the highlights. With a well stocked golf shop (especially for Europe), excellent dining and all the relaxation facilities, you can make a day of it at Golf Resort Karlovy Vary. And for those who want to do a stay and play, the historic Grandhotel Pupp also awaits.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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