|Once you've lost all your balls and Golf Park Plzen, head to the Pilsner Urquell brewery down the road (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)|
PLZEN, Czech Republic -- Golf then beer, or beer then golf?
That's the main question on your mind as you travel the 50 miles from Prague to Plzen, Czech Republic, home of Golf Park Plzen and the birthplace of pilsner.
"Beer and golf, it's the best combination," said a smiling Martin Vincl, assistant professional at Golf Park Plzen.
Given the difficulty of the short, narrow, tree- and water-filled golf course, you might want to put off your rounds until after the round. You might well need some that world-famous Pilsner Urquell to ease the scorecard sting.
Opened in 2004, Golf Park Plzen had to be re-evaluated by the Czech Golf Federation because golfers were regularly shooting far higher than their handicap. It's not the length (just under 5,600 meters -- about 6,100 yards -- from the championship tees), but trouble lurks on almost every shot in the form of woods, water and steep ravines. "The course is quite difficult for long but not accurate players," Vincl said. "It's not easy for beginners because of tiny fairways, many hazards and long rough."
Playing through the course's lowest areas, the front nine has the most water and trees. An almost-halfway house off the eighth green offers golfers a Pilsner Urquell or a belt of herbal liqueur Becherovka, the Czech national shot.
From there, back-to-back par 5s bring you to the signature 11th on the shores of Ejpovice Lake. It's a mere 123 meters, but the shallow green is one of the course's smallest. If you're gonna miss, miss long -- falling short drops you in the lake, but bunkers behind the green corral strong shots.
You can pretty much leave the driver alone until no. 16, where it'll practically jump out of the bag at the site of a short par 4 with a steeply elevated tee. A creek runs along the left side, but there's plenty of bailout room right. The 17th and 18th are roomy as well, helping you forget all the trouble you've just come through.
The Pilsner Urquell brewery offers daily tours of its historic older and modern new facilities.
The 75-minute tour starts with a glossy 15-minute film full of slow-motion pours and cheesy reenactments of brewers admiring the beer like it was a Picasso. It's more propaganda than history, but a video later in the tour features more original footage and actual information.
More interesting than either is the culminating visit to the brewery's original cellars, where the beer was fermented and kept in thousands of barrels lining the corridors. Tour-goers are offered a taste of unfiltered Pilsner from a giant, 2,000-gallon wooden barrel.
From there most visitors head straight for Na Spilce, the large on-site pub, to taste the difference between the unfiltered beer from a wooden barrel and the modern Pilsner brewed in stainless steel.
If the brewery tour doesn't satisfy your thirst for knowledge of hops, fermentation and pasteurization (and be honest, can you ever get enough?), head for the Brewing Museum (Pivovarske Muzeum) in the center of Plzen. For a literally cooler tour, check out the city's historic underground, the largest subterranean labyrinth in Europe.
The central square, Namesti Republiky, and Smetanova sady (Smetana Park) are good places for more chilling out. Should your thirst return, there are pubs aplenty serving the world's first and best pilsner.
Golf Park Plzen opened a hotel last year and is a good hub for golfers, considering there are six courses within about 80 kilometers of the course.
Hotel Central (www.central-hotel.cz) is a four-star place on the Namesti Republiky in the shadow of towering St. Bartholomew's Church.
The course restaurant serves traditional Czech fare like goulash and dumplings as well as burgers and seasonal offerings. Pilsner Urquell's Na Spilce, the largest restaurant in the country, features a wide menu and a unique atmosphere in the brewery's historical fermenting cellars.
Riegrova street off the main square in Plzen proper has a variety of restaurants of varying quality and class; a budget choice is U Senku, where you can eat and drink well for less than 200 crowns (about $9.50) a head. A popular option with the locals is Zumbera pub on Bezrucova street, though seats can be hard to come by at peak dinner hours.
Got a powerful thirst? Here are some tips on enjoying the finest pilsner beers in the world.
March 19, 2007
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.
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