Czech Republic is a hugely popular tourist destination for a wide variety of age groups because of its attractive mix of history and culture. In terms of sport, football and ice hockey may dominate the back pages, but golf is on the rise here with Prague establishing itself as one of the new up-and-coming hotbeds of the game in Europe.
Prague, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a great place to start your golfing adventure. But before unloading your sticks be sure to explore the capital. Prague Castle overlooks the city on the banks of the River Vltava, and includes Saint Vitus Cathedral, the oldest gothic cathedral in central Europe. There's a wealth of stunning architecture which encompasses Art Nouveau to Baroque, Renaissance, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern. There are hundreds of concert halls and galleries, and the city hosts many art festivals. Partygoers will also discover an energetic nightlife scene.
Prior to the 2009 Moravia Silesia Open, it had been 12 years since the European Tour had visited the Czech Republic when Bernhard Langer claimed the Chemapol Trophy Czech Open at the Karlstejn Golf Resort in 1997. Canadian architects Les Furber and Jim Eremko have undoubtedly produced one of the county's finest woodland courses. This 27-hole layout, about 15 miles to the south of Prague, demands acute planning with its narrow fairways and water hazards. The downhill, dog-leg 2nd is one of the most memorable tests, a short par 4 that entices confident drivers to have a crack at a green well-guarded by water and unforgiving slopes. The course also shares the same picturesque countryside as the famous Karlstejn Castle.
Staying with the castle theme and also south of Prague (by about 25 miles) is Konopiste Castle, which was home to Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose assassination led to the start of the First World War. Golf Resort Konopiste features the Radecky and D'Este Course, both of which meander their way through forests and water hazards, which creates a tough, yet fun test. Those seeking an easier ride can play the public nine-hole course which measures just 1,500 yards, compared with the 7,132 yards to be negotiated on the tougher of the 18-holers, the Radecky Course - indeed, holes 12 and 14 approach the 600-yard mark. But it will probably be the 18th that stays longest in the memory; a downhill par 4 with water looming large in front of a beautifully modelled green - one of the course's characteristics. The Ben Hogan/Augusta style bridge only adds to a fantastic finish. Marianske Lazne is one of the picks in the west of the country. Located in the town of Karlovy Vary, where Casino Royale was filmed, it has been likened to Worplesdon in Surrey. It was here where the Chemapol Trophy Czech Open was played in the mid 1990s. The course opened in 1905 and approaches 6,750 yards from the back tees with pine trees and woods lining the relatively flat fairways. The 10th is described by the club as one of the most difficult holes in Europe where only pinpoint accuracy will see you negotiate a tight fairway with trouble left and right, as well as a green protected by water.
Karlovy Vary Golf Club itself is another gem and one of the oldest courses in the Czech Republic, having been founded in 1904. The refurbished terrace is an excellent place to unwind with some great views out onto the course, including the 18th.
Further south and an hour's drive from the capital lies the city of Plzen, home to pilsner beer. At just over 6,100 yards Plzen Golf Club is not as unforgiving as some of the country's tour venues, again favouring those who can rely on finding fairways consistently as opposed to just sheer length. Set among birch and alder groves alongside the Klabava river and Ejpovice lake, arguably the course's best defence is the terrain with a few awkward climbs. The summer terrace is an excellent place to try one of two of the local brews.
In the north east of the country sits Prosper Golf Resort, of which Miguel Angel Jiménez was co-designer. Both the 18-hole New and Old Course in Celadná are great challenges, but it was the latter that hosted this year's Moravia Silesia Open, won by Swede Oskar Henningsson with a 13-under-par total of 275. Jiménez's first co-design has seen an emphasis placed on accuracy in order to score well on these two hilly tracks. Both courses are protected by tree-lined fairways and punishing bunkers, sloping through the picturesque Beskydy Mountains. The 15th on the Old is the signature hole, an island green with a cascading water feature. The course epitomises how far golf has come in the Czech Republic and is just one of a number of resorts that look set to help interest in the game rise yet further.
WHERE TO PLAY
PROSPER GOLF RESOR T: T: +420 558 440 410 W: prosper-golf.cz NEW: 7,031 yards, par 72 OLD: 7,155 yards, par 72
MARIANSKE LAZNE T: +420 354 604 300 W: golfml.cz STATS: 6,749 yards, par 72
GOLF RESORT KONOPISTE T: +420 317 784 044 W: gcko.cz RADECKY: 7,132 yards, par 72 D'ESTE: 6,695 yards, par 72
WHERE TO STAY
HOTEL PROSPER T: +420 558 440 311 W: hotel-prosper.cz
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