If you are planning to play golf in Austria, and especially if you are anywhere around Vienna, Adamstal is a must and will most probably be the highlight of your experience. It is definitely sitting at the very top tier of Austrian golf.
You will drive along a winding road into a narrow valley, almost a gorge between two sharp mountain ridges, and your GPS will insist that there is a golf course 3 kms ahead. How could one fit a golf course in such a location? In fact, just after I played the course I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Howes, the architect of the development of Adamstal. He took the initial track created by its president, Franz Wittmann (of European rally racing fame in the 1970’s), created 10 holes and redesigned the existing ones to produce a 19-hole wonder. He told me that he thought the exact same thing when he first drove there to meet with Mr. Wittmann: how will an 18-hole golf course fit here?
And then, you step on the first tee of the 18-hole course, just above the small driving range, and the magic is about to begin.
Adamstal is a mountain course, there is no doubt about that. The holes were carved out of the mostly abrupt hills towering above the clubhouse, which sits at the bottom of the narrow valley next to the small river. Although Franz Wittmann told me that two-thirds of the club’s 950 members prefer to walk the length of this course, I would recommend to hire a buggy, at least the first time, so you don’t spend too much energy climbing transition paths, and keep enthusiasm to enjoy the spectacular landscapes on offer from virtually everywhere you ball will land during your round… provided you land on fairways and greens of course, because due to the relief there are a lot of places out there where even looking for a ball is impossible, let alone find it.
Golf-wise, Adamstal is a very good test of golf. After the first hole, which one could rate as a warmer hole, things get quickly serious with the first really uphill 2nd, a short but narrow par-four where every meter on your drive will count to have a better chance of reaching the green at the top with a short enough iron so the ball stays there. A breather with the par-five 3rd, and uphill you go again with the par-four 4th where precision with the drive is needed to go for the green next. Then, the par-four 5th offers a different challenge: it is a dogleg right, and some 125 meters from the back tees there is a rocky formation on the right side (the abrupt mountain side) that hides the exact location and setting of the dogleg. Strategy and your par-saver book are essential here, because if you try and fly these rocks, you will probably end up in the next rocky outgrowth that defends the dogleg another 100 meters further… Better aim at the bunker straight ahead just outside the turn!
The par-three 6th hole offers a moment of relaxation and pure visual delight. It is a short, slightly downhill hole, at 115 meters from the tips, with a green tucked behind a small lake, but it is the signature hole of the course because of the magnificent view behind and around the green, over the valley and on to the next mountains. Now, you caught your breath, time to get ready for the “Green Monster” 7th. This par-five spans three hills and two glens with ravines on the left, it is a triple dogleg with a green that is really impossible (save for long, straight hitting pros I would think) to reach in two strokes. Another spectacular landscape awaits you on the green, and again on the fairway of the par-four 9th.
Need to recharge? A gem of a halfway house is waiting for you, complete with most helpful staff, a small terrace with a great view, and both liquid and solid regenerants. Then on to new adventures, and new wonders in terms of experience. I probably could go on describing each hole and the pleasure I took all along. My favorite hole in the back nine was probably the 13th, a straight enough par-four with elevated tees, with a trick: a 220-meter carry is needed from the back tees to clear the small ravine created by the brook crossing the fairway and feeding the pond next to the green, at the end of this narrow little valley. Of course you can decide to lay up before the ravine, but then you will have a 180-meter second shot to the not-so-wide green…
Some other unique features of this course? There is a 180 elevation change between the highest point on the course (on the 5th hole) and the lowest (the clubhouse), yet there are only three holes that are truly uphill: the 2nd, the 4th, and the 15th. The course looks and feel unbelievably natural, yet Jeff Howes caused 500,000 cubic meters of soil and rock to be moved or blasted to create only 10 holes when he added to the existing design. And, of course, one should not forget that when you leave the 18th green, you find a sign pointing to the 19th hole, and it is not the clubhouse, but an extra par-three hole, which is duly documented in the stroke book!
Date: June 15, 2017