Designer Keith Preston – architect of Ypsilon, one of the Czech Republic’s top tracks – came up with another wonderful 18-hole layout when the Albatross course opened in the summer of 2009. Built at a reputed cost of around 30 million euros by entrepreneur Jari Simane, the course occupies a moderately hilly 200-acre site close to the Cesky Kras Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Prague.
The course – presenting a mighty challenge at 7,358 yards when played from the championship tees – is laid out in two returning nines, each of which conclude with water-laden holes close to the clubhouse.
In particular, the slightly doglegged par four 18th is a tough finishing hole. A creek runs down the right of the fairway and a lake stretches up to the green on the opposite flank. The putting surface may be generous in size but it’s still a daunting prospect to hit and hold the green in two shots, especially if the pin is positioned on the left hand side.
Such is the quality of the Albatross layout, it held the inaugural Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters on the Ladies European Tour in 2011 when France’s Jade Schaeffer won the event. The event returned to the Albatross Resort in 2012 when England’s Melissa Reid (playing in her first tournament since the tragic death of her mother) recorded an emotional victory.Owner Jari Simane hopes the Masters is the first of many similar competitions to be held in the Czech Republic as, in his own words, “it is essential to host professional tournaments to prove that the country is serious about building its image as a golf destination”.
The European Tour last visited the Czech Republic in 2011 when the short-lived Czech Open was hosted at the Prosper Golf Resort in the east of the country. In 2014, the Albatross Golf Resort hosted a new €1m tournament, the D+D REAL Czech Masters, which Welshman Jamie Donaldson won by two shots from fellow countryman Bradley Dredge.
In the same event since then, Thomas Pieters from Belgium won by 3 strokes from Swede Pelle Edberg in 2015, Paul Peterson from the United States had a narrow 1-shot winning margin against Thomas Pieters in 2016 and Haydn Porteous from South African beat Englishman Lee Slattery by two strokes in 2017.
Albatross is a championship standard parkland course about 40mins outside Prague and current home course to the European Tour's Czech Masters. As I was holidaying in central Prague, I actually took public transport out to the course: first a metro train and then a bus to the local town outside Prague called Vysoký Újezd. A little bit of planning required, but easy enough.
There are all the things you'd expect from a championship design; penal rough, plenty of bunkers and water hazards in play. The conditioning was excellent, but at the end of the round my feeling is that it was a good, satisfying golf course and club, but it just wasn't great. Maybe it's still too immature a course, but too many holes felt sameish and aside from the 4th and 16th-18th, the holes aren't really memorable. Not boring, just mediocre. Green fee was 1750CZK, which seemed fair for this standard of course.
One interesting thing when I played, is that the front office where I checked in and paid green fees were inflexible about whether I could tee off a little earlier and the starter pretty much wouldn't make a decision when I requested to try and tee off. I was keen, as there was a social group of about 20 milling near the first tee and I was a single scheduled to play behind them. As it was, I just asked the first group of four golfers whilst they were getting themselves sorted out, if they'd mind my hitting off before them and of course they had no issue!
Played the Albatross on the weekend and for a course thats only been open for one week it was in good shape. The greens still need some work, but the rest of the course was great and the beautiful weather was also a huge plus. The staff were fantastic from the restaurant staff, to the girl in the pro shop and the reception/reservation staff (Sona, Petra & Ponahla) were excellent.