Originally established in 1937 on the suggestion of the Yugoslav Royal Family, the King's course was largely abandoned after the Second World War, until it was re-designed in 1972 by Donald Harradine. During the early days, local dignitaries and nobility from all over Europe would play at Royal Bled, including the Duke of Kent.
A breathtaking aspect of the King's course is the scenery. With the snow-topped mountains of the Julian Alps in close proximity, the delightful forests that border the course, and a proliferation of wildlife to observe on the walk round, it really is more than just a golf course.
If you enjoy golf in majestic surroundings, there's no place better than the delightful King's course. Playing Bled requires careful strategy – especially now that water hazards have recently been installed on the back nine – and although it's sited in a mountainous region, the course itself is not particular hilly.
In the early 1990s, Gerard and Gunter Hauser set out a 9-hole course called the Lake's and this newer course, the first half of a projected 18-hole championship layout, is almost as challenging as the King's course because it occupies a similar undulating landscape to its more famous older sibling.
The European Challenge Tour has staged tournaments on the King's course – the BTC Slovenian Open was held here from 1997 to 1999 – and it’s hosted many elite amateur events in recent years, including the European Boys’ Team Championship and European Amateur Ladies' Team Championship.
The King’s course re-opened in the summer of 2017 after an extensive renovation program by Swan Golf Designs and William Swan kindly provided us with the following passage:
“The King’s Course at Royal Bled has now reopened after an extensive renovation under the guidance of Swan Golf Designs. During the two-year project, the course was extended to 6,653 metres with redesigned and rebuilt greens, tees and bunkers, ten new water features, state-of-the-art irrigation system and comprehensive short-game academy and practice range.
Set within the Julian Alps, bordering Slovenia’s Triglav National Park and within sight of the historic castle at Bled, the King’s Course has been restored to its position as Central Europe’s premier golf destination.”
After the mild horror for this curmudgeon to be asked for 150 euros well in advance, I was very ready to be sceptical about all aspects of Royal Bled; indeed I felt that I might be bled.
On early arrival, I was disarmed by the very welcoming, helpful staff. A breakfast of some quality (not just ham and cheese) was whipped up in no time. The coffees came quickly and were top notch. The pro shop gentleman couldn't have been more helpful. Given this preamble and the gorgeous location, I was in expansive mood as I set off.
Other reviewers have described the course very well. It is in beautiful condition (September 2019). Every hole has its challenge but there no silly over-the-top punishing holes. It is a beautiful walk and not especially steep anywhere but for the rise to the second tee.
Afterwards, the flash locker room (big TV with golf channel, armchairs, fruit basket, electronic lockers) make a shower mandatory.
RB is all class so this curmudgeon was a happy man after a superb day out. Travel to play it!
After the First World War, Yugoslav King Aleksander Karadordevic chose Bled as his summer residence. It was a popular choice!
Donald Harradine completely reinvented the course making the most of the stunning mountain back drops to produce a championship course. Whilst the resulting course is eminently walkable, it does make the most of the movement in the property.
There is enough elevation change throughout to provide the variety needed to elevate the course from 'good to great'. Elevated tees at holes 7, 9, 10 & 14 enhance the impact of the surrounding scenery and make for some thrilling tee shots!
Bled is a thinking man's course. From the championship tees the course measures 6,563 metres, and provides a stiff test for low markers. Each hole is framed by forest, and defends par robustly with strategically placed bunkering or water or both. But while Bled is a challenge for all, it is quite playable (and enjoyable) for everyone off the appropriate tees.
In 2017 the King's course was extensively renovated by Swan Designs who lengthened the course, and rebuilt tees, greens and bunkers in what was a comprehensive overhaul.
More recently Bled's status was recognised when the Royal Karadordevic family formally ordained the club 'Royal Bled'. Long live the King!
Royal Bled is one of the most romantic golfing destinations in Europe. The setting is picturesque, and the newly refurbished rooms in 'The King's House' are worthy of royalty- as are the dining and other services.
The golf is sublime- both the championship King's course and the nine-hole Lakes course are nicely manicured, world class courses in that 'picturebook setting'. And after golf a visit to Bled Castle or a cruise on the lake can be recommended.
Royal Bled is the perfect destination for a lad's or lasses golf trip, but for the sake of ongoing marital harmony I suggest you take the better half and stay a few days.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
This place takes some beating. SUrprised it is only 96 in continental Europe. Having played lots of the courses ahead of it, I think it deserves to be much higher.
There aren't many courses where you could go on holiday and play 5 or 5 days in a row, but this in one of them. I am there now, and it's not getting boring.
Stunning location, with incredible scenery and backdrop.
There isn't a weak hole on the course - the front 9 is just a selection of good holes, and then you reach the turn which plays a little differently due to much more water being in play.
Really strong set of par 3s - all playing a different distance. I play off 2 and from the yellow tees my 4 clubs today were 6 iron, 9 iron, 4 iron and 7 iron.
Par 5s are good and all different. Probably the best of the bunch is the 16th with water all down the left.
One criticism? The greens are perhaps a little too extreme with slopes. Maybe as I play here more I will start to learn where to hit (or where not to hit it!) but so far I have found them a little too slopey.
Can't wait to play it again tomorrow!!
It was my first visit to Royal Bled and I was thoroughly impressed with the whole experience. The golf course is set in a stunning location with mountains as a backdrop. The course itself is challenging but fair. The greens fast, undulating and tricky making it a course you want to go and play again! For me the signature hole is the par 3 10th to an island green - it's all about club selection here..take your par and move on!! A beer in the 19th is a must with the fabulous vista of the mountains...the best course in Slovenia by some way.
After an extensive renovation of the Kings course this course has become beautifuler than before!
Really nice fairways, good bunker placement, great added water hazards and fantastic and very undulating greens! If ball is on the wrong spot on the green you could have very challenging putts!
Great clubhouse, fantastic practice facilities and friendly staff!
Must play if in the region even worth a longer trip
Slovenia isn’t a country known for producing good golf courses, but it is known for its natural beauty and its rugged mountain ranges. What you’ll experience at Royal Bled is a truly unique blend of beauty and quality, as the course here uses its natural terrain to create a challenging yet fun layout, enhanced by some of the most breath-taking scenery you could ever expect to see while playing golf. The experience the venue offers if one of class and sophistication, as the attention to detail is noticeable as soon as you reach the forecourt. With a brand-new state-of-the-art driving range and pyramids of balls waiting to be hit, two high spec chipping and bunker practice areas and an enormous rolling putting practice area, this is truly a location for the golf connoisseur who appreciates the very best facilities for golf preparation.
One of the most noticeable assets to Royal Bled is how the designers have used the natural topography to create a very playable and fair design, routing the holes through an extremely hilly landscape, yet making them feel balanced and playable. Despite the undulating terrain, the course is very walkable and flows nicely from hole to hole through two loops of 9, both starting and finishing at the clubhouse.
The front 9 starts with a very inviting tee shot on a hole just short of 400 yards to get things underway. It should be a straight forward par if you get your tee shot on the fairway, but any mistakes in the approach will test your short game early on, as the green is well protected with bunkers and run offs. This sets the tone of the course early, as the protection around all of the putting surfaces is well thought out, rewarding accurate shot making with precise approach play and distance control. None more so than on the par 4 - 14th, where the green lies at an angle with water behind, and any shot slightly long and left is likely to find water. The greens have severe humps and hollows, but due to the quality of the design and the purity and density of the bent grass, they are incredibly fair, and a good putter with a good eye for green reading will surely prosper here. The options for pin placements seem endless, as the greens are vast and varied. In the cases on the 9th and 19th a double green is in play, covering what looks like over 100 square meters of ground. The quality of the bunkering is outstanding, this is helped by the small number of rounds played here, but the attention to detail in ensuring they are well prepared and maintained is nothing short of what you’d expect to see on a PGA or European Tour event, with flattened sand around the slopes, meaning shots aren’t plugged unfairly.
As a golf course, there is plenty of variation to the challenges in front of you, with a great mix of short par 4’s, reachable par 5’s and well protected par 3’s. One slight criticism of the par 3’s is that 3 of them did play the same club from the tees of the day. This could be avoided as there is ample teeing space to move the markers, so it may be something they could easily improve in the future. I’d like to be able to play a short-iron, mid-iron and long-iron at the various par 3 holes, which could easily be achieved. One par 3 that does seem out of character for the course is the 11th. It’s a very Amercianised hole, almost reminiscent of the 17th at Sawgrass, and with the course feeling so natural in such beautiful landscape it seems out of place to have a hole so manicured with such cosmetic design.
On the whole, this is a must play course for anyone visiting Slovenia and a chance to fit in a round or two. The rental clubs I was given were of the highest order, so even if you are here on a holiday a round to experience it isn’t out of the question. However, with 12 excellent rooms on site and an additional 9 hole course, and only a 20 minute drive from Ljubljana airport, I would suggest any golfer who wants a top quality and truly unforgettable golf experience should consider making a trip to play Royal Bled. SB
The King’s course is one of Europe’s more revered golfing layouts, dating back to the 1930s and an age when the sport was played by diplomats, foreign ambassadors and other important guests of Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. Given a new lease of life when it was renovated by Donald Harradine in the early 1970s, the course has recently been elevated to new heights following a complete remodel by Howard Swan’s design company.
Three years in duration, the upgrade project involved the reconstruction of all the tees, greens and bunkers, the installation of a new irrigation system and the introduction of new water features on the back nine. Hundreds of trees were also removed to help the course connect with its surroundings, particularly on the opening three holes where golfers now have clear views of Bled Castle.
Fairways have been widened to allow better angles into certain pin positions and green sites have been fashioned to place a premium on short game play, with creative contouring offering a wide choice of hole positions on every green. And with the overall length increased to 6,653 metres from the back tees, the course is now tournament ready for future elite amateur and professional events.
Off the course, the historic King’s Clubhouse has also been extensively renovated, returning it to its former glory. Ten new luxurious guest rooms, all with private terraces overlooking the course and the surrounding Julian Alps, are now available to visiting golfers on the upper floors, further reinforcing Royal Bled’s status as one of the most desirable golfing destinations in all of Europe.
Course Manager Simon Connaughton and his team deserve great credit for the current state of the course, less than a year after work was completed. A few of the fairways had been heavily sanded – a necessary part of the overall course conditioning process – when I played last week but that sort of inconvenience so late in the season will be forgotten about early next year when golfers benefit from the improved playability of the course.
On the outward half, I gave top marks to seven out of the nine holes – it really is that good a stretch of top class holes. Both the par threes are exceptional, the first played to an offset Biarritz green and the second played from a slightly elevated tee to a raised green that’s backdropped by snowy mountain peaks. My favourite hole, however, was the short par four 8th, where a blind tee shot over a small gorge is followed by an approach to a beautifully bunkered elevated green.
The back nine has been totally transformed with the addition of a series of small lakes, starting with one that surrounds the island green on the par three 10th hole. Holes 14 and 16 are separated by a sequence of totally natural-looking new lakes before the 18th heads for the clubhouse and a large horseshoe-shaped double green that’s shared with the 9th hole.
Mention should also be made of the charming 9-hole Lake’s course which is the perfect way to warm up for the main event on the King’s. Although constructed in the 1970s, the Lake’s looks and feels like the original 1930s Royal Bled course and I think it would be a real pity if this connection with the club’s historical past was ever interfered with as it’s a timeless little beauty that should be cherished in its current format.
I’ve been fortunate to tee the ball up in some scenic spots, especially around the coast of Great Britain and Ireland but, as far as inland locations go, I don’t think I’ve ever played in such a stunning location, surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides. Bled is truly a magical place to visit and the reinvigorated King’s course, with its remarkable golfing history, is well worth experiencing.
i can only agree...great course, great maintenance...was great fun to play there
There is indeed a quite stunning backdrop to this course, with alpine mountains seeming to hang over the green on some holes. Seeing the little white ball on tee shots climb over the forested lower slopes, up past the bare rock near the top of the mountain, and then be contrasted against the clear blue sky is something I'll long remember.
The course seems part resort/country club, part members' course and was easy to access as a visitor. Although the course is tree-lined, it is quite forgiving on wayward tee shots: I sprayed balls left and right throughout the round but never lost one and almost always had recovery options available.
A nice challenging course and it was in good condition. I'd happily play it again.
I'm not too sure how many would consider Slovenia as a holiday destination but my advice is do not delay, this is a fantastic place to get involved in a very active holiday, especially in the north-west of the country. In this region you will find Bled, a charming lakeside town with an historic fairytale feel to it.
The golf set up at Royal Bled is great, with quality buildings including two clubhouses and a superb pro-shop and office complex. The King's course has the enviable backdrop of the mountains that stand tall and with the pine woodland forever reminding you of the fresh alpine environment.
The course suffered a little during the European heatwave of 2006 and there were some burned patches around that just took the edge off the normally manicured course but such is life.
The holes on the Kings were a pleasure to play, with accurate driving essential and holes that are varied. The par five 2nd hole is a beauty, nearly 600 yards doglegging left, through an avenue of pines. The par threes were all well bunkered and the par fours were balanced between drive and a short iron to some that most players would not reach in two.
All in all, if you're in the area then make the effort to stop and play as a warm welcome is guaranteed at Royal Bled.