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
Date: August 22, 2018