In 1993, Bernolákovo was the first place in Slovakia to embrace golf after the country’s Velvet Divorce from the Czech Republic when a rudimentary 9-hole course was laid out for play. Two decades later, a 27-hole facility now exists within the same 18th century baroque manor grounds that lie just outside the village.
Established in 2006, the 18-hole Black River layout is the main course at the Bratislava Golf & Country Club and it’s an absolute brute from the back tees (with a maximum slope rating of 155) so first time visitors are strongly advised to choose their tee positions very carefully.
The first six holes are part of the original course, located inside the old manor estate, with the remaining holes situated on land to the south of the meandering river Èierná voda. Most unusually, golfers play holes 2, 3 and 4 as consecutive par threes (and there’s only one other short hole on the card at the 11th).
The 567-yard 12th, a double doglegged par five, is rated the most difficult hole on the course but, quite frankly, holes 17 and 18 look to be two of the fiercest closing holes you could ever imagine to finish a round with.
The 430-yard penultimate hole plays first to an island fairway and then to an island green – best of luck securing a four! The 18th then heads back across the river to a narrow, elevated fairway that doglegs immediately to the right towards the narrow home green.Never mind playing to handicap over this difficult 18-hole course; how many golfers have ever walked off the 18th green at Black River with net par fours for the last two holes on their scorecard?
In 2009, the Black River Golf Resort in Bernolákovo joined forces with the White Eurovalley Golf Resort in Malacky under single ownership called Black & White, which now boasts 54 holes across the two facilities.
Never have first impressions on arrival at a golf course turned out to be so wrong! The magnificence of the Theresia Chateau (which serves as the clubhouse) gives every indication that you’ve pitched up at a top end golf facility but it doesn’t take long to discover the course isn’t up to much – indeed, I’d go as far as to say it’s the worst layout I’ve ever seen in all my years of playing golf!
The opening six holes (three of which are par threes at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th) are laid out within the old manor grounds and they’re really just basic tree-lined fairways leading to lie of the land green sites. These holes do have a certain charm to them – there’s a tree to the right of the fairway on the 4th and another tree in the middle of the fairway at the doglegged 5th – but the bunkering is basic and the greens are pancake flat.
The 7th then plunges downhill, across a river to a lower level, where the remainder of the round is played out before the 18th brings the routing back up across the river to the side of the castle. The 7th plays to a poorly defined fairway with a rockery (I kid you not) jutting in from the left and some horrible mounding lining the right of the hole. The boomerang-shaped green dips drastically in the middle and it sits behind a small pond AND a sunken bunker, both of which look totally unnatural and completely out of place with their surroundings.
And so it goes on. The mowing lines of the 8th giving little indication of where the hole is leading to (a tiny, 3-tiered green, actually) and there are several footgolf greens located along a so-called fairway that narrows to nothing in front of the putting surface. You might be inclined to think it’s been designed by some mad professor who was high on crack cocaine when he decided to lay out a golf course for some fun.
There’s an overgrown wetland area located slap bang in the middle of the 9th fairway, a large bush in the centre of the 12th fairway, a rectangular stone mound in front of the green at the 14th and weird, geometrical greenside bunkers eating into the putting surface on the 15th. There’s also a strip of unmown grass in the middle of the L-shaped 18th green as the gradient is too steep to cut the putting surface at that point!
Honestly, in your wildest dreams you could never image such a crazy golf course. The boast is that it’s the toughest course in Europe with a slope rating of 155. Well, the layout’s not rated that way because it’s a long, difficult track with sand and water hazards (though it has them as well). It’s rated that way because it’s a STUPID design that’s been set out by somebody who knows absolutely NOTHING about how to construct proper golf holes!
By all means play here if you want a good laugh at how a landscape can end up so badly butchered but bring plenty of golf balls too as you’re bound to lose lots of them.
If I could give this course a mark of zero then I would because I really grudge awarding it a one golf ball mark.