Golf Resort Cihelny (formerly known as Astoria Golf Resort) is one of a new wave of Czech Republic golf facilities that opened for business at the start of the new millennium. In addition to its 6,149-yard, par 70, 18-hole golf course, the resort also has a golf academy, short game course, driving range and practice putting green, as well as a 64-bed hotel (the Royal Golf Hotel) located a pitching wedge distance from the 1st tee.
The Gary Player Design company was responsible for the layout at Cihelny and, despite having over one hundred course designs to its credit worldwide, this is one of only five courses that it's worked on in central or Eastern Europe – the others being in Poland and Bulgaria.
Set in western Bohemia, in the beautiful Slavkovsky forest, near Karlovy Vary, the Cihelny course is laid out on the flood plain of the river Teplá with holes 1 to 5 plus the 18th located higher up the side of the valley and the remaining holes routed along the banks of the meandering river.
The pick of the front nine is the second of the three par three holes on the outward half, the downhill, 116-yard 5th hole. Three of the remaining par fours after this are good, old-fashioned short holes – each less than 315 yards in length – and at two of them, the doglegged 9th and 12th holes, bogies are as likely to be made as birdies.
Super fun! This is actually a very far cry from the typical "Hit and Run" job by a famous name in an underdeveloped country. The terrain at first appears to be not entirely suitable, but the routing through a valley complete with stream, trees and assorted slopes can only be called inspired. Nothing here looks like it has been imported from somewhere else. What a light-hearted layout and how comfortable it sits on the land!
You get to hit your opening drive into wide open country, there's the always popular drop shot par 3 and a diagonal "bite off as much as you can chew" drive across the scenic river Tepla.
The course compares very favorably to the graver and more famous Royals close by. And I say that even though Cihelny is marketed as "Scottish architecture", a concept that does not immediately come to mind when thinking of the Gary Player design company working in the wooded hills of Bohemia
It pains me to award only four balls, but my tally came up just a hair short of five. Maybe it's the sole responsibility of the 15th hole, which I believe was messed up royally.
The longish par 4 dogleg right has an alternate fairway that makes the hole so much easier that I suppose everyone used it and the club decided to make it harder again by turning the fairway into rough. Of course, standing on the tee I couldn't see how long the grass was and after a perfect shot was rewarded with a gnarly lie. The words "inept", "clumsy", "bumbling" and "heavy-handed" come to mind.
Be that as it may, but now let's get to the best feature: they have this unbelievable railway line, which I have not seen bettered anywhere else. So this time, instead of showing off some beautiful hole, I'll give you perhaps the most charming single-tracker in golf. (UM)