When Dr. Georg Breisach (a pediatrician who was also a top Austrian amateur tennis player in his youth) decided that his shoulder condition did not allow him to play competitive tennis any more, he decided to turn to golf.
As there were no golf courses in the area where he lived, south of Graz in south-eastern Austria’s Styria region, he decided to build himself one. He picked the grounds of the Frauenthal castle (built originally at the beginning of the 16th century), where a cousin of the Lichtenstein ruling family resided, and started on his project in 1988 with the help of golf architect Michael Pinner.
The first nine holes and a driving range opened a year later and the course reached its present 18-hole layout in 1999. Thirty plus years after the first breaking of ground, the club has a robust membership.
There are only around a dozen bunkers in play at Schloss Frauenthal, but water hazards appear on most of the holes between the 1st and 11th. Feature holes include the two toughest on the parkland property, the long par four 7th and the left doglegging par five 10th.
In the hillier, densely forested section of the course, the 15th is a truly spectacular hole, veering sharply right and down from tee to green. Of course, the par three 11th (with its island green) will always win the vote for “signature hole” on the card.
In recent years Schloss Frauenthal has hosted the International Austrian Couples Championship, which attracts more and more married couples from Austria and neighbouring countries for the enjoyment of playing at this location… not to mention the culinary delights of the region.
At 5,576 meters from the back (white) tees, this course is definitely not trying to compete in the “monster” category and it will probably never attract professionals, although every golfer can gain a lot of experience (and quite a bit of frustration) along its 18 holes. Playing your handicap is no small feat for anyone on a short visit!
Since length off the tee was never going to be the real issue here, the creators of Frauenthal used just about everything else you can find on a golf course to make your par just a little more challenging to score.
The first hole is a good example: on paper, a 329-meter par four does not look much of an “adversary”. However, you have to do with the design of the hole, which includes a large ditch all the way down the right side, forest down the left, a tapering fairway as you near the green, and the slightly elevated green itself from which the ball can easily escape. And for the back tees, there are trees just a few meters off the tee that narrow the drive path quite a bit, and make the ditch a real hazard. Precision and strategy are the keys here, and a driver is not always the best club in the tee box.
The dogleg right 2nd requires a 200-meter carry uphill to the left half of the narrow fairway to have a chance to look at the green perched atop a sharper slope. It is a blind shot, and the green is narrow and slanted, with surroundings catching balls for awkward lies when chipping.
The 3rd is a downhill par-five, where a good straight drive is required, but not too long as a river crosses the fairway to ensure that taking the green in two shots will not be easy. That same river gives room to think on the 4th as it crosses the fairway 220 meters from the back tees, but the elevated green is difficult to take if one cannot pitch on to it from high. And it is there again to catch your drive on the par-five 5th, this time at an oblique angle across the fairway just before the turn on this dogleg right.
If you want to carry the green in two shots, you must fly over the stream and land on the small, left side of the fairway. Water, green elevation, slopes, everything is used to make your round more interesting on the first nine where the course is undulated but not outright mountainy. The only long par-four is the 7th, no joke at 422 meters from the tips, with a narrow fairway.
The second nine holes start along the same pattern, up to the 11th, a very short and scenic par-three with an island green and the castle of the domain in the background. And then, all of a sudden, a different challenge awaits as the course turns to mountainside terrain. The fairways are still narrow, the forest is very close, but each shot depends a great deal on the elevation change.
The dogleg right par-four 13th is the second hardest hole on the course, and for good reason. It is only 310 meters long from the back tees, but… your drive must carry up a steep hill a total distance of more than 190 meters (to be at the top of the slope) and less than 205 (to avoid the rough), and your second shot is to a very narrow, three-tier green dug out of the hill side, with a cliff on the left and a ravine on the right.
Zoom to the par-four 15th, another short dogleg right with a twist: you can play a long iron or rescue to the turn, and from there the ca. 130-meter approach shot will take no more than a wedge as the green is a good 30 meters lower. Or, you can go for the green with your driver.
You can see the green from the tees, and it is definitely much lower so a good drive will carry, but you cannot be short as there is no way of finding any ball stopped by the bushes that come within meters of the promised land. The local knowledge tip is to aim at the tall trees in the slope left of the flight line to the green, and let the ball dribble down the slope from the landing spot onto the dancing floor.
The 17th will again give you trouble due to the elevation changes. The tee shot does not require a long shot, even though it is sharply uphill. The approach shot, however, is tricky as the green is a good ten meters higher, therefore blind, carved out of the hill, surrounded with steep rough slopes, and quite slanted from back to front.
Definitely a lot of room for fun, and the excellent meal back at the clubhouse will help to forget, or at least to forgive oneself for those imperfect shots that led to so much trouble.