Nestled in the hilly region of Dolenjska, close to the flowing waters of the River Krka, the golf course at Grad Otocec is the result of a collaboration between Howard Swan and local architect Peter Škofic, with fairways set out within a heavily forested 185-acre property. Otocec Castle is situated nearby, on an island within the river, and it offers visiting golfers the opportunity to “stay and play like a king”.
The fairways toss and turn across a rolling landscape and the tight playing corridors afford golfers a feeling of almost total seclusion as they work their way round the course. Highlight holes on the front nine include the 496-metre 3rd, a right doglegged par five that plays to a sunken, blind green and the 352-metre 6th, a par four which swoops down from the tee then swerves left to a sand-protected plateau green.On the inward half, the 568-metre 12th is one of the longest holes in Slovenia, and it requires three long, straight blows to get close to the green here as a very tight, slightly kinked fairway allows little room for error. The course opens up over the last two holes, allowing a little more latitude off the tee. However, if you’ve been too wayward over the preceding holes, then you might not have enough ammunition left to finish your round!
Howard Swan kindly supplied this exclusive quote:
The site is mightily spectacular and it was challenging to work on the golf course on such particularly undulating land. It was almost entirely forested before we started and the clearance of the trees was a significantly challenging part of the project.
I tried hard to make sure that the Otocec greens complexes were relatively accommodating as I felt that, when the player eventually reached them, it would have been incorrect to test them too severely in reading putts as they may well have been pretty exhausted in getting there.
I was, however, a little disappointed in the latter stages of the project as the client’s project manager and the young student architect with whom I worked rather took over the second nine holes - I made few visits - and I felt that the shaping of the land may have been rather over-elaborated.
The course at Grad Otočec lies a mere hour’s drive south of the capital. After you leave the main highway, you cross a couple of old wooden bridges, taking you onto then off a small island in the middle of the Krka River, where the 13th-century Otočec Castle – now a boutique hotel – is located.
It’s then a short drive along the side of the river until you arrive at what passes for a temporary clubhouse. As the course owner also runs the hotel that you’ve just passed, it looks like he’d rather have golfers relax there than around the 18th hole so the off-course amenities are just a little spartan.
Don’t let the rather basic amenities put you off though as this is a cracking layout, routed across a heaving landscape with tree-lined fairways that dip in and out of ravines and gullies on a wild roller coaster ride that thrills with every twist and turn as the round unfolds.
In fairness, I thought the front nine (designed by Howard Swan) was markedly better than the back nine (holes 3, 6, 7 ,and 9 earning top marks from me) and the par five finishing hole at the 18th was a bit of an anti-climax after what had gone before (despite its interesting three-tiered green complex).
Nonetheless, Grad Otočec’s a hugely entertaining track that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. Elevated tee positions, uphill and downhill lies, raised greens – they’re all to be found here on what could really pass for a mountain course, with hardly a level stance to be found on any of the fairways.
The inward half’s a bit more open and a little more subdued than the turbulent terrain on the front nine but there’s still some great golf going on here, most notably from the 14th to the 16th, where a short par three (with a lone tree to the front right of the green) is sandwiched between a couple of heroic par fours.
The course at Grad Otočec ‘s highly recommended for golfers who prefer their game to be filled with variety and a sense of adventure. It also helps if you’re relatively fit because there are quite a number of sharp little gradients to negotiate along the way but the undulations are a small price to pay for playing in such agreeable surroundings.