Military historians will tell you that the main claim to fame of Konopištì is that its castle was the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria – heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne – whose assassination in Sarajevo started the first World War in 1914.
These days, Konopištì is building up a new reputation as the location of one of the best new Czech golfing complexes to have opened since the start of the new millennium. The resort’s two 18-hole championship courses and 9-hole beginner’s course are laid out within the Tvoršovice Estate, together with a renovated chateau clubhouse and 50-bed hotel.
The Radecky course – named after Napoleonic War marshal Václav Radecky of Radeè – is the creation of John Burns from the European PGA along with head greenkeeper Frantisek Stepan and it first opened in 2002. The D’Este Course – named after Archduke Ferdinand d’Este, successor to the Austrian Throne – was completed three years later, in 2005.
Following a relatively gentle introduction to the Radecky on the first three holes, the next hole is reached by following a path through the forest to the fourth tee. This right doglegged par five plays all the way from tee to green down a narrow chute of tall, dense trees with a creek running down the left to add further pressure. The steep climb to the elevated tee on the fifth hole is actually a welcome respite after the near claustrophobia of the preceding hole!
The back nine begins with the shortest of the four par threes on the card, the 128-metre 10th hole. A couple of holes later, the massive (545-metre) 12th plays downhill with a severe right-angled dogleg to the green which may tempt big hitters – and the foolish – to fly the trees with their second shot. The 18th is another downhill hole, featuring a tree in the middle of the fairway, a pond in front of the putting surface and a couple of bunkers to the front and back of the home green.
You’ll reach Konopiste in less than an hour by car from Prague city centre and it’s a journey well worth making to sample the golf on offer in very pleasant parkland surroundings. There are two 18-hole layouts, each of which extend to more than 6,000 metres from the back tees, and a short 9-hole executive course for beginners.
The clubhouse is actually a beautiful old chateau which features a pro shop and restaurant on the ground floor, with hotel rooms on the upper floors. Changing rooms, caddie master and buggy rental facilities are all housed in what looks like converted stables close to the clubhouse, with additional satellite accommodation units located across the road, next to the large car park.
It might be situated in something of a rural backwater but Konopiste isn’t a small-time operation by any means!
I didn’t have enough time to look around the D’Este course, concentrating solely on the Radecky, which is laid out in two separate 9-hole parcels to the northwest and northeast of the clubhouse. Both courses were designed by “John Burns from the PGA” but I’ve drawn a blank when trying to find out more about him so these two 18-hole layouts might be his only designs.
The front nine holes are laid out across hilly terrain, highlighted by the par three 6th which plays from a seriously elevated tee position over a small lake to a raised green perched 150 metres on the other side of the water.
The back nine then starts with another spectacular par three, measuring only 128 metres from the back tees, located next to the 18th green and separated from that putting surface by a large waste bunker. I also noticed the 10th hole was floodlit, allowing the club to host little fun events in the late evening on special occasions.
I mentioned to a greenkeeper working around this hole how well maintained the green site was around the putting surface (and the rest of the course for that matter) and it was obvious from his reaction just how proud he was of his “garden” as he described it.
The inward half is hillier than the other nine in places, leading to a few more blind tee shots and I didn’t care too much for the big 120˚ kink in the fairway on the par five 12th. In truth, the last few holes felt a little bit repetitive until reaching the downhill 18th, with a big tree in the middle of the fairway and another ornamental pond to carry in front of the home green.
If wide, lush fairways and big, well-bunkered greens are major factors in attracting you to play a golf course in a nice, rural environment then the Radecky course ticks all the boxes in that regard.