Before the end of the millennium, only a handful of golf courses existed in Poland. Since 2000, over a dozen new courses have sprung up all over the country and Krakow Valley Golf and Country Club is home to one of the very best of these new designs.
Situated between Krakow and Katowice in the south of Poland, the country club offers more than just a 7,200 yard 18-hole championship golf course – it has a wide range of amenities including a hotel and restaurant, shooting range and horse riding club.
American Ron Fream and his Golfplan design company are better known in Europe for their work in Finland, France and Portugal so it was quite a departure from those countries when they made this their first foray into the east of the continent in 2004.
Laid out over a forested, undulating landscape, Krakow Valley’s generous, wide rolling fairways are tempered by massive, steep-faced greenside bunkers that defend par on many of the putting surfaces.
Krakow Valley was proud host to the European Seniors Tour, venue for the 2008 Polish Seniors Championship. Ian Woosnam emerged victorious, claiming his first European Seniors Tour title.
Ron Fream – course architect writes: “Krakow Valley Golf Club has transformed a former Communist collective wheat and barley farm into a visually dramatic, memorable golf course. Dealing with local conditions and people educated in the Communist ideals and methods added to the challenge.
The design intent was to capture the existing natural flow and contour of the open site. The golf holes have been laid out to capture the diversity of the terrain without extensive earthmoving and the adjacent beach forest areas give a nice frame edge to some holes. There are scenic long vistas to surrounding mountain outcrops that design solutions captured.
Golfplan tried to introduce “Scottish style” feeling within some holes. Bunker arrangement and strategic placement blends the almost links contours with the Scottish looking bunkers. Large, well-contoured green sites offer six to eight distinct pin positions and large, diverse tee areas join to add very distinct playing alternatives and variety within each hole.
Krakow Valley has true tournament ability yet is user friendly for average golfers. The practice facilities are some of the largest, most comprehensive in Europe. Learning to play and refining ones game here is well met and our design objective was also to encourage new players.”
This a solid parkland course located about a half hour out of Krakow city. The landscape has significant elevation changes and makes full use of them to create sweeping holes and vistas. There's water in play on four or five of the holes but sand traps on pretty much all of them and they're placed to good effect but not so much as to be crazily penal. Conditioning was fine but not perfect, but didn't detract from the round.
I found the back nine more spectacular and varied, right from the significantly down and up 10th, to the bunkers in the fairway 11th (know your distances and there's plenty of room), the cute in a glade par 3 15th and the angles on the 16th.
As has been noted below, once the surrounds have grown in some more and fill in some of the expanse between holes, I think this will be a delightful parkland course where players can choose just how much they want to take on. Also, it should be noted that I played here the day after touring the Auschwitz and Birkenau sites as I figured a golf course is a happy place to balance out the sombre nature of those locations.