Murhof is the oldest golf course of Styria (Steiermark in German), the southeastern region of Austria. It is set in an unlikely place: whether you drive from Vienna or Graz, all you can see is mountains left and right of the road. Then, all of a sudden you take an exit off the highway, make a few turns and you find yourself entering an almost totally flat domain set at the bottom of the narrow valley. It is even flatter than the Chamonix golf course in France (I guess the mountains there are even bigger as they include the Mont Blanc). Murhof was created by the Goess-Saurau family, which takes golf quite seriously. Their Murhof Gruppe owns today some 24 golf courses around Austria. Murhof remains the flagship of the group, and welcomes numerous amateur and professional tournaments, the latest, the Murhof Legends on the Senior European Tour, having taken place in late September 2019.
I played this course one week after the pro event so it was certainly in the best condition it could be, and this was plenty good! The fairways were flawless, the greens were fast, some of the bunkers really deep around the greens, and the lakes quite welcoming around the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 14th holes. This parkland is planted with loads of trees, some of them 300 years old (the three elms between the 11th and the 12th). In addition, there are many fruit trees and flowering bushes so it must look even better in the spring. And if the club seems isolated in the valley (although it is pretty close to Graz), don’t worry, there are a very nice and welcoming restaurant and hotel on the grounds. And just in case you want to tie the knot in an unusual place, there is a small chapel just off the 5th and 14th tees to help you mark the event with lasting memories!
As for the golf course, length is not the only defense it has to offer, measuring 6,304 meters from the tips, 5,917 meters from the yellow tees and still 5,307 meters from the advanced, red tees (only three sets of tees here). Three of the five par-fours on the first nine holes stretch over more than 400 meters, and the first one, the 3rd, makes sure you pay attention as your drive must cross over a lake and be long enough to reach the turn of the dogleg right to have a chance to reach the green in regulation. The other two par-fours, respectively the 5th and 6th holes, are rated third hardest and hardest on the course; they are also long doglegs to the right, with the fairway and green of the 6th bordering on the main lake of the club. Comparatively, the two par-fives offer somewhat of a breather to the player with their medium length. On the second half of the course, you must pay attention to the par-three 13th, a long (220 meters from the back tees!) hole with a narrow start, and to the par-five 14th, the signature hole wrapping around the lake where a treacherous slope toward the water effectively divides the width of the fairway in two and makes the strategy for the second shot a very iffy one if you decide to try and go for the green. On the par-four 15th you need to drive long and on the left of the fairway to avoid being thwarted for your approach shot by the big tree sticking out at the turn of this dogleg right. Then the 16th par-three offers a real challenge: the elevated green is 168 meters away, protected by two very deep bunkers, and you need to pitch at the very entrance of the “dancing floor” for your ball to have a chance to stick to it despite the hard surface and the slope from front to back which could send you into the rough down slope past the green. Finally the 18th is a fun par-four where the green abounds in slopes so you probably want to follow Jack Nicklaus’ advice: aim for the heart of the green and take it from there!
All in all, quite an enjoyable day despite the very flat layout (and absence of sunshine when I played!).
Date: October 16, 2019