You’ll find the Penati Golf Resort about an hour’s drive to the north of Bratislava, the Slovak Republic’s capital. The facility opened in 2012 with the Nicklaus Design layout, called Legend, debuting as the centrepiece. In August 2013 the Legend was joined by a second 18-holer, the Heritage, which was fashioned as a Golden Age design.
Few people will have heard of the Heritage’s designer, Jonathan Davison, whose work to date has centred on Eastern Europe and Ireland. However, we predict that his Heritage course (skilfully shaped by Mick McShane) will become the star in his portfolio.
The rolling sandy ground presented the perfect site and Davison made excellent use of it. Routed in two returning nine-hole loops that at first turn counter clockwise and then clockwise through pine trees, the layout is reminiscent of fragments from the numerous classic courses that were laid out on the famous sand belts of London and Melbourne.
Built with strategy in mind, the Heritage provides golfers with the opportunity to play the running shot on many holes. The Heritage’s small and relatively flat greensites contrast with the big undulating greens on the Legend course and these smaller greens have been shaped thoughtfully with their size variation keeping the golfer guessing. Bunkering is subtle and some may even go as far as to say sophisticated with the sand traps relaxing naturally on the ground.
The following edited extract by architect Jonathan Davison is from Volume Seven of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected].
“As it relates to this project, the journey started from the historic city of Prague, where I was completing a project for architect Jeremy Ford and USPGA golfer Alex Cejka. The visit was two-fold: to walk the Nicklaus Design project, which was under construction at the time, and to pitch a proposal for the planned second golf course on the property.
From the golf architectural point of view, much of the landscape we viewed while driving from the border town of Kuty was fairly uninspiring. But that state quickly changed once we approached our designated property. Pines and sandy blow-outs appeared, as did clusters of heather and tufts of fescue. Being overcome with sheer excitement, all of this unfolded within a rolling topography.
From the initial site visit, another five years lapsed before the opportunity to be interviewed for the design of Penati’s second course arose. A restructured investment team was in place, which harboured the desire to complete the resort. My three-part proposal was simplistic: a masterplan, a cut-and-fill plan, driven by spending an inordinate amount of time on-site during construction.
Detailed design plans were pointless, as my on-site attention to matters was the ideal method of gaining maximum return from this beautiful property. Renowned shaper Mick McShane agreed to join the team, prompting regular referrals to him as my ‘guardian angel’. The goal was to create a somewhat traditionally styled golf course, backed by a minimalistic approach to design and construction.
We envisaged a new layout that featured wide fairways, while the greens would become natural extensions of the fairways, with swales and hollows to create character and shot-options. Bunkers would be small and detailed, with rugged edges and high sand lines. Micro-contours and wind-blown landforms were to be left intact, even if this obscured several vistas to the greens.
Upon my appointment, the routing had already been established by a local engineer. Tree-clearance had been undertaken. The initial routing consisted of two loops of nine, and both returned to the clubhouse. The front nine culminates in an exciting Cape-style hole that wraps around a portion of the 24-hectare lake. The back nine features greater elevation changes and terminates under the clubhouse terrace.
Construction was hardly drawn-out. In fact, from the first blade of material moved, to the final seeding, construction was wrapped up in a total of eight months. Our team was diligent, yet it shows what is possible when favourable site conditions prevail. Commencing in April 2012, the course was completed by early November that year. The Heritage golf course opened in August 2013 and soon afterwards positive commentary flowed through.”
Like other reviewers, there is little to choose between the different courses. By a short head, I preferred the Legend. Perhaps that is so because I played better on it. Perhaps, the Heritage punished (rightly) my too-many careless shots.
Both courses are very well designed, well conditioned and easy to walk, despite changes in elevation.
The clubhouse was busy, had a fine terrace and offered a decent breakfast and lunch.
Play both. Travel well out your way to play them.
Recently returned after played Penati, actually we played 54 holes at Penati during last weekend.
We found both courses at a very high standard, top class in Europe.
We found Legend as the better course but with a small margin. The back 9 at Heritage grew as we played Heritage twice. Both holes 8 and 9 are challenging and kind of sets you up for the back 9. Great conditions even if we were thunderstormed out for a few hours the course was back quickly without much damage neither to fairways or greens. The rough got a little wet but as I wrote it raines heavy for a few hours. The greens were running 9,5 and was very recipient. Great fairways and you always got a great little divot, very sandy soil.
Great clubhouse with beautiful view over both courses 18-hole, Great restaurant with great food/coffe/sandwishes and actually a fabolous pizza, nice athmospere, lots of families dining during the weekend. Friendly and helpful, maybe except a bit stiff welcoming from the reception. But they also arranged the booking and later the rain delay very afficient. Girls selling drinks/coffe/sandwiches on the course from a buggy really was appreciatet.
Nestled in the Stately and established Pine forests one hour north of beautiful Bratislava, near the Town of Senica, they have carved the fabulous 36 Hole Complex of Penati Golf Resort. I was only able to play one of the courses (the Slovakian amateur open was on) but I have resolved to return for the Slovakian Amateur Open to be held again next August. (Hcap approx. Limit 6-8) international applications welcome from Men and Women. Seriously consider making the trip. You will thank me.
This is five star Golf. Make no mistake, this course can rub shoulders with the best of them. This course has been designed exquisitely and is expertly routed through the heather and pine forests which flank each majestic hole. Every Hole enjoys its own setting and is reminiscent, almost an amalgam of the best bits of the Edinburgh course at Wentworth, Sunningdale new and Woburn. It is in that league. The shaping of the ground subtly contours every playing surface whether it is the wild looking planting set back from the first cut, the pristine fairways or the excellent greens. In places the design makes benefit of the undulating landscape and encourages towering tee shots that can soar above the tree line and descend down through the avenues in front of you. Marvellous. In other places threading the ball thoughtfully in to position is paramount. Some holes are truly spectacular. All are inviting, elegant , varied and enjoyable. Penati certainly gets the juices flowing and is a stiff test from the back tees. There are plenty of adrenaline pumping, nerve shredding moments to savour here as you encounter large expanses of water, wonderful bunkering and more than a few carries you can choose to bight into. The course builds to a stiff finish as you come home and is positively thrilling.
Supported by a number of tee boxes all standards will enjoy the journey and the off course facilities are modern, comprehensive and of the highest order. The closing holes to both courses can be enjoyed from the huge sun terrace that flows out from the restaurant in the open plan symphony of glass that is the clubhouse. It is well supported and alive with activity. Make sure you prebook. I wish I was Slovakian. I wish I lived next door. I cant wait to go back. Radomir, I will be seeing you next Summer... JCB LAY