Owned and operated by Arendon, part of the London-based Decimus Real Estate Group, the Oaks Prague is a luxury residential development of villas, townhouses and apartments on the outskirts of the capital that was more than a decade in the planning before the golf course opened for play in the summer of 2020.
Designed by Kyle Phillips, the PGA National Czech Republic course is the sporting centrepiece of the 350-acre Oaks Prague estate, featuring a clubhouse that was once a chateau listed in the historic building register to the Von Schuttelsberg family. It lies less than half an hour’s drive from Prague city centre, next to the small village of Nebřenice.
The course was constructed in two main phases over a four-year period. Holes in the north compartment, where the clubhouse is situated, were built first and a 9-hole layout (comprising holes 13-18 and 1-3) was available for preview play a year before the remaining holes in the southern section of the property were ready.
At the official launch in August 2020, Kyle Phillips indicated he’d worked on the project since 2006, keeping in close contact with the master planners to ensure the course was fully integrated with the other residential and recreational elements. The architect also revealed that more than twenty different concepts were considered before arriving at the final layout.
The finished article is certainly at the forefront of environmentally sustainable golf design, with fairways flowing across alluring Czech countryside, most memorably within the oak-studded valley on the par four 2nd, where a stream and wetland area runs along the left side of a tough, uphill hole which is rated stroke index 2 on the scorecard.
Other notable holes include the par five 9th (dropping down from a little ridge towards a really interesting green with a central spine); the par four 12th (a “connector” hole played through a narrow chute of trees); and the par four 14th, which doglegs right and down to the green with the city skyline providing a beautiful backdrop.
Troon Privé, the private club division of Troon Golf, manages PGA National Czech Republic, but as the course is initially operating as a semi-private golf facility, non-members who wish to obtain a tee time can pay a pre-arranged green fee.
I was invited to the official opening of the new PGA National Czech Republic course last week, having visited a year ago when there were only nine holes in play. Remarkably, my tee box position for the shotgun start was at the 13th, the same place I began my 9-hole round twelve months ago. This meant I would first play nine holes I was familiar with, followed by nine that were still under construction last August.
The three Kyle Phillips original designs I’ve played on the continent – Bernardus and Lage Vuursche in The Netherlands and the Links at PGA of Sweden National – are all top tracks so my expectation levels were pretty high before teeing it up here. Walking off the 12th green 4½ hours later, I wasn’t in any way disappointed, even after an almighty downpour on the last hole forcing our group to run for cover after putting out!
I’ll review the course as if I’d set out from the 1st, as that obviously is how the layout will normally be tackled. Holes 1 to 3 form a great start to the round, actually: comprising a friendly downhill par four (rated stroke index 18) followed by a difficult par four that plays back uphill along a little valley with a creek running along on the left from tee to green. This water course and wetland area then lurks to the right side of the lovely tree-lined par three 3rd.
After crossing the road leading into the course, holes 4 to 11 occupy the newest portion of the property – fairways are oriented mainly in a north-south or south-direction – and considering this tract was nothing other than dirt at this time last year, it’s astonishing to see how well the holes now fit the land. Newly planted trees will, in time, help to separate the playing corridors and give the holes more of an intimate feeling.
Highlight holes for me in this section were both the par threes at #8 and #11, the second of these short holes framed by the wooded area through which the tough par four 12th connects players to holes on the other side of a little forest. The downhill par five 9th is another cracker, where the fairway falls away sharply to a lower level on its way to the green, like the 9th at Royal County Down.
The pace picks up again on the final six holes, especially on the downhill 14th, with the city of Prague in the distance framing the hole. The left doglegging par five 16th offers a late birdie chance, but only if you avoid the small copse of trees in the middle of the fairway. The challenge on this closing stretch continues right to the home green (which is cleverly connected to the practice putting area above the hole) as the slightly uphill par four 18th is rated stroke index 3.
What sets Kyle Phillips-designed courses that I’ve played apart from others is the quality of the bunkering. Even renovation work that he’s done such as at Real Las Brisas and Hilversumsche now bears a distinctive stamp of quality in relation to the sand hazards, which are beautifully proportioned and in just the right places – of course the architect also has some of the best construction people in the business working for him and what a formidable team they make!
Course superintendent Jordan Fairweather’s had experience of working in Europe, Asia and the Middle East at places like Pravets in Bulgaria, The Els Club Malysia and Yas Links so he’s more than capable of ensuring the course conditioning at PGA National Czech Republic is maintained at a level expected of a top national golfing venue. There was hardly a blade of grass out of place here last week and I’d be really surprised if that attention to detail was not maintained going forward.