Situated close to the popular ski resort of Bansko in the foothills of the Pirin mountain range, the Pirin Golf & Country Club resort occupies a substantial 375-acre property, boasting an 18-hole championship layout, 5-hole development course and extensive practice facilities.
The resort is one of two Bulgarian golf facilities in membership of the European Tour Properties network, with twenty-four of these thirty-two worldwide venues located in Europe. Located next to Bansko, Pirin transforms effortlessly into a cosy ski destination in the winter months.
The course was designed by Ian Woosnam in conjunction with Gary Johnston of European Golf Design and it first opened for play in 2007. Set out within the Razlog Valley, holes are routed around several lakes and a mountain creek which winds its way through the property.
Two of the more memorable holes include the downhill par five 7th, rated stroke index 1, where the narrowing fairway falls away sharply to the right as it approaches the green, and the short par four 13th, which doglegs left to a heavily sand-protected putting surface.
The Pirin Golf & Country Club project was realised by Balkanstroy, one of Bulgaria’s largest construction companies, which also invested heavily in the Lighthouse resort at Balchik in Cape Kaliakra on the Black Sea. Laid out in the Razlog Valley, close to the Bansko ski resort, it was the first vacation golf complex to open in Bulgaria just over a decade ago now.
If it’s mountain golf you’re looking for then you’ll find a very good version of it here, with wide, open fairways and large, nicely contoured greens affording a really decent round of resort golf. There are buggy paths throughout but it’s not a taxing walk if you choose to carry your bag (or take a trolley) and breathe in the fresh, clean air as you stride round the course.
The layout has been constructed to a high standard, highlighted by a stream that enters at the highest point on the course behind the 13th green then winds its way through the property along a rock-strewn path, occasionally crossing a fairway or flowing into a holding pond in front of a green, as occurs at the par three 3rd and par three 15th.
It all appears pretty natural but it’s obviously taken quite a bit of clever engineering to get it to look that way!
On the front nine, I particularly liked the run of three holes from the 7th to the 9th: a tough par five followed by an easy short par four then a lovely par three with the rocky creek threatening on the right side of the hole. On the inward half, the fast-flowing little stream crosses the fairway twice at the 10th and it sneaks across again rather unsuspectedly at the 17th.
There are actually two 18-hole layouts here, “Course A” and “Course B”, with Course A comprising the eighteen Woosnam-designed holes and Course B consisting of thirteen Woosnam holes plus the 5-hole “Pine” course which was fashioned by “a team of young German designers” according to a handy information brochure published by the resort.
To be honest, I think it would be best to drop the notion of the “Course B” as the five additional holes are nowhere near the quality of those on the main course – it’s best to concentrate on promoting the 18-hole Woosnam course and keep the Pine course entirely separate for beginners and those wanting a short practice round, away from the main action.