It’s a lager-drinking, golf-mad guy’s daydream to play on an exciting golf course just outside the city famous for bringing pilsener to the world back in 1842. Imagine sitting in the 19th after completing a round and having your thirst quenched by an unlimited supply of that light, hoppy, golden yellow nectar from the nearby brewery!
Well, dream no more, as the Greensgate course, formerly known as Golf Park Plzen, located on the outskirts of the western Bohemian city brings the golfing half of that wish to reality. The challenging, par 72, Christoph Städler-designed course was opened in 2004 and it has already established a reputation as one of the toughest tracks in the Czech Republic.
Laid out in a wooded valley either side of the Klabava River, with a few holes routed on the floodplain of the river and one (the signature hole 11th) sited beside the beautiful Lake Ejpovice, Greensgate is one of the best additions to the country’s portfolio of modern golf courses.
The round begins on higher ground with a couple of gentle par fours before the next three are played lower down beside the river on the opposite bank. The elevation rises again on that side of the valley from the 6th hole until back-to-back par fives are tackled around the turn at holes 9 and 10.
Now, at the furthest point from the clubhouse, the 118-yard signature hole – the 11th - is played from a slightly elevated tee to an island green on the lake. It’s a stunning location for a golf hole and is recognized as one of the best in the country.
Turning for home, there are another two very good par threes to be negotiated (at 13 and 15) but the pick of the homeward holes is the downhill, 361-yard par four 16th played back alongside the river before crossing to finish with the last two holes on the clubhouse side.
It’s clearly obvious the owners of the Greensgate resort have invested heavily in this leisure facility, both on and off the course, since they took over a few years ago. Unfortunately, the corporate nature of the place just didn’t sit easy at all with me at all. I know it hosted LET events from 2013 to 2016 and it’s still involved in the annual Faldo Series for junior golfers so it’s capable of (and probably excels at) staging big golf events.
The course is actually built on quite a difficult site, with the raised fairways of holes 2 to 5 laid out on the flood plain of the Klabara River. This was my favourite part of the entire layout – bringing back memories of playing last year on the River Teplá at Cihelny – and the par three 4th (pictured above) is easily the best hole on the card, played over a lovely wetland area to an elevated green framed by trees.
Things started to go awry for me from the short par four 6th, which goes sharply uphill through a chute of trees then down and right towards the green. This hole didn’t exactly fill me with glee but the uphill par three that followed featured something I’ve never seen before (and hope to never see again) on a golf course – a big rock garden (and that’s a kind description for the huge pile of buff coloured stones that are spread out in front the bunker protecting the benched green)!
And to top it all, at the back of the putting surface, further up the hillside, there’s a “Greensgate” sign in enormous, white painted letters (see below) just to remind you of where you are – honestly! To say my jaw dropped on arriving at the tee box is something of an understatement and I‘m sure that particular hole has appeared in one or two bad dreams I’ve had at night since returning home.
The par three 11th played to an island green on the lake is fine if you’re into that sort of highly contrived golf architecture but I’d really had enough by then and the back nine became a bit of a blur to be honest – though I do remember the risible sliver of green perched up on the banks of the river at the end of the 16th fairway and wondered why it had not just been built fifty yards earlier.
I’d love to be more positive about Greensgate as it’s well presented and nicely manicured but I’m afraid it largely left me cold, from the moment I arrived in the car park to find spaces reserved behind a barrier in front of the clubhouse entrance for “designated VIP members”. Fair play to golfers like those who no doubt enjoy playing here but I’m afraid there were too many jarring aspects to my experience to make me feel the same way.
An excellent golf course, which was in fantastic condition when I played. I don't think there is one weak hole, and this course is one of my favourites in Europe. The fairways and greens are just in such good condition, the layout is excellent and the views are superb.