Managed by Troon Golf, Pravets Golf Club is situated less than an hour’s drive northeast of the Bulgarian capital and this upmarket resort features an 18-hole championship course, golf academy, hotel, spa and conference centre.
Laid out in the shadow of the nearby Stara Planina mountain range, the course sits on the southern shores of Lake Pravets, where architect Peter Harradine routed the fairways in two returning 9-hole circuits.
There’s a new academy located next to the clubhouse – with all the indoor and outdoor practice facilities you’d expect to find at a top of the range golf facility – and it’s easy to see why Pravets claims to be one of the leading coaching centres in Bulgaria.
Since opening its doors to golfers in 2011, the course has hosted several PGA Professional Championship of Europe events, in addition to a number of prestigious European Golf Association tournaments.
The 154-metre 8th – dominated by a spectacular island green – is the signature hole on the card and, with a nod to the huge double greens found on the Old course at St Andrews, the 9th and 18th holes share the same large putting surface in front of the clubhouse.
I played with Alan Rogut, Director of Golf at Pravets, during the PGAs of Europe annual congress in Belek, Turkey a couple of years ago. During our round at the Gloria resort, I told him that I’d pay a visit to see him one day at his club as I was keen to establish Top 5 charts for a number of Central and Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria.
Well, the opportunity to call in on Pravets arose a couple of weeks ago, at the end of a short press trip to another resort, and I’m so glad Alan arranged the transportation to get me to and from Sofia airport. The journey’s a little tortuous at the moment as bridges and tunnels are currently being upgraded along the Hemus highway but, once the work is finished, it’ll take well under an hour to travel out from the city centre.
The course is a Peter Harradine design which occupies pretty flat terrain within a valley and, although the fairways are tree-lined, they’re wide enough to not make it feel as if you’re hemmed in on every hole. My two favourites came early in the round, at the slightly uphill 2nd and the par three 3rd, both of which play to heavily sand-protected greens.
I’m not a fan of island greens so the par three 8th didn’t really do much for me, though the recently modified short hole at the slightly downhill 13th – where the large bunker on the right side of the green has been reduced in size – did have a lot more appeal to me, despite (or perhaps because of) it’s lack of aquatic challenge.
The downhill 10th was a bit of a tough hole, doglegging down to the lake, with several huge sand traps positioned on the inside of the fairway as it swings left to the green. From the tee, it’s certainly a visually intimidating hole, reflected in its rating as stroke index 1 on the scorecard.
I also like the way both nines conclude at an enormous double green that sits below the clubhouse, allowing everybody on the overlooking terrace a great view of the action below – and this arrangement comes in very handy when competitions are played here as I understand the nines are reversed.