Marianske Lázne is the second largest spa town in the Czech Republic with some forty mineral springs within the town itself. The town literally sprung up in the late 19th century and attracted those seeking wellbeing from the healing waters. By the beginning of the 20th century, Marianske Lázne was one of the most important spa centres in Europe and naturally, the town required a golf course to complement the physical therapy.
His Majesty King Edward VII conducted the opening of the original nine-hole Marianske Lazne golf course in 1905 and a memorial plaque remains near the 1st tee. According to news reports of bygone times, an English professional then at Karlovy Vary originally designed the golf course but we’ve also read that a Scottish professional called Robert Doig from Musselburgh built the original nine-holer.
A second nine holes were added in 1923 on land to the north – holes 7 to 15 – then two very short par three holes at the old 2nd and 10th were replaced by Ivan Rais in 1978, these new holes becoming the current 2nd and 3rd. If you know the definitive history, we’d love to hear from you. One thing we do know for sure is that Marianske Lázne is the second oldest club in the Czech Republic, Karlovy Vary being the eldest.
Golf in the former Czechoslovakia almost died a death during the socialist era but the course was brought back to life in the late 1980s and Marianske Lazne has never looked back having played host to numerous important championships.
The layout is routed across an upland plain, which is perched at more than 700 metres above sea level. The turf was once reported to have “healthful radioactive emanations and ground as soft as Persian carpets”. Pine trees surround the Marianske Lazne property and this majestic parkland course will test your driving skills and flatter your distances in this altitude. You’ll also need accurate iron play to find the sanctuary of the small and well-protected greens.
2003 heralded perhaps the proudest moment in Marianske Lazne’s long history when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted the golf club royal patronage. Royal Marianske Lazne Golf Club – hip hip hooray!
Originally founded as Marienbad Golf Club in 1905, Marianske Lazne received its royal prefix in 2003, becoming only the second club in Europe (after Royal Malta) to have this honour bestowed on it. Of course, Royal Homburger has since gained its royal title in 2013 but it’s still a rather exclusive little regal family of European clubs which is endorsed by the British monarchy.
In the book Golf’s Royal Clubs by Scott Macpherson, the author tells how the course managed to survive after World War II:
“Around 1953, a communist campaign began against ‘bourgeoisie decadence’ and golf came under direct attack. Many courses around the country were put to the plough… Marianske Lazne’s distance from Prague meant it was not in the first wave of courses destroyed and ultimately it was saved due to the tenacity of its members.
In the Czechoslovak Republic all things Russian were considered sacred by official state propaganda. With this in mind, a tournament of ‘Czechoslovak-Russian friendship’ was organized. The clubhouse and course were quickly decorated with red banners and as many Russians as possible were invited to the event.
When the squad of communist workers turned up with heavy machinery to destroy the nest of capitalism, locals exclaimed: ‘How dare you disrupt a festivity that honors our beloved Russian Communist brothers?’ Given that at that time an anti-Soviet remark could be treated as treason and result in the offender being jailed for 20 years the farm workers retreated.”
In more recent times, the St Andrews Trophy and Jacques Léglise Trophy were contested at the club in 2006, with both the GB&I teams overcoming their continental opponents. There’s certainly a wonderful feel to playing here, starting with the clubhouse, which is a very atmospheric old building adorned with many photos and other artefacts relating to the club’s royal heritage.
To be honest, the Old Course was far better than I’d expected as I thought in advance that it would be really tight but it never felt too restricted, even though most of the holes are tree-lined on both sides of the fairway. A lack of fairway irrigation is something that needs to be looked at, right enough, but overall conditioning was still really good.
A nice touch is a plaque placed next to the long coffin bunker beside the green of the old 2nd hole, which was in play from 1905 to 1978, until it was one of two holes replaced by the club. It’s important to give prominence to things like that, reminding visitors of a course’s historical provenance – if only more clubs would give some thought to informing golfers about course changes that have been made in the past.
Favourite holes here were the downhill 2nd (played to a green that sits behind a stream; the left doglegged 7th (where the approach shot is played uphill to the green); and back-to-back short par fours at the 14th and 15th (though there’s probably one bunker too many in front of the green on #15). There’s also a strong finish to the round with the par five penultimate hole rated stoke index 5 and the finishing hole rated stroke index 9.
Well worth a visit in conjunction with a game at one or more of the other clubs in the vicinity.