There are seven courses in close proximity to the north Bohemian city of Liberec, three of which (Liberec, Malevil and Ypsilon) are 18-hole layouts. It’s hard to believe that up until the end of the 1980s, fewer than that number of courses existed in the whole of the Czech Republic!
Ypsilon was designed by Austrian-based architect Keith Preston (whose Albatross course near Prague opened in the summer of 2009) and Ypsilon became an instant hit with local golfers when it opened for play, voted course of the year by readers of Golf Digest’s Czech edition in 2006 and 2007.
Holes have been expertly routed in two returning nines over a hilly landscape, with plenty of elevation changes to ensure a round here is no easy walk in the park. Nevertheless, bunkers are generally shallow and fairways open so a game of golf at Ypsilon is far from arduous.
The signature hole is regarded as the 220-yard par three 13th, where the tee shot is played to a green perched on the other side of a small valley. The advice here is not to underclub, “otherwise you will find yourself watching the ball land on the opposite slope and wondering why it was so short”.
Architect Keith Preston commented as follows:
None could wish for a better inland setting for a golf course than at Ypsilon. A huge area, with no houses, roads or electric power lines in sight, just rolling hills, thousands of oak trees and beautiful views over green hills and, as a backdrop, the Luzice Mountains.
At one stage I suggested to the owner that he call the course Thousand Oaks Golf Course but he decided on the more international understandable name which also fits the geographical location.
What the golfers don't see is the solid granite rock just a few feet below the rolling fairways, although it does come to the surface at times, providing an extra visual stimulus.
Because of the rock we decided to reduce earth movement to a minimum, winding the holes around and over the hills instead of blasting them away. The ecologists were pleased and the golfers seem to appreciate it too.
I was in the Czech Republic last week for the opening of the new PGA National course outside Prague but I stayed on for a few days to check out a few other courses to the north and west of the capital. On the way north to Liberec, I slipped off the main drag to have a look at the Semily and Jested courses before arriving for my afternoon tee time at Ypsilon.
The previous two reviewers for this course awarded it a 6-ball mark – could it possibly be world class, I wondered? Sadly no, but it’s certainly worth a solid 4-ball review by anybody’s standards. And, having now visited eight of the current Czech Top 10 courses, I think Ypsilon can justifiably stake a claim for an even higher position in the rankings.
Mind you, it didn’t get off to the best of starts as I marked down hole #2 for the dogleg turning too late in the fairway for the average golfer to be able to play an approach to the green (which is a real pet hate of mine) but thereafter my only real qualm with the layout was how boring the so called “signature” long par three hole was at #13.
Apart from those two holes, there’s lots to like about this place, with fairways laid out on a rolling landscape that offers a) challenging tee box carries over wetland areas and native vegetation from elevated tee positions and b) tough approach shots to raised, sand-protected green sites.
One of the more unusual things you’ll come across at Ypsilon are the boathouses on the lake to the left of the 9th fairway, which Director of Golf Petr Pastrnak told me were purchased to circumvent lengthy planning permissions for land-based accommodation and they’re very popular with visiting golfers – I’d planned to stay there myself, actually, but they were sold out that evening.
The best hole for me on the front nine was the short par four 7th, playing downhill and swinging right to a green with a big dip to the front of the putting surface (like so many of the greens). It favours a fade, is comfortably reachable in two shots, and it’s also beautifully framed by a wetland area to the right and trees to the left of the fairway.
On the back nine, the back-to-back par fives at #14 and #15 were seriously strong holes. The first plays downhill then right across a big gully and up to the green but if you think that’s a hard hole the following one’s rated stroke index 1, with a narrow snaking fairway and a ditch to cross before heading uphill to the green – these holes were real standouts among many good holes on the inward half.
I also had a look at Liberec Golf Club the following morning whilst waiting for a punctured tyre to be repaired but if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods and looking for a game of golf then Ypsilon is the place to play – though be warned, the suggested time for completing a round according to the scorecard is 5 hours and 4 minutes!