Routed around the periphery of a generously proportioned 160-hectare property, the 18-hole layout at Zala Springs Golf Resort forms the sporting focal point of an exciting new residential development which is located only twelve kilometres from the spa town of Hévíz and its famous thermal lake.
Opened for play in 2016, it’s a top-quality golf facility situated at the heart of eastern Europe where golfers from key markets such as Austria, Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia have easy access to the course and for those arriving from further afield, it’s a mere two-hour drive from Budapest airport.
The course was built by Garry Ashfield of Golf East, working with lead architect Bruce Charlton from Robert Trent Jones II Golf Design, and the fairways are laid out around several small irrigation lakes that were excavated during construction to provide material for shaping some of the holes.
Large rocks mined from the site during the build have been creatively brought into play on a number of holes – on the right side of the fairway at the 1st, to the left of the fairway on the 7th and they line the creek that cuts across in front of the green at the photogenic short par four 6th.
The outward half begins and ends with a testing par five: the 1st hole is double doglegged, bending right then left to a heavily sand-protected elevated green, with the 9th hole heading left and ever so slightly downhill to a Biarritz green that’s perched on the side of a very attractive pond.
On the back nine, the first water hazard presents itself at the 167-metre 12th, where an all-carry tee shot is required to hit and hold a shallow, angled green on the other side of an intimidating lake. There’s more water in front of the clubhouse at the 18th but the home green sits far enough to the right to minimize the aquatic challenge.
Zala Springs Golf Resort opened for play in 2016. Located 2 hours from Budapest, the Robert Trent Jones Jnr design is the centrepiece of a residential property development. Already some regard Zala Springs as the premier course in Hungary.
The course is good to play, very well maintained, and strategically strong. I like the combination of short strategic and longer more demanding par 4’s. And there are some very interesting par 5’s. It is definitely a thinking mans’ golf course!
Perhaps one downside is the very low profile bunkering, and the heavy granitic sand in them. These bunkers play nasty – balls don’t necessarily roll to the low point – the heavy sand and low gradient means balls stop on the down slope, and recovery is quite difficult. Being low profile, the bunkers are not particularly visible, and in my opinion this lessens the strategic interest as players cannot really see the options before them. And low profile bunkers don’t 'lift' the visuals as more visual bunkers would do.
These quibbles aside, the course is still young and will look better as the surrounds mature. But there can be little doubt Zala Springs is a quality course in the making.
Zala Springs is a quality course that will test all standard of golfer. For most it will take multiple plays to really get a feel for the course, and know the lines of play.
If you can drag yourself away from the history and splendour of Budapest you will be rewarded with a most enjoyable golfing experience.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
It was a great pleasure to stay and play at Zala Springs. Arriving at 6.30pm, the reception was very warm and professional. After a fine dinner with very good service, the room was of top standard.
After a grand breakfast, I teed off on a hot day at around 9.30am. The course was splendid. As Jim McCann's review noted, there was no going overboard with silly or 'trick' holes. Conditioning of all parts of the course was first class. There were plenty of bunkers, but also plenty of space to avoid them. Similarly with wet areas but for a par three needing a 150m carry.
Overall, a superb facility and well worth taking a lot of trouble to play it.
I loved this course - interesting design, fast and even greens, good atmosphere on the course.
Played the course in 2018 and was really impressed. Very nice design of RTJ2.
Really top class venue that could also stage a bigger tournament on tour!
There is also the posdibility of staying directly at the golf course.
The holes are really interesting with a lot of water in play, for example on the par 3s like the 12th or the 5th hole. A lot of interesting risk and reward holes also out there!
This is a really must play if in the region and a really value for money course!
I hear there were 5,000 rounds played here in 2016 during the course’s first full 12-months in operation and that figure is set to almost double this year. With several central European capital cities located only a couple of hours away by road, it’s easy to see why this course is attracting growing numbers of discerning golfers who’d like to play high end golf at a very affordable price.
The club provides attractive “member for a day” all-inclusive hospitality packages and “stay and play” offers for those who choose to combine golf with the likes of wine-tasting excursions to local vineyards or a visit to the famous thermal spa in nearby Hévíz so it’s obvious they’re trying to cater for casual visitors as well as the residential golfer that will in time inhabit the on-site housing.
The first thing that jumped out at me when I looked at the scorecard was the fact that there were three short par four holes in play – I know it’s a resort course so it should be a little more forgiving and playable for the ordinary golfer, still it’s refreshing to see interesting holes like this laid out in a modern design when all too often it’s long, boring 440-metre+ par fours that dominate.
It was also pleasing to see from a map of the course that only two of the four par three holes employ water as a hazard. In fact, the use of lakes, creeks and wetland areas as aquatic obstacles on the layout is fairly restrained, allowing golfers to swing freely at most holes without fear of getting their golf ball wet – again, it’s a big bonus to find out things aren’t too penal on a new course.
Two of the opening three holes are par fives, helping to ease you into the round, and I liked the longer 3rd hole especially, doglegging left around a pond then right towards a slippery two-tiered green. The right doglegged short par four 4th features a tree in the middle of the fairway and a profusion of small bunkers in front of the green so par is far from assured at this little beauty.
My favourite hole on the front nine (which is configured with three par threes, three par fours and three par fives) was the 319-metre 6th, where a creek slashes across the fairway at the landing area, forcing a decision on the tee of whether to carry the hazard or lay up for a longer approach to the green. It’s benignly rated stroke index 15 but there’s plenty of danger lurking between tee and cup on this hole.
The first two holes on the back nine run alongside the road leading into the estate and they’re very pleasing on the eye, perhaps because they, along with the 9th, were the first to grow in. The uphill 17th is another terrific par four, tempting big hitters to carry the pond on the right of the fairway to get close to the raised green. There’s then a long walk from the green to the 18th tee and I’m glad the temptation was resisted to maybe do something silly like install back tees and play the hole as a par six for publicity purposes!
The longest set of regular tees measure an unassuming 6,351 metres though I’m sure this length can easily be extended if elite amateur or professional events are held here. Once the accommodation units close to the clubhouse are in place (the first tranche is due to be completed in the next few weeks) this would be the ideal venue to host an important national golf tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the clubhouse team at Zala Springs were kept busy in that regard in the months to come…