The crescent-shaped Croatia is set in south eastern Europe and it’s a beautiful country with dozens of sparsely populated islands which are surrounded by the cleanest waters and the most amazing beaches on the Adriatic. The capital city is Zagreb but Dubrovnik has an amazing ancient city wall, which rises up some 25m offering the most amazing views from the top. This old wall is one of the finest and most well preserved in the world.
Since the end of the War of Independence in 1995, Croatia has successfully marketed the country with a slogan of “the Mediterranean as it once was”. As much as the government seems keen to promote golfing amenities for visiting golfers, the process of turning dozens of pipeline projects into reality has been painfully slow.
Many of these proposed developments are located in the beautiful Adriatic region of Istria where road and air links are very good but the tourist potential remains largely untapped. Land ownership is a big issue (many plots are small with a variety of owners) and planning permissions from the various authorities (involving environment impact assessments) can take a seemingly interminable time to run their course.
A number of headline projects are under way in the area: Jack Nicklaus is involved in an ambitious resort venture at Porto Mariccio, Graham Cooke has a development on the go in Marlera and Jeremy Pern is working on plans for courses at Marcocija and Motovun. Even former Croation goalkeeper, Dražen Ladiæ, is said to be investing in a new course at Liznjan.
But all of those are for the future. For now, only four tracks are operating within Croatia at the moment. The oldest is a 1922 design at Pula Golf Club (renovated by Howard Swan in 2006) on one of the islands at Brijuni, in the northern Adriatic Sea, where former President Tito had his State summer retreat. Two of the other three – Zagreb Golf & Country Club and the 9-hole layout at Martin Medimurje – are more modern, mid-1990s layouts situated near the capital.
For many years the best course was considered to be the Dolina Kardinala Golf & Country Club layout, located close to Karlovac, but the facility closed in 2013 and to our knowledge has not yet reopened. Today, we think the best Croatian golf course is the new millennium layout situated on the Istrian peninsula, where Golf Adriatic was laid out by Austrian architects Diethard Fahrenleitner and Barbara Eisserer to afford sea views from every point on the course.