Top 100 Golf Courses revises the rankings for the Visegrad (V4) Group 2016
Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic are the latest Central European countries to receive a Top 100 ranking review
Top 100 Golf Courses occasionally issues a news release relating to a consortium of nations – we’ve looked collectively in the past at courses in the Nordic region and the Benelux countries – and in this article we’re concentrating on the four Central European states that form the Visegrad Group (V4) of countries, namely Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
It’s such a shame the global economic downturn in recent years has had such a drastic effect on golf development in Central Europe because the region had enjoyed real growth in the early years of the new millennium. The number of new courses has certainly slowed down but those that made it all the way from the drawing board to the first tee are of a surprisingly high quality and worthy of closer examination.Hungary
We’ve featured a couple of Hungarian layouts in recent years, Hencse National (once known as European Lakes) and Greenfield. The former facility is currently closed due to renovation work being carried out and the latter has just undergone something of a re-branding exercise, having previously been known as Birdland.
Two designs from German architect Hans-Georg Erhardt of Austrian-based Golf and Land Design now sit at the top of our Hungarian chart and they’re the 18-hole layouts at Pannonia Golf & Country Club and Balaton Golf. Water comes into play at half the holes at Pannonia and on several of the holes on the front nine at Balaton so be prepared to lose a few golf balls if you’re not on your game when you play either of these courses.
Old Lake completes the Top 5 for Hungary and this championship course is laid out on an old estate which belonged to the House of Eszterházy, a Hungarian noble family that once owned great tracts of land throughout the country. The course hosted three Ladies European Tour events from 2004 to 2006 and the ESGA Senior Amateur European Championship in 2009 so there’s been plenty of top competitive play at Old Lake involving professional women and elite male golfers.
To view further details of the Hungarian Top 5 click the link.Slovakia
The opening of the Penati Golf Resort in 2012 raised the profile of Slovakian golf to a whole new level and the unveiling of the first 18-hole layout at this prestigious venue – the Legend course from Nicklaus Design – was just the beginning. The course entered our Continental Europe Top 100 chart for 2014, the first time a Slovakian design had ever been included, and it was a clear indication that golf in Central Europe was now worthy of recognition from a wider audience.
Just two years further on, the Heritage layout – a Jonathan Davison design that opened a year after the Legend course at Penati – has followed a similar path. Such is the quality of this new track, it’s actually overtaken its stablemate to become the new national number 1 and it’s also been included in our European rankings for 2016, entering four places ahead of the Legend course at number 93. The Heritage was always destined for great things so it’s no real surprise to see the impact it’s now making.
Gray Bear, a wonderful woodland course in the Tale National Park, and the tough Black River 18-hole layout at Bratislava Golf & Country Club remain at number 3 and 4 in our revised listings whilst we feature for the first time at number 5 in our rankings the course at Skalica Golf Club, situated near the Czech border, which is a 2009 links-style design from the prolific Hans-Georg Erhardt.
To view further details of the Slovakian Top 5 click the link.Poland
We introduced a Top 10 chart for Poland in 2012 so this is the second time we’ve revised the rankings for that country. There‘s a little movement at the top of the chart but our number 1 remains the same and it’s the Gary Player-designed 18-hole layout at the Modry Las Golf Resort, described by one reviewer last year as “a step up from other courses played on a recent trip to Poland… the course is ahead of target in terms of maturity and playability”.
Our new number 2 leaps four places to the runner-up position and it’s the “inland links” course at Sand Valley Golf & Country Club, which opened for play in 2009. The owner has been extolling the virtues of this place for some time now, indicating it’s one of the best new courses in Europe, so perhaps his open invitation for a visit will have be to accepted sometime soon.
Rising one place to number 3, Postolowo Golf Club is a Jeremy Turner layout which can be stretched to over 7,000 metres from the back tees. Situated half an hour’s drive from Gdansk city centre, the sandy-soiled fairways of this course were laid out in 1990 so, after only quarter of a century of operation, this makes it one of the elder statesman of Polish golf.
To view further details of the Polish Top 10 click the link.Czech Republic
We’ve maintained a ranking chart for the Czech Republic since 2009, increasing our coverage to twenty courses in 2014. That listing has just been revised, with assistance from more than a dozen local golf journalists who were polled to give us their thoughts on the best tracks around the country – we must thank everyone who contributed, especially Hynek Just who went the extra mile. We’re pretty confident our Czech rankings are now as accurate as they possibly can be so let’s have a look at this edition’s highlights.
Still at number 1, the course at Casa Serena, a former stop on the European Senior Tour between 2008 and 2011, is one of the few Czech golfing facilities that doesn’t permit pay and play golf. It’s a pity this private club doesn’t allow even limited access as we’re sure many would appreciate the golf experience at a European Golf Design venue which one recent reviewer termed “a wonderful delight… fit for lords and kings.”
The Albatross course on the outskirts of Prague has also hosted a prominent event on the European Tour professional circuit, with Jamie Donaldson winning the Czech Masters at this resort in 2014. Despite attracting some very poor reviews on this website, the course rises one place to number two in our new table, proving that local knowledge gleaned from impartial observers on the ground is worth its weight in gold.
Soaring four positions to number 3, Royal Marianske Lazne is yet another former European Tour venue – the Czech Open was held here from 1994 to 1996 – and it’s the second oldest course in the country, having opened as Marienbad Golf Club with a 9-hole course designed by Scotsman Robert Doig in 1905. Fairway conditioning has been something of an issue in recent times but a new irrigation system should take care of that now.
Five other courses make upward moves in the new Top 20 and the most spectacular of these climbers is Plzen, which rockets ten places up to the new number 7 spot. A Christoph Städler design that first opened for play in 2004, this course is laid out in a wooded valley on either side of the Klabava River, with the stunning par three 11th (and its island green) on Lake Ejpovice recognised as one of the best holes in the country.
We have two newcomers to the Top 20, with Prosper (New) and Nova Amerika making way for the new entries. At number 11, Loreta is another Keith Preston course that follows hard on the heels of his other highly-regarded projects at Albatross and Ypsilon and the architect will no doubt be delighted if his latest Czech creation garners similar critical acclaim. Creeping in at number 20, the course at Park Golf Club Ostrava was established in the mid-1960s within the rolling parkland estate that surrounds the Rothschild Chateau so you could term it something of a classic, relatively speaking.
To view further details of the Czech Republic Top 20 click the link.
We always welcome comments when we publish updated national rankings so please feel free to let us know what you think of our four revised national charts. Have we left out a layout that really should be listed or have we included a course which doesn’t deserve to be there? Perhaps there’s a particular track sitting way too high in the chart or there’s one lying far too low? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page if you’d like to share an opinion.
19 January 2016 Respond to this article