The King’s course at Royal Bled heads our new Slovenian Top 5 chart
Last month’s Golf Participation Report for Europe 2017 from KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice threw up what we thought was a very interesting statistic: the percentage increase in Slovenian registered golfers between 2015 and 2016 (49%) was the second highest of forty-three countries and territories across the continent.
It just so happened that Top 100 Golf Courses attended a press trip a couple of weeks ago in nearby Slovakia, so we thought it made sense to stay an extra few days and travel to Slovenia to have a look around some of the main golf complexes that are attracting local people to the game.
We’d heard too that the King’s course at Royal Bled had just reopened in August after a three-year renovation led by Swan Golf Designs, when Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia played the ceremonial opening shot from the 1st tee to formally launch the refurbished course and mark the 80th anniversary of the original layout.
Four teams (led by Scotland’s Sam Torrance, Italian Costantino Rocco, Marcel Siem from Germany and Slovenia’s own Challenge Tour professional, Tim Gornik) competed against each other at the reopening event and Rocca’s team emerged as winners, with Siem posting the new course record after carding an impressive three under par score of 69.
Located within the Julian Alps, close to the Triglav National Park, Royal Bled changed ownership in 2013 after it was acquired by Serbian entrepreneur and passionate golfer, Dragan Šolak. The new owner then embarked on an ambitious (and costly) mission to upgrade the King’s course and its infrastructure, returning the club to its former position as one of Europe’s most sought after golfing destinations.
As we witnessed, the results of this
makeover are simply stunning. The King’s course bears little
resemblance to the layout that first opened in 1937, having been
lengthened and largely rebuilt, especially on the back nine where
exciting new risk/reward water features have been installed. The
appropriately named King’s clubhouse is also now fit for royalty,
having been furnished with downstairs locker rooms and upstairs
overnight accommodation of the highest standard.
Royal Bled is now one of a select group
of twenty-six top-end golf facilities across Europe participating in
the IMG Prestige elite reciprocal program, and its inclusion in this
prestigious enterprise is an indication of just how far the club has
come in recent times. We’ve absolutely no reservations about naming
Royal Bled (King’s)
course as our number 1 layout in Slovenia – indeed, we fully expect
it to debut in a prominent position when we re-rank our Continental
Europe Top 100 before the end of the year.
We had a look around two other courses
that are located close to Ljubljana.
(our new national number 3) was an absolute delight, sited close to
the largest botanical park in the country, where tree-lined fairways
are set out within an expansive, undulating property. Italian Marco
Croze designed the original nine at the end of the 1990s, with local
designer Peter Škofic adding another nine a few years later.
Nineteen kilometres from Arboretum, the
in Smlednik (at number 5 in our new Slovenian chart) lies in the
shadow of the Šmarna gora hill, which rises 664 metres above sea
level, offering terrific views of the Kamnik and Julian Alps and the
Ljubljana basin. First opened for play nine years ago, this golf
operation has recently suffered financial problems, leading to a new
consortium taking over the management of the course and its extensive
Away from the capital, Grad Otočec remains at number 2 in our national listings. It’s a Howard Swan
and Peter Škofic co-design, with the Englishman setting out the
original nine in 2005 and the Slovenian architect doubling the size
of the layout a few years later. For those who think the course at
Arboretum might be too undulating, they should come here and see what
really contoured land looks like – if thrilling golf is what you’re
looking for, then this is the place to find it in the midst of a
fabulous forested property near the old castle.
The small town of Ptuj is situated a
two-hour drive to the northeast of Otočec and the landscape of this
pleasant 18-hole layout at
Golf klub Ptuj (at number 4 in our Slovenian rankings) is almost totally flat as the
course lies on the floodplain of the Drava River. The Studencnica
brook comes into play from time to time but the main aquatic
challenge on the course arrives at the par three 14th, where the hole
plays to an island green in the middle of a lake.
A further 50-kilometre drive northeast of Ptuj lies Murska Sobota, in the very northeast corner of Slovenia, not far from the border with Austria, Hungary and Croatia. The small spa town of Moravske Toplice sits nearby and one of its main sporting attractions is the course at Golf Livada, where the par three 15th is the signature hole on the card and the fairways are set around the indoor water park and swimming pools of the Terme 3000 thermal resort. Unfortunately, Livada didn’t quite make the cut for the current Slovenian Top 5 chart but that might change when we next re-rank.
|1||Royal Bled (King's)||No change|
|2||Grad Otočec||No change|
To view further details of our newly updated Slovenian Top 5 rankings click the link.
Top 100 Golf Courses