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GOLF ATRAVEL Player’s Guide


HK Golfer・APR 2012


European Renaissance

Over the past decade, Europe has thrived from a golf course architecture point of view, with a number of high quality layouts coming online. The well-travelled Andrew Marshall picks six of the best Photography by Paul Marshall


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Son Gual Spanish Stunner

To the manor born: Son Gual (top) and Castle Start (opposite) feature historic buildings overlooking their glorious courses 66

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Since opening in 2007, Son Gual has quickly gained a reputation as not only a Mallorcan must-play, but also one of Europe’s top new courses. What was once 156 hectares of flat nondescript agricultural land on the outskirts of the island’s capital, Palma, has been transformed by three-time German Amateur champion and course designer Thomas Himmel into a polished layout that winds its way through a landscape of gently rolling hills, a thousand mature olive trees, fields of wild flowers, pockets of vineyards and water features all overlooked by a hundredyear-old Mallorcan manor house.

Adding to the club’s growing reputation is the fact that Son Gual has hosted a European Seniors Tour event, the 2009 Mallorca PGA Seniors Open, which saw former Ryder Cup captain Mark James defeat Irishman Eamonn Darcy in a play-off to claim the title. The 66 bunkers of Augusta-like sand are a major feature of Son Gual and some are so extensive they make the ones on most other courses look like children’s sand pits. Many other things will stick in the memory long after playing this fantastically manicured course, which is decked out in wall-to-wall bent grass – not least the dramatic water-laced par-five 18th, a serious contender for the best long hole in Spain. Contact: HKGOLFER.COM

Castle Stuart Golf Links Highland Classic The brainchild of Mark Parsinen, the American who gifted the world Kingsbarns, this cracking layout overlooks the Moray Firth and various well-known Inverness landmarks – the Kessock Bridge, Chanonry Lighthouse, Fort George and Castle Stuart itself – and enjoys similar topography to majestic Royal Dornoch further north, with an old sea cliff creating two tiered plateaus with six holes running alongside the water. The course has been designed with


wide fairways to offer plenty of lines of play on ground that is just perfect for links golf. One of the many great things about Castle Stuart, which was co-designed by the highly rated Gil Hanse, who has been awarded the Rio de Janaeiro Olympics golf course design project, is that you get a real sense of seclusion and most of the time you are not aware of any other golfers out on the course. The views all around are fabulous, especially from the fabulous art deco 1930s-style clubhouse that sits proudly overlooking the course. Castle Stuart Golf Links, now the home of the Barclays Scottish Open, is a modern-day classic. Contact:

HK Golfer・APR 2012


Praia D’El Rey Atlantic Links

Continental adventures: The wonderful links-like back-nine at Praia D'El Ray (top), less than an hour's drive from Lisbon; there's scenery galore at Golfplatz Eichenheim in Austria 68

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Portugal has always been one of Europe’s most popular golfing destinations and although the southern Algarve may have the lion’s share of the courses, for the travelling golfer looking for something a little quieter and off-the-beatentrack, the Oeste region is an interesting option. Star billing here must go to the Praia D’El Rey Golf & Beach Resort, which is situated along a beautiful sandy beach in a rural landscape of rolling sand dunes and pine tree forests within an hour of Lisbon. The centerpiece of this luxury resort is Cabell B.Robinson’s wild and wonderful Praia D’El Rey course – a marvellous combination of a parkland front nine and a links-like back

nine that follows the coast with spectacular views over the Atlantic and the Berlenga Islands beyond. When he first viewed the site Robinson said: “This is the kind of landscape we architects try to create, but at Praia d’El Rey it’s all here, naturally. Now it’s my responsibility to protect it.” After the tighter pine-lined fairways of the opening nine, the layout opens up and heads towards the ocean, offering all the elements of a Scottish or Irish links, but one which is played in rather more comfortable temperatures. Bold deep bunkers, undulating greens, and natural sand areas contrast sharply with lush green fairways. The signature stretch of holes is from 12 to 15 that runs parallel to the coast, although mention must also go to the 17th, a gigantic uphill par-five measuring in excess of 600 yards. Contact: HKGOLFER.COM

Golfplatz Eichenheim Alpine Wonder Two of the Austria’s key golf areas, Zell am See in Salzburgerland and Kitzbühel in the Tyrol, are within a short drive of each other and have all the right ingredients for the travelling golfer: chic ski towns, top-class restaurants, friendly locals, spa and wellness treatments, a multitude of outdoor activities and invigorating stress-free golf. From quirky nine-holers to championshipclass designs, the golf courses are mostly quiet, the green fees affordable and because of the altitude, well struck shots can fly an extra 10 per cent of distance through the crisp clean air. But the absolute essence of Alpine golf is the breathtaking scenery and the panoramic vistas


that unfold as you play, and nothing sums up this better than Golfplatz Eichenheim in the Kitzbühel region. Designed by Kyle Phillips, whose impressive portfolio of layouts includes Kingsbarns in Scotland and The Grove in England, the 5,944-metre track presents a stern test for players of all standards, with superbly manicured greens, rollercoaster fairways, meandering water hazards and regular elevation changes, which combine to produce a truly memorable experience. After playing your approach shots through a cut in the rocks, at the par-five first, take a few moments to appreciate the setting. The emerald green appears perched on the same level as a snowcapped mountain range in the distance, creating one of the most stunning vistas in Austrian golf. Contact:

HK Golfer・APR 2012


Doonbeg Eyes are Smiling Standing on the elevated tee of the 567-yard parfive first, eyes are drawn down a fairway that bucks and plunges like a raging river towards a large green protected on three sides by soaring dunes. This is the start to a classic round of golf at Doonbeg in County Clare, a links designed by Greg Norman less than a decade ago but one that looks and plays like it’s been part of the landscape for a hundred. Holes play up, down, beside, around and seemingly into the towering


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sand hills. Bunkers are dug by hand, some edged by tall layers of stacked sod, others by shaggy tufts of native grass. Depending on the ocean breezes, Doonbeg’s knowledgeable caddies may suggest taking anything from a four-iron to a sand wedge at the tiny signature hole - the spectacular 111-yard par-three fourteenth, arguably the best short one-shotter in Irish golf. The par-four 18th is a fitting finale to a memorable course, with the ocean stretching the length of the 440-yard hole and the magnificent granite Lodge providing a grand backdrop. Contact:


Bro Hof Slott Supersized Swede The Swedes love their golf – indeed, out of a population of just nine million, there are over 600,000 registered golfers. To put this in perspective, there are fewer regular golfers in China – population 1.3 billion – than there are in this Nordic land, which goes some way to explaining how the country has produced the likes of Annika Sorenstam, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson et al. Since the first golf club, Gothenburg, was founded in 1902, quickly followed two years later by Stockholm’s Golf Klub, Sweden now has around five hundred courses with at least 50 of these within an hour’s drive of the capital. Travelling to the courses is all part of the Swedish golf experience and it doesn’t take you long to leave the capital behind and enter the countryside, where traditional homes with their HKGOLFER.COM

distinctive yellow, musk and red facades contrast vividly against the ubiquitous conifer and birch woodlands, farmland and rocky outcrops. The number one ranked course in the Stockholm area is Bro Hof Slott’s Stadium Course – a state-ofthe-art layout that opened in 2007. Built around the baroque-style Bro Hoff Castle – formerly owned by the Swedish royal family – the attention to detail is evident from the moment you enter the regal gates to the very last hole. Said course designer Robert Trent Jones II: “Everything is big at Bro Hof! The holes are longer, the greens are bigger, the course has more water and the bunkers are larger and well placed. Besides which, the wind is always part of the game. On the dogleg holes you not only have to hit the balls a long way, you also have to get them to stop.” Bro Hof Slott is now the venue for the Scandinavian Masters and is also rumoured to be a hot favourite to host the Ryder Cup in 2022. Contact:

Northern highlights: Bro Hof Slott (above), designed by Robert Trent Jones II, is one of the vastest courses in Europe; the fine links and equally fine Lodge at Doobeg in County Clare HK Golfer・APR 2012



A Player’s Guide HKGOLFER.COM 64 HK GOLFER・APR 2012 Over the past decade, Europe has thrived from a golf course architecture point of view,...