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|On the 306-yard ninth , a good drive leaves a short approach downhill to an island green. (Mark Nessmith/GolfPublisher.com)|
Golf Resort Konopiste is a relatively new arrival on the Czech golf scene. It has two 18-hole courses: The Radecky and D'Este. The Radecky is the more challenging. Both offer accessible golf close to Prague.
BENESOV, Czech Republic - You don't expect this kind of clubhouse.
Up the gravel path from the parking lot at Golf Resort Konopiste, it looms large, an imposing gray and white stone mansion with pitched roofs, ornate eves and a large clock tower. Around back is a large terrace, welcoming terrace. A few stone fountains gurgle nearby.
It all has the feel of a royal garden, and when you consider that this small town a half hour outside Prague was once the home of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, well things start to make a little sense.
"There is a great atmosphere here," said Jiri Dolansky, a banker from Prague, as he came off the course.
Golf Resort Konopiste's clubhouse, a renovated chateau, gives way to two 18-hole courses (and a nine) behind it, winding through fertile farmland with gentle hills - and Ferdinand's home, Konopiste Castle - never far from view in the distance
The resort is a relatively new arrival on the Czech Republic's golf scene, and certainly the most accessible golf outside Prague. The signature, par-72 Radecky course, built in 2002, is a lush and relatively challenging play, stretching to 6,484 yards from tips.
But it's the second course, the D'Este, that's the real newbie here. Built in 2005, it's considerably shorter than the Radecky (6,086 yards from the championship tees, 5,730 yards from the men's), and much easier.
"I don't think it's difficult, compared to the Radecky," said Tomas Zahradnik, Konopiste's head professional. "Most everything is very wide out there."
Unlike the Radecky, the D'Este course has practically no trees to speak of. When the course was built two years ago, workers planted 70,000 trees throughout the course. They are little more than saplings today, lining most holes but in no way discouraging you from playing your big clubs off the tee.
The lack of trees on D'Este brings another factor into play: the wind. This is one breezy course, with many holes playing considerably longer into the wind.
The course's layout is not very imaginative: Most holes play pretty much dead straight, with few significant forced carries or hazards to take into account. The D'Este rewards long hitters off the tee.
"This is definitely a place where you can play long," Zahradnik said.
This is certainly true of the opening five holes: two short par-4s followed by a short par-5, short par-3 and another short par-4.
Things don't really get interesting on D'Este until the 436-yard, par-5 seventh. Yes, it's another short one, but it's the first time in the round when some thinking comes into play. A large pond is positioned in heart of the landing area, forcing you to decide whether to lay up off the tee. Do so, and a second shot over the water leaves a short wedge to an up elevated green. If the wind is up - and it's always up here - you might need more club than you think, however.
A 193-yard par-3 follows, and then comes the signature par-4 ninth, a 306-yard hole that plays downhill to an island green. A good poke off the tee and you might be looking at 50-60 yards for an approach, a tough distance for someone not nimble with a choked up sand wedge.
The back nine at D'Este is significantly longer, and with the wind even some of the par-4s need two hefty hits before you're putting.
The first stern test on the back comes at the par-5 12th. It's as straight as they come, but at 454 yards into the wind, it takes three full shots to reach the green in regulation.
The course's first, and only, dogleg arrives at the 333-yard par-4 14th, which bends around an open piece of farmland. Take your drive over this patch and you can cut the corner of the dogleg, leaving an easy wedge to the green.
Hole 18, a 352-yard par-4, is the most challenging drive on the course, and the only one where trees - real trees - come into play, creating a narrow chute that eventually opens to a wide landing area, and a downhill approach to the green.
While the D'Este course is in good condition, few of the holes on this easy run are memorable. Lacking trees, the course is much more a slave to wind, which can lengthen some of its holes considerably. The wide-open layout here is forgiving, and big hitters off the tee can really shine. Mid-irons rarely come into play - this is a course of drives and wedges. The greens are all straightforward, and few are guarded by anything more than shallow bunkers. D'Este is a good option for a casual, weekday round with buddies, but those looking for more of a challenge should head elsewhere, at least to Radecky next door. Both have weekend greens fees of near $100 for nonmembers - a steep price for D'Este.
April 27, 2007
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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