Saturday, 4 July 2015

Slovenia: A great destination for golfers and lovers of the outdoors

It may be a mere speck on the map of Europe but Slovenia is increasingly on the radar of travellers who enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle, and golfers in particular. 

Golf has been played in this pint-sized former Yugoslav republic for 75 years and has become of increasing prominence since it became independent in 1991. 
Bled Golf Club 

With courses set in the midst of vineyards, below the mighty Alps and Karavanke mountains and just outside the picturesque capital of Ljubljana there are plenty of different challenges to be found – and the fact the country is so small means they are all easily accessible. 

The par-73, 6256 metres King's Course outside the lake resort town of Bled dates back to 1937 and is the cradle of golf in the country and one of the oldest in Middle Europe. 

It was abandoned during World War II but was redesigned by well-known golf architect Donald Harradine in 1972. A nine-hole course was added in 1993. Golfers walking down a fairway or from one hole to the next move through sunny woodlands and enjoy fresh mountain air with views of the Julian Alps, the Karavanke range, Mount Jelovica and the more distant Kamnik Alps. 

The Bled Golf Club has been regularly ranked among the top 100 courses in Europe and has hosted professional and amateur tournaments at international level. There is a clubhouse with accommodation, restaurant and bar.

Just 10 kilometres outside the capital is the Diners Club Golf and Country Club course in the village of Smlednik, where the 5872 metres, par-72 layout is noted for its large and well kept greens. 
Diners Club Golf and Country Club
There is also a driving range, putting green and a golf academy as well as a clubhouse with an excellent restaurant known as Evergreen, where I dined rather stylishly. 

There is another 18-hole course, the Arboretum, outside Ljubljana in the hamlet of Radomlje, while the newest course is at Ototec, outside the regional city of Nove Mesto and located alongside the River Krka. The hilly 6189 metres, par-72 layout has five tees at each hole and is the longest in the country. 

Other 18-hole courses of note include Ptuj, outside the country's second city of Maribor, and Moravski Toplice Livada, near the Hungarian border. 

There are also nine-hole courses at Zlati Gric, Lipice, Trnovo, near Ljubljana, Jelsingrad and Olimje, all easily reached from the capital as Slovenia is one of those rare places where you can be body surfing in the morning and scaling alpine peaks in the afternoon. 

It is dubbed the country where the Alps meet the Mediterranean. 

With a population of just 2 million, Slovenia was named in the top 10 European 
destinations for 2014 by Lonely Planet and has been described as “the sleeping beauty”. 

Ljubljana is within a few hours drive of major cities including Venice, Munich, Vienna and Zagreb. 

The rural regions are rugged with a charming rusticity but Ljubljana is a city of sophistication, with concerts halls and regular cultural festivals. 

A waterfall outside Kamnik
Just a 30-minute drive outside the capital, and a short drive from the charming old town of Kamnik, is the unique recreation area known as Velika Planina, the perfect high-altitude wilderness destination for walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. 

On the way back to Ljubljana there are several gorges, waterfalls and springs and the town of Kamnik, with its Romanesque double chapel of St Eligius is worth a stop. 

Make sure to stop into the gorgeous old inn, Gostilna Repnik, with its carriage horses and beautiful gardens to try local dishes like the delicious veal tripe dumplings and venison goulash. 

You will eat heartily in Slovenia; with the locals fond of sausages and schnitzels and other 
warming dishes, while breads, cakes, soups and dumplings all play major roles on local menus. All easily walked off over 18 holes.

For details of visiting Slovenia check out the www.slovenia.info website, or visit
www.visitljubljana.com. 

# This is an abbreviated version of a story in the July edition of Golf Magazine Australia

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