While the heavy hitters of the European golfing scene get all the attention from golfers looking to strut their stuff on some foreign fairways, golf break destinations such as Austria fly under the radar which is a shame because during the right time of the year there are few places in the world that can rival it for its monumental landscape and its conservative but excellent selection of relatively quiet golf courses. This is perhaps the greatest strength of Austrian golf holidays; the golfing hoards who annually, and understandably, flock to the likes of France, Spain and Portugal will continue to do so, leaving you with a peaceful place to play golf without the threat of long queues on tees and 6 hour rounds!
Austria’s diverse landscape begins in the towering Tyrol region. This stunning, mountainous region of Austria is home to famous Alpine names like Kitzbuhel and St. Anton, which are world renowned in the realms of winter sports. Not exactly ideal for golf you might say, but when the snow melts away an incredibly lush and verdant landscape is revealed, one that has enormous golfing potential.
So impressive are the slopes, valleys and meadows of Tyrol that they have attracted the likes of Kyle Phillips and the great Jack Nicklaus to the region in search of the perfect patch of land on which to build an alpine golf course of international repute. We are happy to inform you that their travels to Austria did not go unrewarded.
Both Nicklaus and Philips, among others we might add, have crafted a monumental golf course out of the Austrian Alps; golf courses which, had they been built in a country more renowned for its golfing scene, would be perennial fixtures in lists of the finest golf courses on the planet.
Kyle Phillips has manufactured a remarkable project at Eichenheim, and the Golden Bear has laid out a signature Nicklaus design at Gut Altentann – this mountainous terrain is heaven sent for the creation of special golfing venues.
Those familiar with the work of golf architect Kyle Phillips will know that he is a master of manipulating the most spectacular of natural landscapes into true golfing masterpieces; even those landscapes that seem ill designed for the purpose. This has to be testament to an extraordinarily advanced golfing imagination, and the mountain terrain around Kitzbuhel is one that certainly demands this amazing level of creativity.
Kitzbuhel may be more famous for its downhill ski course, which sees death-defying skiers hurtling down the piste at speeds of 140 km/hour, but during the summer months it is a spectacular alpine golf break destination. The Eichenheim Course is arguably the star of the golfing show in the Tyrol region, offering amazing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and, needless to say, a fantastic golfing challenge.
Eichenheim only opened for play a few years ago but it’s maturing at a healthy rate and will soon be the finished article, ongoing alterations and maintenance aside of course. This stunning course takes the golfer on an exciting rollercoaster ride, with plenty of elevated tees, towering alpine pine trees lining the fairways and large, lightning fast greens to contend with.
Highlights include the par 5 3rd hole which features a tee perched high on a mountain ledge with a the fairway dropping way down below, meandering through the pines before going back up the hill towards a tricky two tier green. This is arguably Eichenheim’s signature hole, but to be fair, there really isn’t a weak one on the course. Something we have come to expect from Kyle Philips whose other recent creations include the mighty Kingsbarns, The Grove in Hertfordshire and the stunning Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Despite the Nicklaus Design association being extremely prodigious in recent years, the Golden Bear himself has not signed his name personally to many projects. Gut Altentann is one of the few projects with which has done so though; such is the quality of the patch of land with which he had to work.
Since its inauguration in 1988, Altentann has been firmly at the forefront of golf in Austria and rightly so. The reason Nicklaus chose to take personal charge was probably that he was enchanted by the natural landscape indigenous to Altentann.
The result is a course that is beautifully carved through the mature woodland of Mozart’s homeland. From the championship markers, Gut Altentann can be stretched to 6,750 yards, which is not particularly long by modern standards but certainly long enough to test the average golfer. The quality of the design is such, however, that the course has been chosen to host the European Tour’s Austrian Open. Clearly then, if the course is ready to welcome some of the world’s best players, it will certainly provide us weekend warriors with an intriguing and testing challenge.
Like Eichenheim, Altentann traverses endless undulations and boasts scenery that will make concentrating on the job in hand a tricky proposition. Add trickling streams and tranquil ponds to the equation and you are left with one of the most picturesque and enjoyable courses in Europe.