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BY DESIGN Excellence in Golf Design from the American Society of Golf Course Architects


until: 06.01.2013 include in this category: News | author: Ing. Libor Jirásek | comments: 0


Attracting the masses

Growing the Game/Michele Witthaus/Summer 2010

When golf is introduced to a new country, too often it takes one of two tacks. Either developers look to build golf courses as an amenity for housing developments aimed at the country’s wealthy elite, or the game is seen as a means of boosting tourism from overseas.

There’s nothing wrong with ether real estate or tourist golf. But on thein own, neither will create a sustainable golf industry in a country. Tourist golf is at the mercy of the international travel market, and the success of a golf tourism destination is always  hreatened by the development of new resorts in new markets; while development golf, designed first and foremost to help sell houses, is hardly the most likely place to attract a mass of new participants to the game.

Golf is not, technically, a new introduction to the Czech Republic; indeed, the game has a long history in the Central European country. The first Czech courses, in the Bohemian spa towns of Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne, date from the early years of the twentieth century, and a number of other golf centres sprung up in the country during the inter-war period. Both Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne survived through the period of communist rule, preserved by a small number of local enthusiasts, but those venues aside, golf largely ceased to exist in the country.

The Czech golf renaissance started in the early 1990s. Libor Jirásek, who founded probably the country’s first golf design practice in 1992, says that at that time, there were six golf courses and around 1,500 active golfers in the Czech Republic. From that modest beginning, though, the game has grown steadily, with the number of players officially registered with the Czech Golf Federation now amounting to more than 60,000 (with a large number of unregistered golfers also playing the game on a regular basis) and more than 100 golf facilities, not all of which are full-scale 18 hole courses. For several years, around 6,000 Czechs have taken up golf annually, and that growth looks set to continue. There is strong interest in the game in the Czech media–a recent golf day at the Casa Serena course near the historic city of Kutná Hora to promote the annual tournament on the European Senior Tour attracted many local journalists. And British golf architect Jeremy Ford, who has Works in the country for some years, initially as part of Austrian designer Hans-Georg Erhardt’s practice, and now under his own name, says that the federation has just launched an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at ramping up the pace of player growth. “They have targeted a figure of over 100,000 registered golfers by 2013,” he says.

Opened in 1993, the Karlstejn golf resort south-west of Prague was the first large-scale golf project to be developer in the Czech Republic after the fall of the communist government. Designed by Canadian ASGCA member Les Furber and his countryman Jim Eremko, Karlstejn’s initial membership fee, at US$4,800, was at the time twice the average annual Czech salary.

Furber recollects the challenge of being a pioneer. “The first challenge was to assemble the land as there were 66 different titles to these lands,” he says. “The communist approach to problems and solutions was embedded in attitudes and it was difficult to get people to think creatively. For many years the authorities wouldn’t allow the owners to build a clubhouse on the top of the hill, as it could be seen from the castle.” Karlstejn has been followed by many more golf courses, with a number of other international designers having worked in the country.

Czech golf is not always cheap. Jeremy Ford says that, at his recently opened Prague City course, green fees average between €85-€90 (US$100-US$108), and the course is running at around 80 per cent of capacity. But KPMG’s most recent report on the Czech golf industry points out that the cost of playing the game in the country varies dramatically according to location, with courses around Prague and in the tourist areas of western Bohemia being especially expensive, averaging an Antal membership subscription of €1,000, while elsewhere in the country, cosi are significantly lower. KPMG found an average weekday green fee of €24, increasing to €33 at weekends.

What makes Czech golf interesting, and a valuable case study from which the rest of the world can learn, is that the Czech golf boom has been generated from the bottom up. The country has largely created its own golf industry– Ford says that domestic Czech investors are responsible for most of the aktive projects of which he is aware–and golf participation has grown rapidly, albeit from a low base. Since the fall of communism, the country has experienced rapid and sustained economic growth, with GDP per capita reaching US$26,800 in 2008, around 82 per cent of the EU average. The Czech crown has been largely stable since it become convertible in 1995, and the country’s public debt is among the lowest in Europe.

It is well known that golf flourishes in countries that are economically strong. So the success of the Czech economy has created the conditions in which golf can grow, and the willingness of Czech investors to put money into golf projects, and make them available at affordable prices, has encouraged many people to take up the game.

The result of this is that the Czech Republic has, from the bottom up, developed its own unique golf culture. It has done so without the emergence of a major Czech golfing star, often a feature in the growth of the game in other markets–think of the effect Bernhard Langer had on German golf as the most obvious example. In Libor Jirásek, it has its first successful home-grown golf architect, with others in training in the firm, there are many well-respected Czech course superintendents with a growing national association for greenkeepers, and it has an active golf course owners association.

In Sweden, another country that grep golf from the bottom up, twenty-plus years of growth in the game, supported by the availability of low-cost, relativem simple golf facilities, created a demand for higher quality golf courses. There are signs this same process is starting to occur in the Czech Republic, with a number of large-scale developments currently in planning. Overseas investors, from countries as widely dispersed as the UK and Korea, are showing an interest in developing golf resorts and residential estates in the country. Courses such as Casa Serena, owned by Taiwanese  electronics giant Foxconn, and Beroun, a private club opened in 2008, and also designed by Les Furber, show there are developers willing to put money behind Czech golf. Furber says he thinks there is an appetite for more, and that the country may also look to the golf and real estate model so popular elsewhere.

Crucially, though, these big-money developments are being approached on the back of an already successful national golf industry. Czechs have embraced golf, and are continuing to do so, in increasing numbers. The result is that forthcoming large-scale development projects will have a pool of readily available golfers aspiring to better things from which to draw their membership. Investors interested in bringing golf tourists to the country–and IAGTO voted it ‘Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year’ in 2007–can take on projects knowing that they have a domestic market to fall back on when the next golf destination emerges, as it always will. In short, the Czech golf industry, though still relatively small, has a solid foundation on which to grow. It is a model that more countries would do well to emulate.

Sourse: BY DESIGN. [online]. Summer 2010 [cit. 2016-12-07]. Dostupné z:,%20Summer%202010.pdf


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