Warm sum­mers, stun­ning land­scapes and a clus­ter of chal­leng­ing cour­ses make Aus­tria’s south­ern­most state a left-field but gen­uine al­ter­na­tive to the crush of Spain and Por­tu­gal, says Dun­can Len­nard.

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

The un­ex­pected joy of an un­sung Aus­trian re­gion.

Tell your four­ball part­ners you are tak­ing a golf­ing hol­i­day to Aus­tria and you can con­fi­dently ex­pect at least one of them to ask if you might also be con­sid­er­ing a ski­ing trip to Ali­cante.

A coun­try the size of Scot­land, Aus­tria is of course renowned for its su­perb, west­ern Ty­rolean land­scapes that of­fer some of Europe’s best snows­ports. But as you move east and south, the Alps be­gin to peter out and the golf cour­ses grow in num­ber.

When Aus­tria has shown up on the golf map it has tended to be in the coun­try’s north east, around Vi­enna. Euro­pean Tour venue Di­a­mond CC, host to the Ly­oness Open and June’s Shot Clock Masters, is just out­side the cap­i­tal, as is Fon­tana – at 78, the coun­try’s only en­try in Golf World’s rank­ing of con­ti­nen­tal Europe’s top 100 cour­ses.

But fur­ther south, there is a golf hub that de­liv­ers the per­fect an­ti­dote to the hus­tle of the Mediter­ranean. The south­ern­most state of Aus­tria, Carinthia is a truly blessed part of Europe span­ning Alpine foothills in the west, through ubiq­ui­tous and ex­pan­sive forests and lakes to the lower Kla­gen­furt basin to the south east. Bor­der­ing Italy and Slove­nia to the south, its cli­mate and cul­ture bor­rows more from the Mediter­ranean than the Ger­manic. Voted Undis­cov­ered Golf Des­ti­na­tion of the Year by golf tour op­er­a­tors in 2017, its beau­ti­ful cour­ses re­main un­der­played and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated.

Carinthia’s lay­outs are scat­tered around

the Worthersee, a slen­der 10-mile strip of glit­ter­ing turquoise and emer­ald, with wa­ter so clean you can drink it. Scan­ning the vivid, fir-clad Alpine slopes around the lake, you half-ex­pect to see Steve McQueen bounc­ing around on a mo­tor­bike. In­stead you’ll come across 12 golf cour­ses of­fer­ing va­ri­ety and chal­lenge, peace and space. That we sug­gest you pay it a visit is as clear as the wa­ters. When you do, here’s ev­ery­thing you need to know.

The Moun­tains

The club­house at Mill­stat­ter See GC en­joys one of the best views in golf. Perched on the side of a mini-Alp, it looks across a beau­ti­ful lake which mir­rors the fac­ing snow-capped mas­sif. Dots of clouds hang in the space in between, and at 3,000ft you don’t re­ally have to look up­wards to see them. Down below you is a vel­vet prac­tice green, be­yond which a rolling, sham­rock­green course stretches away.

And the pro that gets to work within this Carinthian tableau ev­ery day is a York­shire­man. “This view stays with you,” says Paul Thomp­son. “Back home they won­der why I’ve cho­sen to base my ca­reer in Aus­tria, but if they came here in sum­mer they’d un­der­stand. We get the Ital­ian weather so it’s al­most al­ways nice here, even up to 22 in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. The cour­ses are per­fect, and never crowded. And the air is so crisp, clean and clear. It’s just un­be­liev­ably beau­ti­ful.”

There are bug­gies to hire here, but it seems to de­feat the ob­ject some­what. Short and tight, Mill­stat­ter See is a gor­geous hike in a stun­ning set­ting and a clas­si­cally fun hol­i­day golf course, a time to take on your driver and the pin rather than a score­card. The se­vere un­du­la­tion means plenty of semi-blind shots, but that won’t stop you rel­ish­ing the whole ex­pe­ri­ence.

A half-hour’s drive from the Worthersee. Mill­stat­ter is one of three cour­ses set up in the moun­tains that are well worth the trip. Just a few miles to the east, Bad Kleinker­ch­heim GC greets you with the de­fin­i­tive bab­bling brook, which runs along­side the path up to the club­house. Set near a main ski re­sort, this course takes the dra­matic Alpine scenery up a notch. In truth it is more in­spir­ing than the front nine, which sweeps up and down the val­ley with­out huge imag­i­na­tion; but this all changes on the back nine when the course sud­denly changes char­ac­ter. A dizzy­ing ski-run of a fair­way greets you from the el­e­vated 10th tee, be­fore a cheeky lit­tle par 3 through the woods pro­vides a de­li­cious test. The su­perb dog-leg-right 12th takes you out of the trees, though the forested fi­nal two pro­vide a mer­ci­less fi­nale.

But if you only have the time or the legs to play one moun­tain golf course, make it Velden Kosten­berg GC. Just a short drive north of the pretty lake­side town of Velden, its fan­tas­tic holes dart and weave through thick for­est and sud­den mag­i­cal clear­ings, across dra­matic el­e­va­tions. Al­most ev­ery hole gives you the op­por­tu­nity to hit a shot you will re­mem­ber. A walk in the park it ain’t, and after nine holes you might feel like you’ve played all 18. But push on through the pain and you’ll be re­warded with the mem­ory of hav­ing had the de­fin­i­tive Alpine golf ex­pe­ri­ence. In a re­gion of peaks, this is a def­i­nite high point.

Bad Kleinker­ch­heim de­liv­ers a thor­ough test in stun­ning sur­round­ings.

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