They say golf is a gentleman’s game, as the absence of officials makes the prospect of cheating harder to resist, and much depends on the etiquette expected from the players. It is this promotion of etiquette that is a major part of all educational golf environments, and the Professional Golfers’ Association of Slovenia is no different in this regard. Boris Košuta, the head of the PGA of Slovenia, took the post early in 2014, and under his watch the country was named the Most Promising Golf Destination for 2015 by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. Established in 1993, the Professional Golfers’ Association of Slovenia became a member of the PGA's of Europe in the same year. In the years since golf in Slovenia has grown, with numerous courses throughout the country vying for the crown of its most impressive. Whilst most of its members are golf teachers, the association also has four professional players competing in tournaments throughout Europe. With the sport developing at a rapid rate throughout the country, we were lucky enough to sit down and have a brief chat with Boris Košuta about the state of golf in Slovenia, where its been and where he sees it going in the near and distant future.
Why should foreign tourists come to Slovenia for a golf holiday
Slovenia offers spectacular natural settings and attractions, such as Postojna Cave, Lake Bled, Goriška Brda, the Bay of Piran, etc. Amidst these beautiful landscapes, there are 16 golf courses, of which seven courses have 18 holes, whilst the course at Bled has 27 holes. The furthest course from Ljubljana, Moravske, is just 90 minutes away. All the other courses are located between a 15- and 60-minute drive from the capital. Courses are interesting, diverse and carefully maintained. Green fees for 18-holes are priced up to €50 and at Bled the green fee is €80. In one week golf tourists can comfortably visit all the major attractions and play four to five courses.
How has Slovenia's golf infrastructure changed over the past decade?
Golf infrastructure is geographically dispersed throughout Slovenia. The newest course, Diners CUBO golf Smlednik, is close to Ljubljana. It was opened in 2008, with Peter Škofic designing the layout. The most famous and oldest golf course in Slovenia is Bled. It was built in 1937 and in 1972 it was expanded to 27 holes, with Howard Swan making improvements to it and increasing its difficulty level. Today it is regarded as a premier golf course both for its layout and setting. In the works is the development of several nine-hole pitch and putt courses. There is also talk about construction of a golf course on the Slovenian coast in Portorož.
Has golf's popularity increased amongst Slovenes in recent years?
The golf community in Slovenia has grown to a considerable number with some 10,000 members. However, over the past few years we have seen decline and stagnation as a result of the economic crisis.
What's the most difficult course to play in the Slovenia? And the most beautiful?
Every course is different and has its own character, though I would say that all courses are both extremely enjoyable and playable. Euro- pean championships at various levels are mainly played at Bled and Smlednik. Foreigners tend to like playing at Bled the most. Smlednik is very popular because it is close to Ljubljana, and it meets international standards, also in terms of its infrastructure, and it has the excellent Diners Club Ljubljana Golf Academy. Arboretum and Mokrice are also beautiful courses with the latter course laid out around a magnificent medieval castle, while Otočec is considered the most difficult course.
Are there currently any plans for new or expanded courses in Slovenia?
In 2014 a nine-hole course opened in Brdo pri Kranju. In a suburb of Ljubljana (Stanežiče) a driving range with a 9-hole pitch and putt course opened last year. However, at the moment there are no con- crete plans for new or expansion of courses in Slovenia.
What are the most important golf events in Slovenia each year?
Every year there are a number of European Championships, and some of the most notable recent one include: the 2012 European Ladies' Championships (individuals) at Diners Golf Club Smlednik, the 2012 European Championships for Seniors (Men’s) at Mokrice, the 2013 European Championships for Seniors (Ladies') at Bled, the 2014 European Ladies' Team Championships at Diners Golf Club Smlednik, and the 2016 European Men's Seniors Championship at Diners Golf Club Smlednik. I would also add that every year in Slovenia there are 600 events across all the golf courses.
What are the options for golf lessons and even courses dedicated for golf beginners?
We have one or more professional teachers working on each of the golf courses, and for beginners we offer special group promotion packages of eight hours starting from €99 without any additional cost. More information can be found on our page at www.pga.si.
What are your favourite golf destinations outside of Slovenia?
Our golfers love to play in warmer places during the winter. Popular destinations include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Spain, Portugal and Turkey, while in summer people tend to head off to Scotland, Ireland and England.
This interview originally appeared in the second edition of The Slovenia Book, publshed in August 2016.