Words by Richard Jones
A flood of relief washed over me as the ball bounded down the lush green fairway towards the 13th flag. “Yes, Richard!” said the golf manager from golf course Kitzbühel-Schwarzsee-Reith and my playing partner who had seen me shank, skew and slice no end of drives during the first dozen holes in western Austria. “We start the round properly now,” he joked, as the cows in a nearby field also mooed in appreciation.
My performance up to that point had been very under-par – sadly not scorecard-wise – but my spirits remained intact as we made our way around this stunning location.
Kitzbühel has long been a popular destination with skiers and snowboarders in the winter, and with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts during the summer. However, what many Brits may not know is that the Tirolean town also has the best choice of golf courses in the Alps.
From June to October, its beautiful mountains and meadows are not only dotted with old hay barns, but also with golfers making their way around the immaculate fairways, bunkers and greens.
Many of the town’s hotels offer packages that include green fees – among them was the base for my four-day trip, the five-star Hotel Tennerhof.
Dating back to 1679, the romantic guest house is situated on a secluded hillside a few hundred yards away from the Kitzbühel Horn cable car. With a choice of almost 50 rooms, suites, apartments and chalets, most with breath-taking views of the town and the 1,712m Hahnenkamm, its mix of traditional Tirolean hospitality and luxury make it the perfect landing area for golfing tourists.
After a few hours on the course, it was heaven to return to the Tennerhof where hotel manager Moritz and his staff were on hand serving afternoon teas or something stronger, depending on what kind of morning you’d had. There is also an indoor and outdoor pool, a large garden, and the exclusive Spa de Charme, featuring saunas, steam bath, solarium and modern relaxation rooms.
The Kupferstube is the Tennerhof’s award-winning restaurant and home of its famous breakfast, with a huge luxury menu combining buffet options, mouth-watering pastries and a table service of made-to-order omelettes. Then, in the evening, the hotel becomes one of the town’s best spots for dinner. On my first evening, I enjoyed a starter of smoked duck, followed by succulent venison and local vegetables.
Golf-wise, my opening destination for the week was the golf course Red Bull Rasmushof. This tough par-three nine-holer, located near the finishing line of the world-famous Streif downhill skiing course at the bottom of the Hahnenkamm, is perfect to get you into the swing (pun intended) and start those golfing muscles moving.
The next day, I met up with Guido to play the 18-hole golf course Kitzbühel-Schwarzsee-Reith. First opened in 1989, and nestling between the rolling Bichlach foothills, the craggy peaks of the Wilder Kaiser and the mighty Kitzbühel Horn, it features a mix of terrain including flat fairways, hilly sections, tricky water hazards and contoured greens.
The highlight is the notorious Mausefalle (Mouse Trap), the par-three 16th, which involves driving over a small ravine. Afterwards, there’s an on-site restaurant with a terrace, where Guido and I headed for a post-round burger and pint.
My third round of the week was at golf course Eichenheim-Kitzbühel, designed by Kyle Phillips, the American behind the Kingsbarns links near St Andrews. From the first hole – a precision drive through a narrow gorge to the green – to the last, a bunker-littered uphill dogleg, this was a challenge. However, the views are dramatic, with holes incorporating elevated tee shots and steep ascents beside the natural streams and dense deciduous forests.
Unless you’re feeling super-fit, I’d advise taking a buggy to Eichenheim – the winding mountain trails from the green to the followed tee are best enjoyed in a cart rather than puffing and panting, carrying a heavy bag. The on-site bistro serves classic lunches from the world’s most famous golf restaurants – I went for the aptly named Club Sandwich.
Away from the courses, Kitzbühel’s cobbled medieval streets have a relaxed, take-your-time vibe, with hundreds of summer tourists making the 1,000km of footpaths and 800km of mountain bike trails nearby. I had dinner at two amazing restaurants in the town, firstly in the Lisi Family Hotel and then at the luxurious Hotel Kitzhof, before calling in to Flannigans, the town’s Irish bar for a nightcap.
Prior to flying home, I still had time for nine holes at golf club Kitzbühel-Kaps. Fifty years after it was founded in the stunning grounds of Kaps Castle, the revamped course reopened in 2006. Although there are only nine holes, each one is extra special, and the course on the sunny side of Kitzbühel is generally regarded as the best nine-hole course in the whole of Austria.
The final holes are particularly eye-catching, with the greens of holes eight and nine surrounded by water and nestled within the castle’s park. I played the course with Johannes from the tourist board – who I had been told had a ‘low handicap’. However, after confidently stepping onto the first tee, he pulled his drive straight into the drink.
Although that was one of my accomplished playing partner’s only mistakes during the round, it did make me think ‘it happens to the best of us’. As a result, I relaxed and played my best golf of the week, including a pin-high nine iron to the ninth (the less said about the three-putt that followed, the better!).
It had been a week of high and lows and ups and downs for me, golfing-wise. But, like the snow that covers this picture-perfect part of the world for half of the year, any frustration or disappointment quickly melts away when you’re playing in an Alpine paradise.
Richard Jones was a guest at the five-star Tennerhof Gourmet and Spa de Charme Hotel in Kitzbühel. Prices start from £170 per night for a double room, including breakfast. Visit tennerhof.com or call +43 535663181.
Return flights to Salzburg from the UK are priced from £40pp return with ryanair.com. Transfers from Salzburg airport to Kitzbühel cost from €98pp each way. Visit Four Seasons Travel at tirol-taxi.at or call +43 512584157.
Richard played four rounds during his week in Austria, the golf course Red Bull Rasmushof, golf course Kitzbühel-Schwarzsee-Reith, golf course Eichenheim-Kitzbühel, and golf club Kitzbühel-Kaps. For more information, visit kitzbuehel.com/en/golf