Golf Tourism in Croatia: First PGA Course in region

Paul Bradbury

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Photo and video credits Steve Tsentserensky

June 9, 2023 – Golf tourism in Croatia is a relatively small affair, but it has received a boost with the first approved PGA course in the region.

My week-long tour of Istria last month was a great education, and it helped me to see aspects of tourism in a completely different light, as I started to explain in my recent article, Inland Istria: Croatian Tourism’s Greatest Success Story.

But while there are magical stories inland, exciting things are happening on the Istrian coast as well. If there is one region that looks set to benefit from the arrival of the Euro and the borderless connection to Slovenia and the rest of the Schengen zone, it is surely Istria, a region that is already a popular destination for nearby Slovenes, Italians, Germans and Austrians.

No more Schengen: Cross-Border Tourism

As I sat in my room on the first evening at the Kempinski Hotel Adriatic close to the border town of Savudrija, I could see Italy across the bay. Now with no border to worry about, locals tell me that the drive to Trieste for coffee and shopping is just 45 minutes if you drive directly, but there are so many temptations along the way.

Living for so long on the island of Hvar, I hadn’t quite appreciated what a bonus cross-border tourism could bring to a destination. I had never visited the Slovenian coast, but with a coffee in Piran just 20 minutes away, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss – the Slovenian coast and the Istrian peninsula at our fingertips from the base of this luxury hotel.

In addition to enjoy a VERY comfortable stay with some of the best hotel food I have had in Croatia, there was one thing that absolutely fascinated me about the visit to the Kempinski Hotel Adriatic – its golf course.

Golf Tourism in Croatia

Golf tourism in Croatia has been a hotel topic over the years – so many grandiose plans to build courses all over the country (of the 30 touted in the 2013-2020 official tourism strategic plan, none started), and the Savudrija course – which opened in 2009 – is one of only three in the country, and the last one to open.

But what one lacks in quantity in Istria, I quickly learned, one more than makes up for in quality. Neighbouring Slovenia is much smaller and has some 13 courses (remember the joys of cross-border tourism?), but it is the Croatian Golf Adriatic which a few weeks ago became the first officially-approved PGA golf course in the region.

Set by the sea, “the championship course with 18 holesPAR 72, 6360 meters, is settled over 80 hectares and is characterized by an interesting layout and shape. On our golf course, as well as on all courses by the sea, the wind can play a significant role, along with strategically placed bunkers and skilfully crafted greens.”

Year-Round Golf in Croatia

It has been a while since I took up my clubs for a round, but I enjoyed a few shots on this lovely spot, with its endless sea views and gentle breeze. The new PGA status will be a major boost for golf tourism in Croatia, and the first PGA tournament could take place as early as next year.

The course is already popular with up to 250 players on any one day, but the PGA status, coupled with the excellent Kempinski hospitality offer, should contribute to its growing popularity. The hotel has decided that it will work all year this year, something which could be a big boost for out-of-season golf tourism in Croatia. For while there are 13 courses in Slovenia, as well as others in easy reach of Trieste in Italy, the Croatian course is the only one open all year, according to people I spoke to at the clubhouse, a nice attraction for golfers in the winter months in Slovenia and other neighbouring countries. And when those Slovenian courses are open, there is plenty of choice for a Kempinski guest.

Kempinski Adriatic, Much More than a Hotel

The Kempinski Hotel Adriatic is attracting much more than golfing tourists, of course, and the diversity of activities going on is impressive. While we were there, a Slovakian film crew was filming, a fairly regular occurrence apparently, as were other activities from weddings to fashion shoots. And the hotel must have the largest presidential suites in the country, around 800m2 including a wraparound terrace – hugely popular for private events.

The hotel was already busy in May, a trend that will no doubt continue in what is expected to be a bumper tourism season. And several guests will no doubt be bringing their golf clubs.

Paul Bradbury was a guest at Kempinski Hotel Adriatic in May 2023. To learn more about golf tourism in Croatia and the Adriatic Golf Croatia course, visit the official website.


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