A new period in tourist development in Bled began in the years after the First World War. Bled’s renown began to flourish especially from 1922 on, when the Karadžordžević Yugoslav royal family started to spend their holidays at the Suvobor manor and it became the summer residence of the Yugoslav court.Belgrade’s political elite and diplomatic community followed the court to Bled in the summer months. The resort thus became, for some months of the year, a hub of political and diplomatic activity and a venue for numerous meetings.
Among other things, Bled hoteliers began to think about constructing a golf course. They were also encouraged by the wish of Prince Regent Paul and members of the diplomatic community, who frequently holidayed in Bled.
Construction of the course began in 1936, led by Austrian Rudolf von Gelmini, who selected a suitable location and made a plan. Land at Hraška gmajna above the riverSavawas purchased for the course. With certain amendments, the programme was also confirmed by engineering architect Desedira Lauber fromHungary, who had designed several golf courses aroundEurope. The work was led by Rudolf von Gelmini himself. Dr Marko Natlačen, governor of Drava province, came to oversee the conclusion of phase one of construction work on 2 June 1937.
The first round of golf was played on the course in 1937 after completion of its first half and the setting out of the first nine holes. The gala opening was planned for 10 July 1937. The guest of honour was to have been the Duke of Windsor, who had been a guest of Crown Prince Paul at Brdo a year earlier. However, However, due to, among other things, the unstable political situation in Europe, the gala opening never took place, not that year, nor in 1938 when all 18 holes and thus the course had been completed.Bled golf coursewas the only 18-hole course in Yugoslavia before the Second World War.
Connoisseurs ranked the course as being amongst Europe’s most beautiful from its very opening due to its location and beautiful setting. Among particularly prestigious guests that played golf at Bled before the war were Crown Prince Regent Paul and the Duke of Kent with his wife the Duchess Marina, a princess of Greece. The most ardent players of golf were diplomats and foreign ambassadors, who stayed inBled hotels,above all the English Sir Ronald Campbell, the American Arthur Lane, the German Viktor von Heeren and the Hungarian V. Bessenyey. The first local person to have learned the game was Aleksander Molnar, owner of the Toplice Hotel, where they also promoted playing golf on the new course among the guests. The manager of the course and the first teacher of the techniques and rules of the game was none other than R. von Gelmini, who, together with his two daughters, ensured that there was an interesting social life on and around the course. Thus in the years immediately prior to the second world war the course became a meeting point for Bled high society. In addition, the first national championships in which notable international players took part were held from 11 to 13 September1938 inBled. Gelmini himself wrote an article for a German golfing newspaper about the tournament. The men’s tournament was won by Major Shannon fromHong Kong, while a German named Marwitz won the ladies’ competition.
Initially, when constructing the course, they merely set up temporary accompanying facilities in a wooden building with a changing room, toilets and a bar. The first club house was built in 1938 to the plans of architect Franc Kuglič and in its style it resembled a local farmhouse and fitted in well with the Gorenjskan environment. The paintings in the house were done by artists Maksim Sedej, Gabrijel Stupica and Lojze Kogovšek.
The tense political conditions and the outbreak of the Second World War brought an end to sporting and social activities on the course. After the end of the Second World War, the clubhouse accommodated thirteen workers’ families and the rooms were adapted to suit their needs. The course remained abandoned.
When considering the development of tourism in Gorenjska and in Bled itself in the 1960’s, the Jelovica Agricultural Co-operative discussed the idea to renovate the golf course. This was in line with the then more liberal economic politics and the increased importance of tourism to the Slovenian economy. Slowly, those who used to visit Bled regularly before the war were also returning. Among them was Swiss businessman Erich Pfister, who began to enquire as to what had happened toBled golf course.When, in 1968, he discovered that it was not in use and had been long abandoned, he began to encourage local tourist staff and the Slovenian Tourist Association, to have it renovated.
Plans for the renovation of the course were first put forward in 1971. Erich Pfister invited Donald Harradine to Bled, who was an acclaimed architect and constructor of numerous golf courses throughoutEuropeand above a specialist in the construction of smaller courses. In his work, Harradine strongly emphasised the preservation of nature and the landscape and was enthusiastic about Bled. From the very beginning, he was of the opinion that the course would be one of Europe’s most beautiful due to its setting, abundant greenery and views of the Karavanke andJulian Alps. His knowledge was supplemented by a strong sensitivity to the natural world and sense of practicality.
The first nine holes were finished in 1972, when test play was able to start. By 1974, all 18 holes had been finished. At that time, Bled was the only such course inYugoslavia. The gala opening of the course was on 20 May 1977. It was opened by engineer Miloš Šulin, president of the Commission for Tourism of the Republic Executive Board. Following the opening, an international tournament was also held. The course, which is65 hectaresin size, is on a terrace60 metresabove the canyon of the riverSavaat a height of between 504 and520 metresabove sea level. It soon became a favourite among golfers due to its surroundings, beautiful views and layout which resembles a park, the varied terrain and the diversity of the playing areas.
Donald Harradine also enthused Bled sports lovers for golf. Harradine himself showed them the first golf shots when the course was still acquiring its image, when the greens and bunkers were still unfinished and there were no holes yet.
Simultaneously, areas around the course also had to be looked after. Due to the fact that when renovation of the course first started people still lived in the clubhouse, the initial facilities for golfers were very much improvised.
Gradually, they turned their attention to the clubhouse, which was in need of thorough renovation. The first step taken was to build an annexe with a terrace on the courtyard side designed by architect Janez Lapajne. The house was completely renovated between 1981 and 1982 and, in the main, retained its original appearance. In this way, the course was completely finished and laid out with all necessary facilities.
The increasing recognition of the course led to planning to have the facilities enlarged and the construction of a new course in 1990. Donald Harradine was again invited to work on the project and this time he designed a 9-hole course with the possibility for it to be enlarged. As the terrain was more varied and undulating, he perceived the course slightly differently from the older one. The new course in Bled was also the last golf course that Harradine had a part in planning. As he was unable to continue, the work was progressed by brothers Gerold and Gunther Hauser from the Austrian company G&G Hauser Golf & Landscapes. The gala opening of the new course took place on 25 September 1993, performed by Dr Maks Tajnikar, Slovenian economics minister. Following this, the 18th International amateur championships were held. Officially, play on the new course began on 11 June 1994.
The expansion of the course attracted ever increasing numbers of local and foreign players and thus it was necessary to expand the additional offer. In autumn1998, anew clubhouse with areas for members and hospitality opened.