At the time, Bled served as the summer residence of Yugoslavia’s King, and for several months every year, the town was filled with foreign diplomats who moved there from Belgrade along with the royal family. It was on their initiative that Bled’s – and Slovenia’s -- first golf course opened in 1937.
Designed by a Hungarian named Desider Lauber, the course was an instant success and it even hosted several international tournaments, the first one in 1938. That year, an elegant clubhouse was built next to the course, complete with frescoes and other ornamentation. But those glory days came to an end when World War II broke out. The postwar Communist authorities were hostile to golf, which they viewed as a bourgeois sport.
But by the 1970s, things had changed. Tourism was becoming an important industry, and authorities were eager for a new source of income. They decided to renovate the old Bled golf course and even brought in the famed British-born designer Donald Harradine for the task. In 1973, Yugoslavia’s first golf course of the postwar era – initially with nine holes -- opened for business. In a few years, it was enlarged to become a full 18-hole course, while the prewar clubhouse was also restored.
In the years that followed, other golf courses were set up in Slovenia, but the Bled Golf Course remained unmatched with its spectacular setting under the Alps, considered one of the most attractive in Europe. It is still the most prestigious golf venue in the country, and it was a major reason why the International Association of Golf Tour Operators named Slovenia the Undiscovered Golf Destination of 2015. This year, Slovenia is hosting the IGTM golf tourism conference, as it hopes to transform the Bled Golf Course – and Slovenia in general – from an undiscovered gem to an established destination for an increasingly popular sport.