Pojdi na vsebino

We talked to the leading technologist on the Otočec's golf course, Boštjan Zupan.

What's the secret of a good golf course?

The Golf Grad Otočec golf course stands out from the crowd in many ways. We talked to Boštjan Zupan, the lead greenkeeper at Otočec, about why green lovers appreciate it and why they love coming to Otočec. We also found out why the profession of greenkeeper is a creative and very interesting one.

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Boštjan Zupan, the lead greenkeeper at Otočec
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»While I was studying I found that I really enjoyed this job.«

The profession of a greenkeeper, someone who maintains the golf course, is not very common in Slovenia; how did you come to choose this job?

Yes, there really aren't many of us. But I got into golf by accident - I actually wanted to be a captain first! Then, while I was studying at the Faculty of Maritime and Transport in Portorož, I went to work in America, at an elite golf course to earn some money. And I found that I really enjoyed this job.

Soon afterwards, a golf course was built in Smlednik by Šmarna gora, where I come from. And because they needed staff, I took the opportunity and got a job there in 2008. In the years that followed, I returned to the United States several more times and completed several golf-related training courses and, most recently, the demanding school for greenkeepers in Michigan.


You are now the head of golf course maintenance at the Golf Grad Otočec. What are your tasks?

For a long time I dreamt of working on the golf course at Otočec, because it's a really beautiful course. And when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it – I took a job with Samsic, the international company that maintains the golf course at Otočec. 

Maintaining golf courses is challenging, as the grass on the fields and greens has to withstand harsh weather conditions as well as heavy loads. It requires a good knowledge of the sport and the technology, and it also requires quite a bit of talent and skill.


Terme Krka, which owns the Golf Grad Otočec golf course, is known for its dedication to the natural and eco-friendly. How do you follow this commitment on the golf course?

I'm a big nature lover myself, so I try to do my bit to protect the environment in all areas. I firmly believe that this will have to be the future of our life in general, because planet Earth is already on the brink. That is why I also favour a natural approach in my work. This is why we use natural, organic fertilisers at Otočec. Maintenance should be as natural or nature-friendly as possible, without the use of pesticides, non-essential plant protection products, artificial fertilisers and other environmentally harmful products. Slovenian legislation itself is much more protective of the environment than legislation elsewhere in Europe, for example, and even more so than in America.

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»This job has become my way of life.«
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»I'm a big nature lover myself, so I try to do my bit to protect the environment in all areas.«

So it's not true that golf courses are a burden on the environment?

This is a misconception - although I might agree with it in part when it comes to the United States and some other parts of the world, where the law is more lenient, but it is not the case in Slovenia. Here, golf courses are environmentally friendly. It has even been shown that the maintenance of golf greens can revive otherwise dead or pesticide- and salt-laden soil. Of course, this sustainable way of caring for lawns requires a lot more effort and knowledge, i.e. mechanical work, reacting in time and possessing more expertise. I would say it also requires a greater sensibility and day-to-day care.


Golfers like to praise the course at Otočec for its beautiful green grass, even in the peak summer heat. What's the secret?

I am very much in favour of fertilising the grass in good time in spring – not too early, as is the custom at other courses, but when it starts to grow and the temperatures are right, because that is when the grass needs a boost in terms of nutrition and aeration, and then also a good irrigation system. At Otočec, we do not dye the grass, as is the custom in other places, but we do use organic products to retain moisture. This keeps it fresh and beautifully green even in summer.


You say that Golf Grad Otočec is considered a very beautiful course. What is its greatest charm?

The configuration of the playground and the vegetation around the Otočec golf course are beautifully integrated into nature. This is a distinctive feature of this course. The environment itself - the river Krka and the softly rounded hills - creates a beautiful setting, which is then continued on the course. The vegetation is indigenous and is designed to enhance this beautiful natural environment. In some places we deliberately leave tall grass, in others reeds, and it's nice to see yarrow among the grass. ….

This year, for example, when flowering meadow plants were scarce in the environment, we deliberately left flowering meadows next to the fields to provide food for the bees.

The Otočec golf course also has the advantage of being easily accessible. It is only half an hour's drive from Ljubljana by motorway, or less than an hour from Celje, and Zagreb is close by... It's also nice to accompany a round of golf with a short break in the nearby spa towns of Šmarješke or Dolenjske Toplice, or at Hotel Sport in Otočec, where there is a wide range of indulgent activities and excellent restaurants available.

Your colleagues say you have the ability to hear the grass growing ... …

(Laughs) Yes, it's true that I like to listen to nature. Mornings are especially beautiful on the course – the sunrise, the view of the river Krka, the mists. The icing on the cake is the animals. There are lots of deer and rabbits ... we also have a turtle on the fifth hole, it's always been there, by the lake. And a deer has two fawns in the fifth hole – they lie in the grass in the morning and then go for a walk. If you drive an electric car along the road, you can get quite close to them.

Boštjan Zupan's colleagues say: "He has an incredible ear for nature. He walks barefoot on the golf course to feel if the grass is okay and even seems to be able to hear it growing."


What else makes Otočec different from other golf courses?

Golfers here really appreciate the feeling that the course is never full, that it's not crowded, even if there are a lot of players. All 18 courses are larger than average and are laid out in such a way as to allow intimacy at all times. There is even a forest between the holes. This provides another advantage – you can play in the shade all the time, especially if you are a good player. However, the Otočec playground is demanding in terms of walking and the game itself. It is designed to challenge even good, experienced players. They never get tired of it. We like to say: challenge yourself! By making cart paths accessible to the greens in all weathers, even when the terrain is softer, and by adjusting the teeing grounds, we make it easier for beginners and less frequent golfers to play. This makes the course very appealing for both less experienced players and those who want a more challenging game.


Playing golf at Otočec is also an aesthetic experience, isn't it?

The fact that the course and the surroundings are easy on the eye gives golfers a lot of satisfaction. It should also be noted that the Otočec course was designed by the renowned English architect Howard Swan. This was the first project by this world-famous architect in Slovenia, and he subsequently redesigned the course in Bled. The golf course at Otočec has been very thoughtfully designed and shortly after its construction was declared one of the most beautiful in this part of Europe. For me, it is like an uncut diamond that still has great potential to shine in all its beauty.

We work every day to make this a world-class course and to offer golfers a truly wonderful aesthetic and playing experience.



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