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Golf in the morning and Mozart in the afternoon

The majestic mountains of Switzerland and Austria offer breathtaking scenery galore. But they brim with cultural opportunities, too, from concerts to plays.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 24, 2004



SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

Let's see, what might Austria's new tourism advertising motto be? How about: "Come for Mozart and a mulligan." "Edelweiss and a drive that doesn't slice." "The Von Trapps and nary a sand trap."

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Most people don't go to one of Europe's premier cultural capitals to swing a Ping. But modern history is replete with unlikely duets: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; chili and chocolate; Luciano Pavorotti and Sheryl Crow (really!).

Golfing in Salzburg is one of those odd juxtapositions that work somehow.

The nation that gave us Mozart, Strauss, Haydn, and Schubert is also home to 144 golf courses - most built in the past 10 to 15 years. Granted, that's about one-tenth the number of courses you'll find in the state of Florida. Admittedly, there are only a handful of Austrian courses that might approach the length, conditioning, and challenge of championship courses found in the US and elsewhere in Europe.

But golfers, fess up: How often do your tee shots momentarily disappear into the white backdrop of a towering glacier? When was the last time you heard an Austrian cow bell tinkling softly as you walked up to the 18th green in the Alpine dusk? And when have you backed away from a birdie putt just to gaze at an 800-year-old lakeside castle where the rich and famous have slept?

"The biggest hazard on this course is the view," remarked one New Yorker as he finished a round at Zell am See Kaprun Golf Club, a 36-hole postcard-pretty site at the foot of 10,000-foot-high Kitzsteinhorn mountain.

While there are plenty of courses in the world that offer beautiful vistas, few can also offer a comparable dose of the culture and history found in the Salzburg region.

The birthplace of Mozart has music festivals almost monthly, culminating from late July through August in a five-week-long artistic banquet of opera, theater, church choirs, folk music, classical concerts, and Austrian marionette theater performances.

Mix and match until you find the perfect blend of both: Golf in the morning, museums and cathedrals in the afternoon. Finish your day with a live quartet playing "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" while you dine on an exquisite meal in a 19th-century monastery.

To borrow a line from that Hollywood film shot here in 1964, here are "a few of my favorite things" to do on a Salzburg golf and culture trip:

• Golfers may want to start at the Mondsee Golf Club (www.golfclub mondsee.at). This is a 6,802-yard gem wrapped around one small lake, abutting another, and nestled at the foot of the Drachenwand or Dragon Wall - 4,100 feet of striated white granite.

The course is flat and holes are straightforward. At first, you could almost be persuaded to believe club pro Wilhelm Müller's description of the game: "Two straights, two putts. Nothing more."

But you'd also better have your birdies by the time you reach the last four holes that go over and around the lake; par will be an achievement. "These are the best four match play holes in Austria," brags Mr. Müller.

Before or after your round, you might stop by the Mondsee Cathedral where the wedding scene in "The Sound of Music" was shot. The village is also shown in the opening scene when Maria runs across the hill to the convent.

• Before you head out for Mondsee, make a reservation at the Stiftskeller, the eatery in St. Peter's monastery that has been serving hungry travelers for 1,200 years. It is one of the oldest continuously operated restaurants in the world.

You can have just a meal, or for about 20 more euros, local Salzburg musicians in period costumes will perform Mozart's compositions while you dine on traditional recipes from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Our menu included cream soup with cinnamon; breast of chicken with watercress sauce, potatoes and green beans; and a sampling of arias from "Don Giovanni," "The Marriage of Figaro," and "The Magic Flute."

If the dinner concert only whets your appetite for more music, as it did ours, Salzburg brims with follow-up options. The easiest to find are the nearly nightly chamber music concerts (www.mozart festival.at) in the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which dominates the city skyline.

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