Golf In Germany

There was mention of golf being played by British visitors to Bad Homburg in 1880 but the first properly documented account of the Royal & ancient game in Germany came a decade later from the spa town of Cannstatt, near Stuttgart, where young men were reported to be playing golf, along with other imported sports such as football and rugby.

Formal golf facilities were soon established, with a permanent layout at Bad Homburg appearing in 1889, followed by Weisbadener in 1893 then Berlin-Wannsee in 1895. Within the next thirty-year period, more sophisticated courses had been laid out by Harry Colt’s design company in Frankfurt, Aachen and Hamburg. The man who really transformed the golfing landscape in Germany was Bernhard von Limburger, who forged a partnership with Berlin professional Karl Hoffman to construct a number of top courses around the country before the outbreak of World War II.

By the end of the 1960s, von Limburger had set out dozens of courses in both East and West Germany and his advocacy of strategic design, coupled with an aversion to water hazards and over-bunkering, is one that many golf course architects in the modern era might pay more attention to.

Where To Play In Germany

There are almost 700,000 people registered to play golf on more than 700 courses around the country so visiting golfers are certainly not short of options when it comes to choosing a suitable place to play.

Modern tournament venues like St Leon-Rot near Heidelberg, Gut Kaden to the north of Hamburg, and München Eichenried outside Munich might appeal to those who’d like to follow in the footsteps of their favourite golfers on the European Tour.

For golfers venturing as far as the southeast corner of Bavaria, the Bad Greisbach Golf Resort is the largest in all of Europe, featuring 6 18-hole courses, 3 9-hole layouts and a 6-hole children’s course, all located within a few miles of each other.

For the more intrepid, Budersand Sylt lies close to the border with Denmark, a 3-hour drive north of Hamburg and it’s gaining a growing reputation as a modern links of real substance. 400km further southeast, an hour’s drive from Rostock, the 18-hole Links course at the 45-hole Winston golf complex has also attracted its fair share of plaudits since opening in 2011.

Hamburger Falkenstein

HAMBURGER FALKENSTEIN

Recognised as one of the top courses in Continental Europe, Hamburger Falkenstein is also one of the great classical golf designs, set out within a forest of pine and silver birch trees, with acres of heather bounding many of the undulating, doglegged fairways which fan out in all directions from the clubhouse.

The layout opened for play in 1930 and it was very much a British production, designed by Colt, Alison and Morrison and constructed by Frank Harris. The course has been upgraded a couple of times since then (new holes at the 2nd and 3rd were added in the 1960s and David Krause carried out some work in 2009) though it still retains much of its intrinsic charm.

The German Open was held here on 8 occasions (Bernhard Langer was the first native golfer to win the national title at Falkenstein in 1981) but it’s a little too short for a professional event these days. Nonetheless, the club should be commended for maintaining the integrity of the original layout and for preserving one of Europe’s truly world-class golf experiences.

Hamburger Falkenstein measures 5,759 metres, playing to a par of 71.

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St. Dionys

ST. DIONYS

Opened for play in 1972, St Dionys lies on the edge of Lüneburg Heath, within a 225-acre woodland property of pine and birch trees. The free-draining properties of this landscape ensure optimum playing conditions all year round and large swathes of heather add colour to the landscape at certain times of the year.

Following a land dispute in 2012, most of the front nine was lost and replaced with new holes on an unused, rather undulating part of the estate. These changes brought a fair amount of criticism initially, with some golfers complaining the new holes were too narrow, but the modifications have undeniably improved what was already a very good course.

The new par 3 6th hole is now a feature hole on the revised layout, requiring a long carry from the tee to a green that falls off on every side. The back nine is a bit more subdued in comparison but the overall experience of playing shots from springy turfed fairways and putting on true-rolling greens is one to be savoured.

St. Dionys measures 6,275 metres, playing to a par of 72.

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Club Zur Vahr

CLUB ZUR VAHR (Garlstedt)

Club zur Vahr was formed in 1905, when it promoted a wide range of sports including cricket, polo and rugby. At the end of World War II, the club grounds were taken over by US forces for several years before the club was brought back under local control.

In 1963, Bernard von Limburger was asked to lay out a new course for the club members within the dense pine forest at Garlstedt Heath and many now regard this 18-hole layout as the celebrated architect’s finest achievement.

The course was completely upgraded a decade ago by Christoph Staedler, when he renovated every tee, green and bunker, adding four new lakes for irrigation purposes. Driving lines might need to be widened as time goes by when fairways become a little tighter, but Club zur Vah’s inherent allure is sure to remain undiminished.

The club has hosted the German Open infrequently down the years and the last occasion was in 1985 when Bernard Langer won a rain-shortened 54-hole tournament, claiming his third victory in 5 years at the event.

The Garlstedt course measures 6,283 metres, playing to a par of 74.

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Hubbelrath

HUBBELRATH (East)

Golf Club Hubbelrath was founded in 1961, when Bernhard von Limburger was tasked with creating the East course on hilly, wooded terrain close to Düsseldorf’s city centre. Such was the popularity of this facility after its debut, the shorter West course followed a decade later to help satisfy the golfing needs of almost two thousand members.

The topography gets a little wild in places, and a number of trees still limit the playing angles in certain places but a prudent tree management program has largely kept arboreal encroachment in check. Extensive sand capping of fairways also helps to promote firm and fast playing conditions.

Under the watchful eye of architect Howard Swan, the East course has been remodelled and lengthened to ensure it remains a significant test when hosting golf tournaments. Nowadays, it’s more likely to hold elite amateur events, even though the German Open was played here 7 times over a 22 year period, ending in 1994 with a victory for Colin Montgomerie.

The East course measures 6,282 metres, playing to a par of 72.

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Gut Larchenhof

GUT LARCHENHOF

The first Jack Nicklaus design to open in Germany, the 18-hole layout at Gut Larchenhoff was built for tournament play. In 1998, the year after it debuted, the course hosted its first European Tour event, the German Masters, and this tournament continued at the club for a further 7 editions before it became the Mercedes-Benz Championship from 2007 to 2009.

For sure, the course is a championship venue with typical American styling and when the professionals are in town, the rough can be very penal for those who stray from the fairways. For everyday play, though, the course is set up with the ordinary golfer in mind and the driver can be used from most tees in total confidence.

For those who front up at Gut Larchenhoff to discover that the expansive, stadium-golf experience is not really for them, there’s always some culinary consolation to be found in the Michelin-starred restaurant located within one of the best clubhouses in Germany – guten appetit!

Gut Larchenhof measures 6,356 metres, playing to a par of 72.

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Koln

KÖLN

Köln measures 6,199 metres, playing to a par of 72.

The first course belonging to Köln Golf Club was established in 1905, a little 9-hole affair that’s still operated by Marienburger Golf Club on the southern outskirts of the city. The club moved to Refrath (on the “Schäl Sick” side of the Rhine) in the early 1950s, when Bernhard von Limburger was invited to route a championship-standard course through dense woodland for the membership.

The course is set around an old family estate, where one of the entrances is through an old wooden door in a wall, so there’s a definite air of mystery to playing here. Despite the thick forest, playing corridors are surprising wide, with little intrusion from the trees that line the fairways.

Köln might be a little too short for professional play these days but the German Open was held here in 1975 and 1983 and, in more recent times, the short-lived Berenberg Masters event on the European Seniors Tour was contested at Refrath in 2011 and 2013.

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