I always had an ambiguous relationship to this course but now made peace with it. For years I had the course on my unwritten bucket list, for two simple reasons: 1) it is a beautiful setting and still to be found in the top 10 rankings for Germany, and 2) it’s just a stone’s throw from my parents which should make it rather easy to get to the course and play it.
But exactly there we have the first problem. Club zur Vahr (CzV) is an old classy club, snobbish and toffee nosed. At the main venue in central Bremen they feature another 9-hole city course, a tennis club, a swimming club, a hockey club, a clay pigeon club and in former days they used to have a polo club as well. I remember playing tennis there as a kid as a guest player in a league game and I was advised to ignore the arrogance and attitude of the Club zur Vahr members – even if they were not older than 15 years old.
The club has a snobbish legacy throughout, no matter what sport you do there. There was neither a chance for “normal” people to get in nor to just get access to this circle of members. A membership was expensive and they tried to stick to their caste, denying all others on an apparent lower niveau. It’s a sad attitude but definitely something you unfortunately find in many German golf clubs which still live in the past and can’t manage a transformation to present times.
In the more recent past I tried to play the 18-hole Garlstedt course because of the mentioned reasons. In the early 1960s Bernhard von Limburger created the new course 20 minutes outside of Bremen. He was pioneering golf course architecture in Germany these days and is responsible for some other great pieces of work, such as Feldafing, Stuttgart Solitude, Hubbelrath, Cologne, Krefeld, Hannover and Braunfels Castle. The Garlstedt course is still one of his masterpieces. Therefore I tried numerous times to get a permission to play on a weekend when I visited my parents, but the club management repeatedly expressed their policy that only members are allowed to play on weekends.
After Easter I’ve spent a whole week at my parents and on top of that I found out that my fellow German golf bloggers Denis (www.golfnerd.de) and Carsten (www.golfblock.de) were very interested to play the course too. So we managed to meet there last Thursday 8am for a nice morning round. It was chilly, wet and unfortunately quite misty but we had fun anyway. Why shouldn’t we, it was Thursday and we were playing golf… #NuffSaid
It is a beautiful course! I wouldn’t go so far and say it’s in my top 5 list but still this collection of golf holes has a special atmosphere, no doubt about it. I can only imagine how magnificent the course would be like in summer time, during full bloom of the rhododendrons, in drier condition and pleasant sunshine. Truly adorable.
The characteristic of Garlstedt is pure parkland style, narrow fairways, very little rough but immediate trees all over the place. So what’s needed here is the constant and straight (and long) tee shot – or the intended fade/draw if possible.
Starting off at the No 1 it’s an easy beginning I’d say. Par 4, slight dogleg right but very open, not too tricky. No 2 is a bit more advanced in the sense that after a downhill drive you have at least two uphill shots to pass a crossing stream and a pond to the left.
Most notable stretch of holes is undoubtedly the No 6 through 9 – and here’s why: On most holes you don’t see the pin or at least the green from the tee box. On the 6 you have to place your drive at 240 metres in front of a crossing stream where you then have two alternatives, either the longer but easier way left of the group of trees or risking the shot over the pond on the right hand side (check the course layout above). Either way, it’s a par 5 and distances are not to underestimate!
At the very next hole, the 7, we found a very similar setting: after a straight drive we faced two alternatives: take the left or the right part of the fairway, in any case try to pass the pond and the group of trees directly in front of the green. Sounds easy, but it’s not. I played a double-bogey 6.
Hole no 8 is a 145 metres beautiful par 3 over quite a ditch. I managed to land my ball just a few metres from the hole, two putts, scored a par – one of very few that day.
Next hole, no 9, absolute blind tee shot through a narrow gap. Especially when you’ve never played this course before, this keeps your heartbeat at a fast pace. I left it short to the left, placed my next shot with a 5-iron in the dogleg to the right, missed the green, one chip, two putts – double-bogey 6. Damn it!! One of my playing partners started to use the phrase “f***ing double-bogey” just during this stretch of holes – and it wasn’t the last time saying that!
Two next holes worth mentioning are the 11 and the 14. All others are equally nice but at least the 14 has a feature to it which at least I haven’t seen before. But first the 11, it’s a fantastic par 3, water to the right and water to the left. We all managed to place our balls within 5 metres from the hole, 155 metres from the tee – quite a good feeling. Needless to say that I had a three-putt and scored a bogey 4… #grrrr
Now to the 14: again we have a blind tee shot here into a downhill fairway breaking to the right. To be on the save side that the group in front is out of reach, everybody is supposed to use a vegetated periscope! Correct, a periscope! With that mirror structure you have a chance to glimpse over the elevation and have full visibility across the fairway. Quite a stunner! Really haven’t seen this before anywhere else on a golf course.
It obviously totally distracted my concentration as I fired my drive into the trees to the right, chipped out, had a thin 5-iron to the left side of the fairway, then green, two putts and off I went with another … yeah, double-bogey 6. For God sake!
The following 15 through 18 are very nice holes indeed as well but it would be too much of boring nitty-gritty hole descriptions. Let me tell you it is a fantastic course, and the beauty definitely overcompensates the prejudices I had towards the club.
All in all I had a very pleasant round of golf, in great company at a venue which I won’t forget that quickly and which I most definitely won’t have played for the last time. I’ll be back one day… weekday that is!
And if that’s not enough, after our round I was presented with a challenge cup which I apparently won. I still try to figure out who betrayed there because with my lousy score of *cough* I definitely didn’t deserve to win anything. But guys, if you read this, thanks again for the day, for the cup and the good company. I had lots of fun and we absolutely will have a re-match soon. I already have some ideas…
For more information (German only) please have a look at the club website: www.club-zur-vahr.de