When it comes to famous German golf courses, admittedly, there might only be a handful. Munich-Eichenried comes to mind, so does Lärchenhof due to the BMW tourneys. More recently the European Tour teed off at Green Eagle near Hamburg and both Frankfurt and Gut Kaden have already staged pro events in the past.
So did St. Leon-Rot, one of Germany’s top courses and host to numerous Deutsche Bank SAP Open tournaments as well as the Solheim Cup.
The course is located 90 minutes from where I live so I decided to give it a go, a couple of weeks ago. On a Monday morning, in beautiful sunshine, I went down there and had a pure blast. But first things first:
The Golf Club St. Leon-Rot consists of two championship courses, St. Leon and Rot, named after the two parts of the local town. St. Leon was designed by Dave Thomas, is over 6’500m long and was awarded “Most popular golf course in Germany” from 2011 through 2016. There’s water in play on quite some holes, the terrain is undulating so that you could argue it’s either a links-style or Irish inland course style.
In any case the architecture and the course characteristics are excellent. As a spoiler, I seriously loved the course and could indeed imagine playing here every single day. That’s always a good sign when I’m willing to confirm that!
I’d say the course is long and narrow, and while this sounds intimidating, I acknowledge it’s a fair course at the same time. When I played it, I scored 36 net points, never had to look for my ball, didn’t lose a ball and just played along very nicely (only played with irons I have to add).
Due to the good weather period before, the course suffered a fungus problem and as a result the green-keepers had to treat the greens and cut/sand them some days before I’ve been there. That was a bit unfortunate and the lady at the check-in deeply apologized for it couple of times, offered a rebate but in the end it was not as bad as expected. In the picture below you see the cut marks but a course manager told me they used new machinery and are confident that the negative impact is as little as possible. And honestly, I’ve seen much worse on greens that were said to have no problem at all.
The days before, the course had its club championship. What that caused was pin positions in the most wicked areas of the green; always behind bunkers, always directly at the edge or towards a water hazard. That was really tough, too.
The course starts with an already quite interesting hole: water to the left, narrow split fairway, bunker area in the landing zone. A very good start. Holes 2 and 3 are OK but nothing special. The stretch from 4 through 8 however is something special.
4 is an interesting 170m par-3. The 5th is a par-4 with a long second shot over water. Either that or you lay up, chip over water and play it for bogey. Hole 6 is another 170m par-3 and the 7th is a par-5, decent fairway width, and great approach towards an elevated green in front of a lake.
That lake features something I had never seen before: an island fairway! I mean I played quite some island greens in my life, but an island fairway, that was new to me. It is a super interesting hole, there’s water in play next to the landing zone, the second has to go over water again and the green is almost entirely surrounded by a bunker. Great hole!
On these 5 holes mentioned, I scored +2 and was very happy about it!
9 and 10 are great holes too, but holes 11 through 14 are pure class again.
The 11th is an S-shape par-4 along water, and you need to cross the water with your tee shot on 12 for a 444m par-5. The 13th is a par-3 with I’d say a 150m carry over water after which the 14 is a dogleg par-4 with water all the way down to the left hand side.
And again, 15 to 18 are far from being shabby, it’s just tough to pick great holes because they all are pretty, pretty nice.
I finished my round with a smile on my face, passed the most professional halfway house I’ve seen and headed to the main building to have a shower. The basement of the club house holds many, many trophies won by SLR team or individuals and not less than 4 locker rooms; member male, member female, guest male, guest female. That’s right, guests are not even supposed to mingle with members under the shower. I was the only person down there anyway so no hard feelings.
Some remarks on the club itself. Dietmar Hopp, co-founder of SAP, local legend and sport nut is founder and sitting president of St. Leon-Rot. He’s a busy man, traveling the world and seldom seen on the premises, but from time to time I’m sure he’s there and enjoys what he’s accomplished – or still is in the making.
The teams at St. Leon-Rot are equipped with the best facilities you could ask for as a golfer: there is a fitness and workout area, massive training areas at and around the double-sided driving range, indoor practice areas, the SLR academy, short-course, kid’s course and something fancy they call “wedge-o-drom”. It’s in fact a practice area under floodlight, that lets you work on all wedge shots imaginable, all lies, all sorts of bunkers, all undulations, all stances, simply everything to bring you to the next level for all shots of 100m and in.
As far as putting greens go, I continue to like those where you have smaller cups than usual. Check my blog post on those. If you are interested to watch a quick video on the practice facilities, click here.
All in all a very rewarding day at St. Leon-Rot. I decided to play the Rot course soon and said to myself that as a small little personal tradition, I will be back every year from now onwards. That’s definitely worth the small journey.
For more information, please go to www.gc-slr.de