Another thing to learn from the pros: Repair pitch marks on the green

It might become a new series on the blog; there are indeed so many things to learn from professional golfers. So, in this inaugural post on things to learn from pros: be the heck thankful to the sport, the course and treat both with dignity — start by repairing your pitch marks.

We all know what I’m talking about. You get to a course, looking forward to some great hours playing your beloved sport. Then on hole whatever, there’s a deep pitch mark in your putting line. Either you see it beforehand and repair it for yourself because the guy/gal who did this wasn’t aware or too lazy. The other possibility would be you don’t realize there is mark, you putt and miss because of that bloody ditch in the ground that nobody repaired in the first place.

Both alternatives are annoying and at the same time avoidable. Just make it your damn rule whenever you step on a green, first—before you think about putt lines, speed and turf condition—repair your pitch mark. If you can’t find yours or if you haven’t left one, please repair the one that another idiot left earlier. The players behind you will thank you for that, because only a flat, non-dimpled green is a joy to putt on.

It goes without saying that you don’t start your round of golf without putting the necessary tool in your pocket. That’s a start at least. You just have to remember it use it eventually.

If you do need some tutoring on how to actually repair marks, this guide should help you. Two and a half minutes well invested.

Now go out, play and take care of the course. You’re not a green keeper, but quite literally you are one—for the sake of joy for all of us. Thank you.

Golf courses closed down again

Just when you thought you were lucky because golf was considered an individual sport with all its COVID-19 perks, it gets closed again for some dumb reason.

COVID-19 strikes back and we’re in the middle of the second wave; no question that we have to take some serious precautios measures.

Germany dealt pretty well with the crisis in the past months. People for the vast majority have been using masks and protected themselves and others. As a consequence the numbers went down. Then after the holiday season and due to some stupid behavior of certain people, it went up again.

As a consequence the government had to come up with measures that will bring the numbers back down again and maybe get us to a situation that we’re going to be able to have a rather normal Christmas this year.

Continue reading Golf courses closed down again

I really miss golf club life

I’m writing this after 8 weeks in COVID-19 lockdown and with no grip on a golf club for 5 months. Usually April/May is the time of the year I’m most encouraged to get on the course, get in shape, get some practice in and some rounds in preparation for the first tournaments of the year.

When I started golf I enrolled with three friends and we always had a good time. Then later when I moved to Frankfurt and became member here, I enjoyed getting to know new people, playing with new partners and similarly enjoyed the time after the round with a drink on the terrace.

I’m of the belief the social aspect is always overlooked but so important in golf. There are just few sports on this planet where you get to play with strangers for hours and then have a beer in the sunshine afterwards to discuss all sorts of golf related stuff.

For quite some time now I’m a member of a club which is far from where I live. Therefore I tend to play different courses in my area instead and don’t stick to just one. The benefit of one home club clearly is the social component. You see the same people, can make friends with people you like and maybe even let these new people into your private life next to golf.

That’s what I miss right now. Especially in times of the Corona crisis when everybody is forced to stay home, I often think about full sun terraces at a local club and the joy to see the same faces all over again for some serious golf chit-chat.

Hoping for better times. Fingers crossed.

The 50 most beautiful golf courses in the world you can play

According to Golf Advisor, this is the list of the world’s most beautiful courses which are open to play for the mortals. So you’ll find Pebble Beach, which sets you back 500 dollars, but you wouldn’t find Cypress Point which clearly, as the direct neighbor, is equally beautiful but is a private member’s club, one of the stricter ones even.

You can believe what you want in terms of rankings, this has its US-focus as well and only lists 5 Continental European courses after all. Not fair, you might argue. Well I have very little comparison I’m afraid to judge if the US-courses indeed are of such perfect beauty that courses of other regions are under-represented to a certain extent.

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Unbeatable coastal golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links | (c) pebblebeach.com

From those 50 courses, I’m fortunate enough to have played 2 at least. The rest is a working target. Will keep you posted on the outcome, as always.

So this is the list with more details:

Continue reading The 50 most beautiful golf courses in the world you can play

Quick visit to Gut Kaden Golf und Land Club

gutkaden-1In June, on our way to Föhr, where two rounds of links golf were planned, we made a very short detour and stopped for one of the most beautiful golf resorts in north Germany.

Gut Kaden Golf und Land Club is a 27-hole resort 30 minutes north of Hamburg, Germany. It sits remotely in the picturesque Holsteinian countryside on grounds what used to be a manor back in the days. The gorgeous manor house, also represented in the country club’s logo, was built in the 18th century while the whole grounds as aristocratic estate date back to the 14th century even.

Today you’ll find in such magnificent surroundings a modern hotel, an exquisite restaurant, three 9-hole golf loops and everything you need to enjoy a great golf getaway.

These two chairs are placed behind hole B9 and overlook some parts of the golf estate from the manor house’s perspective. When I posted this picture on Instagram, I titled it “Could sit here all day”. And that’s no exaggeration: Bring good food, good coffee, good wine and I’d spend the day here watching some golf.

Of course, I’d rather play myself, but you know what I mean. This is a fine place for golf. Period.

The region of Hamburg is truly blessed with top courses of all sorts of style. And even when Kaden is not equally good or famous as Falkenstein or Hittfeld, it is definitely a club worth having in mind when you’re after great golf, amenities and hospitality.

If Hamburg was chosen to host the Olympics in 2024, Gut Kaden would have been the venue for the golf events as they have quite some experience staging professional golf tournaments. The 2019 German Team Championships (“Final Four”) will be held at Gut Kaden later this year, too.

My course review yet to come. Stay tuned.

For the best idea how Gut Kaden looks (and plays) like, you should watch this neat 3D flyover video.

A nostalgic day at Golfclub Worpswede

Over Easter I traveled up north with my little family to visit the parents. It’s a 5 hour ride by car on the German Autobahn and definitely not stress-free with a two-year old toddler in the back seat.

gcworpswedeAs we planned to stay almost a week, I packed my golf clubs and thought it would be a good idea to hit a course in the Bremen area. Usually when I see my parents I play Club zur Vahr, Garlstedt course, one of the best courses in the country, or Bremer Schweiz, where I have been a member for a while, too.

This time I thought it would be worthwhile to go back in time and visit Worpswede, the course where I joined as an 18-year old and learned the game from scratch. Back then I became member, together with three friends who all have given up the game since.

Here is where I had my lessons, my first tournaments, my first trophies and so many golf-related memories. It’s a super laid-back club and the course used to be quite interesting. It’s not famous nor outstanding but having seen it again with all my golf experiences so far, it’s pretty underrated I have to say.

So I went shortly after Easter this year to play a round and to walk in my own old footsteps again. And boy, was that an overwhelming round of golf. It all came back to me, once I sat a foot on the property. Holes were coming back to memory, shots were rewound in my head and even the smell of the turf I seemed to recognize.

The course is situated quite remotely in the north-east of Bremen, North Germany. You find absolute silence and very little obstructions to the eye or anything else. Meaning, if you play badly here, there’s only one person to blame…

The day turned out to be optimal for my return. Blue skies and 20°C, no wind and just bird sounds to hear. I used to be a member here for a decade, then dropped out when I started to work after university and for some reason neglected the place for 12 years.

It was about time to come back!

I have to say I played quite poorly that day. It was my first round of golf in 2019 and my range practice sessions that I had earlier in the year appeared to be quite useless unfortunately. It still was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every single hole, most notably:

  • 3: A par-3 which I rarely reached back in the time.
  • 4: Dogleg left with a tree in the middle of the fairway.
  • 5: Drivable par-4 from an elevated tee box, the signature hole.
  • 7: Where I had my first ever birdie. Yay!
  • 10: One of the few water hazards (sorry, “penalty areas carrying water”)
  • 15: I hated this hole as a youngster: Forced carry, out of bounds to the left, water to the right and straight down, the green tucked to the far left behind trees and water. Impossible to score. This week I walked off with a par. Astonished.
  • 16: Beautiful short par-3 over water. Birdie chance.
  • 17: Great approach shot over another water pond. Picture perfect.

This concluded my remembrance round in my first golf club. I had a drink on the terrace, posted the first Instagram picture of my day and then drove off, just like I did for over 10 years—12 years ago.

See you soon, Worpswede. Good to have you.

Golf Mentoring to grow the game

Golf currently suffers from declining numbers of golf players around the world and even golf courses here and there have to close their doors forever sometimes. A positive boom definitely looks different!

But what’s the problem? What creates such a big downswing in people being interested in the game? I have my personal opinion but obviously there are regional differences. In countries like the UK, the US or other (former) British colonies golf pretty much remained a sport for everybody. OK, point taken, not all folks are admitted in upscale country clubs or snobbish suburban clubs but in general you’ll find more the average guy on the down-to-earth golf course plus some others who would (love to) consider themselves as upper-class.

If you take other countries into account, there golf always had a label as being a rich man’s sport. For good reason I have to say as in the past golf actually has been very expensive and the combination of membership fees, joining costs, equipment, training etc. made it impossible for the average (wo)man to chose golf as the next sport project.

So we have a money issue.

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We all know that golf can be a frustrating game and it definitely is a huge time-consumer. For those among you who live in a close relationship, have kids, have a regular job, then you know how tricky it is to get out on the course once or twice a week for a full round of golf, for some training sessions, for some beers with your golf mates, it just takes ages. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it takes so long, but family members who don’t play with you would most likely complain for you being away for so long.

So we have a time issue.

But there are other challenges as well. Golf is not a sport that you can play in your backyard, it deserves heavy practice on a range and once you’re good enough, you wanna go and play a proper golf course. There might be regions in the world where there are no golf courses but I guess it’s fair to say that mostly one course is reachable in a decent drive by car. But what about the kids, they can’t drive themselves. If parents are not willing to give their kids access or a ride to a course, wait for them a couple of hours and then take them home again, then these children won’t have much chance to start playing golf.

The closer the proximity to a course the more likely that a child is picking up the game and is staying with it. No wonder that some current tour pros, now earning millions and millions, originally grew up in families who literally lived on a golf course, when parents used to be responsible for green keeping, managing the club or any other job. Those would hit some balls after school, would find friends being interested in golf as well and so forth…

If one has no contact to the sport or knows somebody who has contact, then it could be quite difficult to get the thing started. Yes, technically it’s absolutely possible to call up the club, get a membership, get some trainings with the pro scheduled, visit the range on a regular basis, become better and better,  and finally play some tournaments and get a proper handicap—all without talking to other people.

But golf is a communicative sport, people generally like being around with some other folks, but at the same time golfers are sort of their own species. Some are really nice and open, some others might be quite reluctant talking to others, probably enjoy their own little inner circle and wouldn’t let anybody else in. I understand the criticism that golfers can be very weird.

So we have a personal issue.

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What to do now with people having general interest in the sport but at the same time had no contact to a club or club members before. They would probably figure out “it’s expensive, it takes ages to learn and the other club members are pretty strange”…

This statement obviously would hinder those to make the first step, to get started, get trained and get better and spend time with this beautiful sport. And this is exactly what has to change. We have to make golf attractive to anyone out there, we have show interested people that golfers are a helpful, nice and joyful bunch of athletes and that it’s quite easy to make the first steps without much cost.

If I look at the average age of a golfer in a central European golf club, I believe it’s something in the mid-sixties! So we are properly talking pensioners here! I mean it’s good they found something they can be good at, at their age, but we have to make this great athletic sport attractive to all sorts of people: young, old, tall, small, men, women, everybody.

There are so many positive side effects to playing golf which I won’t touch on here but I know that the massive majority of golf players love their sport, try to play as often as possible and simply adore everything about it (possibly apart from the fact that they have to stop playing in winter). Why does it have to be so extremely difficult to enter for new-joiners, why is it to tricky to explain the beauty of golf and why does everybody believe that golfers are rich weirdos and the sticks are super expensive?

The answer could be very easy: just break the ice, approach people and make them aware that golf is cool, that playing golf is one of the greatest hobbies on the planet, that it’s actually quite cheap to get started in terms of equipment, talk to people and introduce them to other club members, be nice, show them around, explain club house facilities and amenities, explain how easy it is to find like-minded people, to play tournaments and become better. Sounds easy? Yes it is. Sounds like much work? Well not so much.

I’m quite an open person. Yes I do have my close friends but I like spending time with others as well. Every time they ask me what I do, I tell them I golf. In most cases these people had no contact to golfers before and are super interested in how you play, how you count and whether everybody has to wear checked trousers. Seriously.

In order to bring all this to a new level, Carsten Moritz, a fellow golf blogger, initiated a golf mentoring concept. It started with collecting golfers across the country who would be willing to have their names displayed on a website being ready to be contacted by anybody out there and answer questions around golf. Could be quick questions like “how can I start, what do I have to buy, can I get a test membership somewhere”. Something like this. Not more. Just being available for people being interested in the sport and the question how to make first steps. No question that I am a golf mentor as well and no question that I try to promote golf wherever I can. Carsten further created a Facebook group, sends email newsletters across, distributes information about upcoming open days, etc.

If you live in Germany then you should have a look at the Golfmentor website. If you live somewhere else and you want to grow the game of golf again, want to get in contact to some new people, want to be as productive and helpful as possible to support prospects then you probably should think about your own little local mentoring. All your future golf mentees would love it, sure thing!

Finally I made it to GC Neuhof

This course has been on my list for quite a while now. Neuhof is roughly 20 minutes from my place, hence 15 minutes south-east of Frankfurt and it is quite a famous course in the region. That’s because it’s very well kept and very looked after, both in terms of course and club.

Neuhof belongs to the several really expensive and elite golf courses in the Rhine-Main region. Everything is very member oriented and guests are only welcome during the week. This has always put me off a little as most of the members were said to be very snobbish.

To be fair, having played there now, I can’t confirm that members (or people in general) behave differently here compared to other clubs. People were nice, training facilities are good, club house facilities and restaurant are super old and definitely need some refurbishing but the course itself is fantastic. And the course it was I was interested in last week!

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Neuhof offers 3 combinations of 9-hole courses. The “standard” championship course is the red/yellow combination and blue, the newest addition, is more the younger brother to the old established 18-hole setup. Red/yellow is a classic parkland course, many old huge trees, mostly directly next to the fairway, interesting doglegs, water in play on a number of holes (but not too many) and severe bunkering.

The blue course on the other side of the road offers more the open links-ish character with even more water and tricky hole routing.

In addition there there is a 6-hole par-3 course available, a fully equipped driving range, huge practice facilities, a halfway house and something like the “19th hole” which not only attracts golfers but strollers and local guests as well.

Neuhof is one of the most expensive clubs in the region. They still charge a tremendous joining fee and the future will tell whether they can keep up with that sort of setup. In my opinion this club behaviour is absolutely outdated and leads to a situation in which people are interested in golf, are interested in the club and course, but struggle to get in because the cost in the beginning is so ridiculously expensive. Rumours tell me that there are too many old members in the club, not many young people joining and that as a result the club isn’t in a very good financial situation. Nah, really?! What a surprise…

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Besides the financial situation of the club, the course itself is in absolute immaculate condition. Tee boxes, fairways and greens are in fantastic shape and the course layout is more on the interesting and challenging side I would say.

The men’s team used to play in the highest German golf league (1. DGL Bundesliga) but slipped down to the second. After all, this club is still a very agile club, pushing for league success, pushing for international tournaments being hosted here, pushing for greatest course quality and as well for sophisticated weekend relaxation—no guests allowed.

On top of that, Neuhof is member of The Leading Golf Courses of Germany, a collection of approximately 50 courses in the country which stand out due to their extraordinary course, service and amenities quality. Truly a quality seal, a hallmark of excellence in the field of course management, club management, member and guest courtesy, and always a sign that a club strives to be better than others. I guess Neuhof can tick some boxes here, only the clubhouse and restaurant facilities are not really my cup of tea. That’s because I prefer a modern style whereas Neuhof is a manor from the 15th century!

So if you are in the region and you’re done with all the usual suspects like Hanau or Frankfurt, then you should come visit and play Neuhof. It’s a great course and definitely worth the money—during the week that is…

More information:

National Open Day on golf courses throughout Germany

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You might have realised, there has been a National Golf Day in the US very recently and although I admire the Americans for their commitment and their general love for the game I was pretty sure we won’t have such thing in Central Europe anytime soon—an official golf day. We might have days for everything else but golf? No, not likely…

Golf is still different here, sorry to say but it’s still not properly arrived in the middle class yet and there are so many clichés around it, that we, as ambassadors of the game basically, should act as advisers, providers and connecters. Although golf is a game where you usually play against yourself, it’s at the same time a sport where we appreciate company, where we play in groups, where we communicate much and where other people in general play a big role.

Still especially in Germany people are pretty reluctant when it comes to getting access to the game. People who are generally interested but never had contact with it usually feel overwhelmed with the information, the market and especially not comfortable amongst other golfers in the unknown surrounding of a golf club – as if we were aliens!

In Germany it was decided to do something against it. There will be image campaigns, advertising and generally more public relation in order to attract people but it’s fair to say that it’s questionable whether this turns out into hundreds or thousands of new golfers. It’s a good starting point but at the same time it’s essential to get people on the course, get them have first contact to the game, to the people and the feeling to be a part of this beautiful sport. It’s a lifestyle, and if you ask me, it’s the best one possible!

To establish something like the above it was decided by the German golf association (DGV Deutscher Golf Verband) to host an open day on golf courses across the whole country. Not all are taking part obviously but more than 450 clubs will open their gates in early May to the public, offer golf clinics, training sessions, access to facilities and much more information. All to lower the barriers, to ease the entry to the sport and to inform interested people how to make their first steps.

In case you understand German, live in Germany and know people who might be interested, please let them know the following link. It provides a post code based search for clubs in the region, gives dates, information and all one would need to get it started.

I wish you all much fun on those days. Please comment below if you want to discuss specific things. Here is the right place to ask.

As well, please stay tuned for further Golficiency posts on other ways to get golfers “up and playing” as I will touch on other solutions very soon. Let’s grow this game together. It most definitely deserves it! It’s absolutely the best way to spend a day… and the “most fun you can have without taking your clothes off.” (Chi Chi Rodriguez)

A great fan of golf: Barack Obama

I usually smile when I read something about the golfing US-president. That’s because most of the reports are created either by republican haters or at least by golf magazines which point out how often the president goes golfing during office. And I have to admit that I’m quite jealous as well to see how often Barack Obama can manage to get out on a course in his job. But I guess when you are one of the most powerful people in the world, who would stop you..?

Obviously he’s not playing in regular country clubs down the road, the majority of his golfing time he spends on Air Force or Navy bases which usually offer extensive leisure facilities such as golf courses and are at the same time well secured.

For a list of president Barack Obama’s golf rounds since he took office, please check out this website (www.obamagolfcounter.com) but be reminded that the guy who takes down every round for that page is far from being a democratic golf enthusiast and Obama fan—apparently he’s exactly the opposite.

OK, Barack Obama golfs a lot and even when he’s not on the course, his thoughts seem to involve golf from time to time (as you can see in the picture above). Reportedly the president has around 200 rounds of golf under his belt since taking office. That sounds a lot and you have to assess on your own whether you believe this is too much for a person in his position or not.

Broken down to the 73 months since he took over the presidency from fellow golfer George W. Bush, that makes up to an average of 2.73 rounds per month. And to be honest, I personally try to golf more than that, but I have to pause during winter whereas the Unites States offer sunshine all-year round, just a quick flight from Washington with Air Force One or Marine One I reckon.

Leaving all political arguments aside why this behaviour could be sub-optimal in times of crises, I believe every person on the planet deserves a little bit of enjoyment, be it party, hobbies, etc. As the US-president barely leaves the house without reason or public speech to give, I think he absolutely deserves his rounds of golf (what he does not deserve though is the discussion around it). And just for the records: I would make myself available if he’d ask me to play with him. Especially because I heard he’s not very good at it (that’s at least what Michael Jordan believes) and I could win a dollar or two if we’d throw in some bucks. So Barack, call me, or leave me a message :)

To do some number crunching: 82% or 14 out of 17 presidents played golf during their time in the White House. Some of them were very keen golfers and even as addicted to the game as others who don’t have to run a complete country. Eisenhower played 800 rounds, Wilson even 1,200 rounds of golf during their presidency. And these guys were even allowed to play courses like Augusta National, Cypress Point and others. Eisenhower had even built a putting green in the garden of the White House which still exists and which gives Obama and vice-president Biden a chance to practice some putting and short-game skills.

When I look back and think about all US-presidents which ruled over the last 30 years, I don’t think there was one who didn’t golf at all.

And when US-republican politicians were honest to themselves or their peers, they would love to play golf as much as possible, too. In the end it’s their game… or as Mike Rothschild says: “Whether you agree or disagree with these criticisms is entirely up to you. But the math is clear: many presidents before Obama played golf, with some playing much more and some playing much less. As a hobby goes, this one is about as typical as you can get.”

I’m starting to think about Angela Merkel on a golf course… nah, doesn’t work!

Continue reading A great fan of golf: Barack Obama