Golf plans for 2020 in full swing

The 2019 is coming to an end slowly but surely. The days are getting shorter, it’s getting much nastier outside than it used to be weeks ago. As I’m writing this, it’s raining cats and dogs outside and nobody would get me on a golf course right now.

Unless fall is showing up again with a lovely October or we spontaneously decide to leave for a break to the southern hemisphere, the proper rounds I’m going to play are coming to phase out for this year (unfortunately).

Perfect timing to plan for next year!

As some of you might know, throughout the year I’m playing a Deutsche Bank tournament series which brings me to lovely courses here in the region, including:

  • Frankfurt
  • Main-Taunus
  • Lich
  • Hanau-Wilhelmsbad
  • Hofheim

…and many others.

For recreational golf, without any tournament pressure, I created a list of German golf courses which I plan to play in 2020:

  • München Eichenried
  • München Aschheim
  • Gut Kaden
  • Weimarer Land
  • St. Leon-Rot
  • Winnerod
  • Mannheim-Viernheim
  • Stuttgart Solitude
  • Köln
  • Ulm
  • Hardenberg

As you see, these are spread all over Germany. Some in the north, some in the south-east, some in the south-west, in the west, in the east—so pretty much all over the country. And even though this means a lot of driving, I can’t wait for some to play (some for the first time).

Excellent round of golf at one of Germany’s top destinations – Golf Club St. Leon-Rot

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:

Continue reading Excellent round of golf at one of Germany’s top destinations – Golf Club St. Leon-Rot

41 net points at GC Main-Taunus and a new handicap for me. A good weekend.

Not easy to pad yourself on the shoulder without showing off or sounding too pretentious. But my game is finally starting to go the right direction and you can imagine I like that!

On the weekend I played a tournament at Golf Club Main-Taunus in Wiesbaden and had a great day with good company, good weather and good scores.

As reminder: I’m currently avoiding my woods and hybrid and instead only use my 2- and 3-iron off the tee. Still scored an 83 and even had three or four lip-outs on the green. In the end I carded 25 gross points and 41 net points which brought me down to a 13.1 handicap. Not far off my season goal of 12.X. And I had no double-bogeys at all, just bogeys, pars and one birdie. Good news that.

I had to leave early and missed the winning ceremony, so I’m not even sure how I ranked in the comp; dont’t think too shabby though.

Still there’s a lot of work to be done, much practice necessary in order to finally make some progress with my woods also. I just feel that I need professional help here unfortunately.

[UPDATE. I actually won the tournament. Who would have thought!! Came up 1st in the gross and 2nd in the net stableford calculation. What great news!]

Preparing for St. Leon-Rot, tee time booked

Just in case you are not familiar with St. Leon-Rot, this course is situated pretty much in the heart of Germany. It was ranked “Best Golf Course in Germany” for some years in a row but you will likely know it from professional golf tournaments such as the Deutsche Bank SAP Open or the Solheim Cup.

Speaking of SAP, the company’s headquarters are just a stone’s throw from the course and one of the SAP founders, Dietmar Hopp, opened the club in the mid-90s and since then takes good care that the club improves, maintains quality, and retains its good reputation as top notch European Tour destination and golf elite training center. He also acts as president of the club.

Living in the Frankfurt area, a one hour drive from St. Leon-Rot, I have to admit I’ve never been there. And this is exactly what I will change.

I just booked a tee time in roughly three weeks and can’t wait to tee off here. The club offers two championship courses, the St. Leon and the Rot. From what I’ve seen two courses with fairly different characteristics. The St. Leon being a bit more open, with more water, compared to Rot, a bit more classic tree-lined, more parkland style. But as said, that’s currently just assumption only and I will check if that’s a fair assessment after I visited the club.

Have I mentioned that I’m looking forward to it…? Can’t wait really!

Up-and-down at Licher Golf Club

Or better: down and back up again.

On the weekend I played a tournament at Licher Golf Club. This was my second round I played with my new Titleist CBs and I’m still in the process to familiarize myself with the club, the shaft, the distance and the feel in general.

So far, so good. I know Lich being a track in excellent condition throughout the year. It’s not an easy course and can be tricky here and there so a little experience is helpful.

The start is brutal: First hole, over water, dogleg right par-5! Never played par here as far as I remember. Stroke index 1. I wouldn’t say I was starting cold but my score was kind of freezy on Saturday. At least on the first nine.

After the turn I had scored 51 shots which for me equals 12 net points (5 gross). Oh my! On the second half I needed only 40 shots that translate to 22 net points (14 gross). You can imagine I liked the second half better.

So in hindsight I’m quite OK with 34 total net points, having in mind my weak start and that I’m only playing with my irons. I carried my 5-wood but refrained from using it as I feared the dispersion. What’s needed now is to create a bit more consistency with my new irons and then maybe get some training sessions in with my woods in order to get them in play more often.

My 2-iron usually has a distance of up to 200 meters. So I’m not much shorter than my fellow bogey golfers with their drivers. Often I’m farther even (and silently enjoy the moment having somebody out-driven with an iron).

I’m still a bit disappointed with my handicap direction this year though. Instead of going down to single digits I’m up by 0.4. Not a drama but still not the desired outcome so far. But I’m on it, promise to practice more and will card another great round this year to get me down a little (hopefully).

Wish me luck.

[UPDATE. I finally received the full results of the tournament. Actually came out 2nd place… Who would have thought!]

Links Golf: Long awaited visit at Golf Club Föhr

aaaI can’t recall exactly but I might have been to Föhr a dozen times. Föhr, the neighboring island to Sylt in north Germany, was one of my parents’ usual family summer holiday destinations and as a kid I remember spending quite some time on the island. I didn’t appreciate the beauty of it back then and when I reached a certain age, I just stopped going without hesitation. Needless to say I wasn’t golfing in my teens and never visited the golf course—until just recently. I had to become 40 years of age and the course needed some severe renovations in order to be mentioned in golf articles and to earn a spot on my bucket list.

I was born and raised in the north of Germany and therefore beaches, islands and the North or Baltic Sea are quite normal go-to places for me. I’d say I feel comfortable on remote islands, appreciate the Frisian landscape, the way of life and also enjoy the nature more and more.

In 2019 I thought it’s about time to go visit the island of Föhr again, spend some time with my parents in our old holiday hideaway, bring my own little family and wallow in reminiscences. Clearly I packed my golf clubs as well, because in the past years the local golf club, which is around since 1925, underwent quite some drastic changes to the course layout and architecture and all I’ve heard and seen so far sounded amazing. So I just had to go.

Continue reading Links Golf: Long awaited visit at Golf Club Föhr

Our round at Weimarer Land on video

You will have read here, that Golficiency had quite some weekend at Spa & Golf Resort Weimarer Land a couple of weeks ago. We had a camera with us and rolled it here and there, and this is the outcome.

What you see is three terrible weekend golfers on the Goethe course at Spa & Golf Resort Weimarer Land—having much fun nonetheless!

Long golf weekend in Weimar

On our quest to play the best courses and see the best resorts in Germany, you’ll find yourself from time to time to look out for new jewels. A good starting point has always been the commonly known ‘best-of’ rankings in golf magazines for the various countries you’re interested in. And although one should be a tad skeptical about these lists in general, there are indeed some courses which find themselves in top 5, top 10 or top 20 ranks over and over again. So there must be some truth in it.

We heard so much positive about Spa & Golf Resort Weimarer Land for quite a while that it was no real question if we’d like to tee off here and check for ourselves—it was more a question of when.

Being on and off the agenda for some time, we took a shot this June and finally made it to Weimar, and more precisely to Blankenhain, in the deep Thuringia countryside. The resort offers two courses so it was decided amongst a group of three to stay for a long weekend to enjoy golf to the fullest. Due to some family issues on my end we unfortunately missed most of the planned Friday activities, but everything what came on Saturday and Sunday did not at all fell short of expectations.

Insta Post Weimar

The resort has so much to offer that it would be a shame not to mention all the nice amenities on the property.

First things first

The resort is located on grounds which were farm land back in the days. Where cattle was once fed, there is a fairway now, where fish was bred, there is a water hazard now. Members of the Grafe family years ago decided to invest in that land and start a hotel and golf complex. And it turned out a good idea to use the basis of the ex farm houses and neatly transform them into what now looks like purpose-built high-class hotel and golf facilities with a rustic feel.

Being placed in the countryside, half an hour from Weimar, it is a tranquil place to play golf indeed. There is nothing that would interfere in your game, nothing that would take the concentration from you, unless you really want to.

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The approach of the resort (or the management for that matter) seems to be delivering top services and then grow, increase and expand to the next level. A good example are the golf courses themselves. Currently there are two of them: The Goethe course and the Feininger course. Goethe opened in 2010 and Feininger followed in 2012. You can also play a course named after Bobby Jones which is a collection of different holes as a combination of the two existing courses. It’s made up of 1 to 5 and 15 to 18 of the Goethe course plus the 10 to 18 of the Feininger course. That makes it a better spectator’s course as it’s looping 9 out and 9 in from the club house.

There are plans to build another course as well and also to overhaul the resort’s par-3 course with additional holes. Something that’s not necessary to redo is the practice facilities. Here you find everything you need including a range equipped with Trackman devices, Flightscope and a box dedicated to Logical Golf (basically a TechnoGym kinesis golf fitness wall)

Christoph Städler and his team were responsible for the complete design of golf facilities and course architecture. They created a resort which quickly became famous domestically and was awarded ‘Best New Course in Germany 2013’ by Golf Magazin. Meanwhile it is selected member of ‘World of Leading Golf‘.

The courses

Going into a bit more detail, the courses for me are typical resort courses. Fair for most players, but challenging enough for the better players. If you are able to strike the ball well and have decent length, you are confronted with hazards and bunkers which are out of play for the shorter (or smarter) players.

‘Hard par, easy bogey’ has been the philosophy designing the courses, according to Städler but it has to be said that while these are great courses for all sorts of players, those better and longer ball strikers who manage to find the fairway more often, will miss one or the other challenge throughout the course, especially because there is no additional tee box. It’s just yellow and red and a scratch player plays from the same tees as a senior, with all due respect.

The Goethe plays approximately 6’000 meters for the gents (CR 72.2, slope 134) and looks like an old parkland course (despite being so young) due to the surrounding woods. The holes feature undulating fairways and interesting routing.

The third hole is a beautiful par-3 with water in front and to the left and is just a very pretty golf hole.

Hole 5 is laid out on an interesting plateau for the second shot, number 6 rewards a brave approach shot, 4 and 7 are tricky par-5s.

The 12th is the absolute signature hole in my opinion. It’s played downhill towards a pond that splits the fairway in two parts. So what’s necessary is either a short straight lay-up and a second over water, or a full shot to the right hand side, but then still a second shot over water, a bit shorter from that angle though. Beautiful hole, course management tactics required.

The 15th features a split fairway with an approach shot through a tree corridor, over a bridge into a rather small green.

These are a couple of examples of interesting holes on the Goethe course, but all others not mentioned are far from boring. And the distances from green to next tee are so short that even Reisegolfer would approve.

One thing I might mention as critique is the fact that there are quite some blind holes, meaning you don’t see the flag from the tee box and have to involve guess work from time to time. A fact that can clearly be lifted with some experience or when you play the course for the second or third time.

The Feininger course is the younger brother on the property. It is more open plan, less trees or tree-lined fairways, but more water—at least on the front nine. It’s par-71 with 5’700 meters (CR 70.6, slope 126). Fairways are undulated and in general the course follows heathland characteristics to some degree, I’d say.

Hole 1 starts with not less than two water hazards, followed by no. 2, again with loads of water towards a double green. I haven’t seen that for quite a while but holes 2 and 12 share the same green complex. Very interesting.

The 3rd is a tricky par-5 around water, followed by a short par-3 and a beautiful dogleg par-4.

While the front 9 seem to be played around a lot of water, the back nine are more situated to the north-east towards a hilly part of the property. There is less water involved, actually only on 18, and the course characteristics appear to be a bit different.

The amenities

Some words on the hotel and the facilities. That part I’ve seen really made a very good impression. The staff was overly nice and friendly, the breakfast was excellent, the restaurants cater for every wish or need and so does the bar. We stayed there on the US Open weekend and you can imagine that a cosy bar, live golf and some drinks in good company is hard to beat really!

Golf is a seasonal game in central Europe, so it’s clear that resorts like this are trying to attract guests not only for golf, but also for wellness, fitness and culinary pleasures of life. In my opinion that’s totally accomplished here. Even when your spouse has no interest whatsoever to play golf, you can definitely spend a good long weekend or even longer here without being bored or sluggish. Things like the pools, the massages, the fitness area and all sorts of well-being facilities will create a good mood and atmosphere.

I will definitely be back soon. Matthias Grafe and Thomas Mönch, the golf manager, created a little golf paradise in the middle of the Thuringia countryside, just where Goethe used to enjoy horse riding and hiking. He’d appreciate golf as well if he could, I’m sure.

Disclaimer: Golficiency was offered a reduced media rate.

U.S. Army golf in Wiesbaden

rheinblick-wiesbaden-logoFirst tournament of the year 2019 and I sensed this was going to be a bit special when I checked the website in order to collect some further information about the course.

The Golfclub Rhein-Main in Wiesbaden is a German golf club which shares the course with the Rheinblick Golf Course, a U.S. military facility.

Wiesbaden is a fairly big U.S. Army command base and in that capacity they own the golf course (one of three 18-hole courses in Germany) to provide additional service to the soldiers, military staff and families.

The U.S. Army MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) Division of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command signs responsible for the property and the management of the course. It is therefore no surprise that you have to pay your cash greenfee in dollars, that all staff is American and that the parking space in front of the club house offers enough room to park your Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Suburban or Lincoln Navigator. First thumbs up.

Insta Post Rhein Main

You step into the club house, into a different world. There are Army generals framed in the hall, and adverts of the local car dealers offering their military sales programs.

In my personal tradition I tried to buy a logo ball in the pro shop which was impossible as they only sell goods (balls, clubs, clothes, etc.) to people holding a U.S. military ID card. The only thing I was allowed to buy was a token for the ball machine. That was all—much appreciated though. I was looking for some coins in my wallet and the American pal in the Golf Channel cap said I had to pay in dollars or by card, no Euro cash allowed. He also joked that has something to do with taxes and if it would be allowed, Donald Trump could be the next German Chancellor and how he’d like the idea but most likely Germans wouldn’t… I had no smart comment in that moment (not even a stupid one) and left the pro shop with one ball token, paid by credit card. That was a premiere, too.

It was raining cats and dogs when I warmed up, spent a good amount on the putting green getting soaked and finally met my playing partners at the first tee to kick off my 2019 tournament season.

Another premiere: There is a guy acting as a starter, announcing the next group to tee off. What he’s actually doing; When it’s time, he’s getting out his microphone, toc toc toc, and says something along the lines of “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is the 10:30 starting time of the Deutsche Bank tournament. On the tee: [followed by the names of the people in the group]. Fire away and have fun!”

It was a slightly awkward feeling being announced over loudspeakers but quite cool nonetheless. Definitely something that other clubs should consider, really getting you in the tournament mood!

The course is a proper parkland course with rich tree lines on all holes. Back in the 1950s, after WWII, when this area was converted to a golf course from a military training area, there were no trees whatsoever. This has changed dramatically and it actually looks beautiful nowadays.

The property is quite hilly too, and due to these ups and downs you tend to have great vistas and magnificent views over Wiesbaden and the Rhein-area. It’s called “Rheinblick” (Rhein view) for a reason.

The course condition has been excellent and the architecture is indeed interesting and challenging. There are some tricky doglegs which cost you if you don’t have local knowledge, which I had not.

The pin positions were really tricky today, I mean US Open-Sunday tricky. We joked that this was done on purpose because Deutsche Bank recently released some Donald Trump tax papers to the authorities in relation to the Mueller-investigation and that this was their answer to the Deutsche Bank people to see them suffer. We laughed about it but maybe not a good idea to tell that joke to the U.S. boys in the pro shop…

Three hours in, the sun came out and we could concentrate on pure golf and and look forward to the famous hamburgers in the restaurant after the round. Then shock, the restaurant was closed… WHAT?!

All in all a great course, beautiful setting (one of the nicest in the area), fantastic course quality and a very special touch with all the military atmosphere there. I will definitely be back soon, when it’s sunnier and warmer, and I will carry some dollars with me—I desperately need that Rheinblick logo ball. PM me if you know somebody who could help.

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.