A course doesn’t need to be old to be great: Jack Nicklaus’ Gut Lärchenhof Golf Club

laerchenhof_loch07_735x338.jpg.resource.1335798769089.jpg

Second day of the NRW Tour 2016, second stellar course we played. Carsten and I went for Gut Lärchenhof, one of the poshest clubs in the region. It’s a Nicklaus Design and features a fantastic US-design golf course which really lacks nothing. Some will argue there’s very little atmosphere, but truth be told this club is the ultimate package: from the Titleist golf pyramids on the range to the tranquility on the course and the quality of all facilities – Lärchenhof is a modern classic and belongs to one of the top 50 courses in Europe.

Once you get passed the huge gates which secure the property in front of the beautiful club house, you enter a golf-dedicated society. Everything on the property smells quality, everything is very much cared for, everything tries to be perfect.

The only thing which wasn’t perfect was the weather – to be precise, it was the opposite of perfect. We arrived in the morning in drizzle and the forecast was horrendous. We paid the not-so-small green fee knowing there wouldn’t be any refund if we’d need to abort. We were lucky on the front nine, although the rain seemed to intensify. There was no other person on the course playing in these conditions! During the back nine the rain became torrential and we had to take shelter for at least 30 minutes. This was when we met the other two crazy people on the course that day – two pensioneers fighting out a matchplay event. We were impressed… and let them play through.

laerchenhof_loch12_735x338.jpg.resource.1335798945643.jpg

So in short, we were extremely unlucky with the weather. It’s a fantastic venue and I love to come back in beautiful sunshine to really enjoy the course to the fullest some day. Because it deserves it! It’s a Jack Nicklaus design, features rolling fairways and an interesting architecture without being overly tricky, narrow or hilly. Lärchenhof hosted several German Masters, several Mercedes-Benz Championships and still is the alternating venue for the BMW International Open on the European Tour. If you ask me, that speaks for itself.

The quality of the course is without a doubt one of the best I’ve seen – and this must have been overly complicated given the fact that rain was omnipresent for the last months. I visited the club once before to attend the BMW International Open as a spectator and I would be surprised if the quality of the greens, fairways and tees had been much different back then. It’s just that we used other tee boxes…

From what we heard, to become a member of the club you have to pay an incredible amount of money but those who can afford, find themselves in golfer’s heaven: on a beautiful and quiet course, with incredible practice facilities, a spacious and luxurious club house and so many little things that make your day on the course as pleasant as possible. Oh, and they have a Porsche Panamera as airport shuttle, just in case you fancy to hop over for a quick round.

It doesn’t do justice to the holes to pick some which really stand out, because they are all stunning, but without a doubt the home stretch 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th is one of the best you can find. Just see for yourself!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I think this video gives you a very good impression of what to expect for your money. Definitely worth it!

Golficiency Rating: 8/10

Photo credits: golf.de, gutlaerchenhof.de

Ball Showcase: NRW Tour 2016

For those who don’t know, NRW is short for North Rhine-Westphalia, a part in Western Germany and it’s the most populated one. It has however some of the finest golf courses in Germany to offer.

No question that this has been on my bucket list for quite a while and in late April 2016 it was time to tackle each of these great venues one by one, one day after the next. The weather was horrible but the week in total has been an absolute treat!

Walking in the footsteps of golf’s greats—in Germany

Last year, in August, a fellow blogger and I tried to get a tee time at the famous Old Course in St. Andrews. We enrolled as we were told, waited – and received a negative answer. You might have read the story.

Of course we were extremely disappointed as our dream was so radically ending in smoke. Of course there are other ways to play the Old Course but none of them guaranteed a round for us two – at least not in an affordable way.

What to do now, we started thinking. Fly anyway and play the other courses? We could have done that, but honestly, when you are travelling to St. Andrews, the Home of Golf, you definitely want to play the mother of all courses. So we decided to skip completely.

But what else?

In the end we planned a golf trip in front of our doorsteps. We both live in Germany which offers quite some treasures if you just dig deep enough. A word and a blow, we decided on 4 prestigious clubs in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), all very close to each other (Cologne and Düsseldorf area) and all with their own history (one of which to be honest has a quite young history).

These are the ones that we finally went for:

  1. Golf und Land-Club Köln, Refrath
  2. Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof, Pulheim
  3. Düsseldorfer Golf Club
  4. Land und Golf Club Düsseldorf, Hubbelrath

All of these courses have a rich history and hosted uncounted professional events. Even Gut Lärchenhof with its rather short history stands out as this is the venue for the European Tour event ‘BMW International Open’, at least every second year.

I’m writing these words sitting in a hotel during the stay. Earlier today we finished round 3 and now it’s only one course still missing. Please check back with this blog to read all the course reviews.

Generally it’s an interesting experience to take some days off at work, don’t travel long but concentrate on some seriously magnificent golf courses in the middle of our home country.

Playoff thriller at the 2014 BMW International Open

Top day at Gut Lärchenhof in Cologne, Germany. OK, the weather could have been much better but in general it was a very good decision to make my way from Frankfurt to Cologne – at 6am on that Sunday morning last week.

http://instagram.com/p/p69p-zKN8Z http://instagram.com/p/p6-P0bqN9R

The BMW International Open is the only European Tour event left on German soil. It usually took place in Munich, the home turf of BMW, but was recently changed to an alternating structure in which Munich and Cologne are the two venues. GC München Nord-Eichenried for the former, GC Gut Lärchenhof for the latter.

Gut Lärchenhof is situated on the west-side of Cologne, so pretty much in the centre of the Rhine- and Ruhr area. The course is a Jack Nicklaus design, undoubtly presenting itself in greatest shape. From a vegetation perspective, I’d say it’s something in between a parkland and a links course. There are a lot of trees which however are not in play really. Instead the heavy rough is made of links-dunes-like long grass which sucks in balls without regret. From an aesthetical fauna standpoint you might want to compare this course with south-west London heather courses like Sunningdale, Wentworth, Berkshire and alike.

Due to the expected weather conditions including heavy thunderstorms, the playing mode of that final day was changed to a starting time of 7am, teeing off on the 1 and 10 simultaneously, plus they had three players in a group rather than two – all to speed up the play and make sure the tourney is over before the dark clouds arrive. I had to use my umbrella most of the time, but in the end it was not as bad as expected, there was even sunshine from time to time.

When I reached the grounds I realised that there were way less people than anticipated. Another consequence of the weather I believe. After a quick look at the range I got right into it and followed some players round the course. I stayed with Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Emiliano Grillo, Pablo Larrazabal, Alexander Levy, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson and others. The only one I really haven’t seen at all was the winner in the end, Fabrizio Zanotti.

In the end I unfortunately could not manage to get a seat on the grand stand, which was really a shame because due to a multi-hole playoff, the grand stand would have been the perfect place to see the last 1 hour of the tournament. As a compensation I managed to get some nice autographs on Golficiency balls: Danny Willet, Paul Casey and Marcel Siem. All in all a very nice day with impressive golf. Cologne is just not around the corner from Frankfurt, so I drove for 5 hours in total – and was pretty exhausted respectively. And I missed Martin Kaymer, as he missed the cut, which is a bit unfortunate, but I guess the crowd following him on the Sunday would have been really over the moon… so glad I came so close to all the other mortal golf professionals.

Please check out these pictures I took (totally illegally…)

Continue reading Playoff thriller at the 2014 BMW International Open