If Germany sounds an unlikely place to go for a golf holiday, how about Bavaria? Although it is, of course, part of Germany, it has its own distinctive culture, traditions and, perhaps more importantly, some truly beautiful courses. Since most of the courses are clustered around Munich, the thriving state capital is the obvious place to be based. It’s a flourishing city that has a colourful history and a prosperous feel.
Beer is big business here. There are half-a-dozen major breweries in the city each with its own beer hall that will happily serve you a frothy stein from nine o’clock in the morning until long after you should have gone to bed. The steady drinking that goes on throughout the year hits a frenetic peak around the middle of September when the annual Oktoberfest attracts beer enthusiasts from right around the world.
Although Munich is by no means a one-event wonder and city attracts visitors throughout the year. In winter they come for the Christmas market, to ski in the nearby Alps or watch Arjen Robben rip through Bayern Munich’s opponents. In the summer there are parks and castles to wander around, a river to relax beside and innumerable cafes and restaurants to enjoy.And if you visit for the golf, add these five to your list.
1. SCHLOSS EGMATING
Speed is of the essence at Schloss Egmating and the amiable pro, Clemens Otto, reckons your round should never take more than four hours to finish. Part of the secret is there are only two fairway bunkers on what is called the Championship course. What also helps are the short walks between green and tee, the 10-minute gap between tee times and possibly the fact that complete beginners cut their teeth on the adjacent nine-hole Arabella course where they learn the etiquette before being let loose on the Big One. Much to their credit, Germans are very ‘hot’ on etiquette which forms a large part of the test all golfers have to pass.
A beautiful parkland course that benefits from plenty of elevation, Egmating is nevertheless eminently walkable. Designed by Kurt Rossknecht, it was built around the time Bernhard Langer was bursting onto the scene and celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.A feature of the course are the grass bunkers that are liberally scattered about. It’s also notable for its magnificent greens which are the pride and joy of the long-serving and dedicated greenkeeper. If you’re brave enough to visit in January and February, be prepared to putt on temporaries.
There are five tees to choose from, including an orange about 200 yards from the pin. Appealing though they are, don’t be tempted as they’re strictly for youngsters. Instead, feel free to pick the apples and plums that can be found in late summer on quite a few of the holes. If you’ve the time and energy left at the end of your round, whiz round the delightful Arabella course – it’ll only take you three-quarters of an hour.
Sitting 35 minutes north-west of the city centre, Eichenried is well worth the taxi fare. A genuine championship course that simply oozes quality, reflected in the fact it has been the venue for the BMW International Open since 1989. Nowadays it hosts this big event on alternate years and the European Tour
will be back here in 2019. As a result of this exposure, you may recognise some of Eichenried’s holes, in particular the 16th in the BMW, which is a reachable par four for them if not for us, but you will not be able to play precisely the same course as the tournament is staged on a composite track which takes holes from each of three nines that are unimaginatively labelled ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. But you can’t go wrong as all three nines are terrific. Note the enormous difference in distance between the white and yellow tees.
You will also not fail to notice the liberal sprinkling of water hazards, which renders the course far less open than it may first appear. As the terrain is pretty flat and the rough is only of major concern when they let it grow for the BMW, water presents the greatest hazard to handicap golfers.
European Tour pro Marcel Siem first picked up a club here when his mother was the restaurant manager. Another successful product of the flourishing junior section and impressive coaching – there are no fewer than 10 teaching pros on site here – is Stephan Jager, who has just secured his PGA Tour card. Enter the impressive clubhouse and you can’t miss an enlarged scorecard celebrating the occasion when Jaeger shot 58, 65, 64 and 63 on a Web.com tour event.
Only about 13 miles from the centre of Munich, Golf Club Olching (pronounced ‘oil shing’) is a pretty parkland course built nearly 40 years ago alongside the Amper river, a tributary of the Isar which flows through Munich. The course has changed significantly since then, most notably in 2012/13 when it was completely modernised. Every green and tee was renovated, all the bunkers were altered and three ponds were extended. Today, it’s very lush and lovely but any hooking right-hander or slicing left-hander will struggle on the front nine as left of every single hole is out of bounds.
They take their golf very seriously here and the club boasts more than 100 single-figure players. Consequently, they are a competitive force to reckon with and have teams in both the 1st and 2nd divisions of the national Bundesliga.Easy to walk, the course has an appealing meadowland feel with perilous water never very far away. If you tee off early in the morning and are very fortunate, you might catch sight of a local legend by the name of Paul somewhere to the left of the 15th tee. Approach him gently because he is easily scared. Well, most beavers are! Why they called him Paul when Justin Beaver sounds so much better is a mystery. About 6,600 yards off the yellow tees, the course remains open all the year round with the occasional assistance of winter greens when necessary.
4. GOLF VALLEY
Golf Valley is a complete misnomer and conveys entirely the wrong impression of a truly spectacular golf course. Although an absurd oxymoron, Alpine Links might be a better name. It’s called Golf Valley simply because it lies in the municipality of Valley in the beautiful Bavarian Oberland due south of Munich, en route to the mountains.Entirely artificial – although you’d be mistaken to regard that as a negative – it was built nearly 10 years ago on a site formerly occupied by Radio Free Europe. Asked what they wanted, the locals very sensibly voted for golf, much to the delight of Michael Weichselgartner who dreamt of bringing the Ryder Cup to Germany.
David Krause, a Canadian course architect, was commissioned to create a suitably impressive stadium course that opened in 2009. With imposing ‘dunes’ heaped on both sides of sunken fairways, the character of the course is remarkably reminiscent of Le Golf National. “Unlike France,” explained Evelyn Weichselgartner, Michael’s daughter and general manager, “there’s no political support in Germany for
a game that is still regarded as elitist.”
With three nines, more than enough tough rough, huge greens, inviting fairways to attack from elevated tees, no shortage of water, glorious views towards the mountains and the most extensive floodlit practice facilities you will find anywhere, Golf Valley has much to commend it, even if the Ryder Cup dream is not fulfilled.
The closest course to Munich’s Flughafen airport (15 minutes by car), on the eastern outskirts of the city centre, Aschheim might well be your first or last port of call. Logistics aside, the course has another considerable benefit in having been built on a former gravel pit. Whereas the local authorities are normally rather reluctant to permit much in the way of major alterations to their landscape, they were very
relaxed about what was done to this formerly disused site. Consequently, the team brought together to design the course had an enviable blank canvas on which to work.
They took full advantage of it by planting a large number of trees and shifting a lot of earth. Only six holes were complete when it first opened in 1990 and the early enthusiasts had to be patient for many years before the full-sized course finally threw open its fairways in 2007.
Perhaps the greatest edge the course enjoys over most others around Munich is its considerable elevation – enjoy the lofty views but take a cart to avoid the burn. And be pre-warned that on a tight course, you’re advised to leave your driver in the boot of the car, or at least in your bag. The club is proud of the challenging par threes but not as much as it is of receiving a gold certificate for the considerable attention it has paid to promoting ‘Golf and Nature’. With that in mind, beware the beehives by the second hole that provide the honey on sale in the pro shop, the proceeds from which support the junior programme adjudged to be the best in Bavaria for the past five years. And it’s not only juniors that the club encourages to get into golf. Head here and you could be sharing the fairways with superstars: Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich striker, has just taken up the game and is having lessons at Aschheim.
Where to play
Where to stay
Ledererstraße 8, 80331 München
Tel: +49 89 2422490