Gone are the days when a golf holiday was by default Spain or Portugal. Golfers are now keen to look at new destinations, to boldly go where no golfer has gone before. Bavaria is one such interesting place…
At slightly shy of one hour and thirty minutes flying time from London, Munich is a short hop from the UK. Clean, safe and full of cultural surprises, there’s a lot here to like. The city, and indeed the region of Bavaria, is a contradiction in terms. Munich is a variable cornucopia of contrasting images. A trendy metropolis of art, technology and all-round innovation, this is also historic Bavaria – land of the Lederhosen, good beer and stunning scenery. Bordering Austria and the Czech Republic creates a very unique region that has a lot to offer those keen to try something new.
I am, unfortunately, here at the wrong time of year to experience that most famous of Munich events, the Octoberfest. The world’s largest beer festival is a veritable homage to the regional beer and can go on for up to 18 days. But at least while I am here, I consider it my duty to make sure that I get to taste some bier, purely for journalistic purposes.
AUTOBAHN EXPRESS. I pick up my hire car and in no time I am heading east on the Autobahn. The beautiful German countryside glides past as I keep my progress to a steady 180kph. Yes, that does sound a little scary, but to be honest, German autobahns are well made and Germans are well-disciplined, sensible drivers. The idea of driving in the fast lane for no particular reason is anathema to them and a concept that drivers in the UK would do well to adhere to.
It’s a little over an hour’s drive to my destination, Quellness & Golf Resort Bad Griesbach, the sun is shining and my trusted Sat Nav is every now and again advising me on my route. Unfortunately, it’s in German since I forgot to ask the rental company to put it into English (note to myself for future trips).
QUELLINESS GOLF RESORT. This destination (formerly known as Hartl) is not well known in the UK, which is a real shame. It’s an amazing location with five 18-hole courses, three nine-hole and two 6-hole courses that also includes one purely for kids. There are six hotels and the biggest golf training facility to be found anywhere in Europe. The spa and wellness centres (yes, plural) are second to none, with large spa facilities at the Maximillian, Das Ludwig and Furstenhof Hotels.
Each hotel on the resort has a unique purpose. The Das Ludwig, for example, is very much geared towards families with a multitude of clubs and activities for children, leaving the parents able to sneak off for a round, a spa treatment or any one of the countless other activities available.
I am booked in at the 5 – Star Maximillian, the biggest hotel on the resort, with a total of 205 rooms. After a chat with general manager, Jens Bernitzky, I head up to my room to prepare for the first Bavarian golf foray.
BECKENBAUER-INSPIRED. The Beckenbauer is a European Tour Course andis the first of three Bernhard Langer creations that I intend to play here at Quellness. Its namesake is the legendary German footballer Franz Beckenbauer, who is a native of Munich. I have been advised that this is a tricky number with some sneaky surprises in store. Beautiful yet deceptive, it is fully capable of tripping up the unwary or overconfident golfer. The great man himself is often spotted here and, like many ex-footballers who spend time playing golf on retirement, he’s probably of a very high standard.
The course runs over flat fenland and many of the holes are quite tight, with water never far away for the unsuspecting. Everything starts off easy, but by the second hole you get a taste of what is to come; this is a par-4, with a sharp dogleg right approaching the green. You can cut the corner but beware of the water, there is an awful lot of it.
It’s all about precision, which something that I lack. But the feeling of joy when I do have a good shot is fantastic, they just tend to be in rather short supply. I soon learn that it’s better to play safe, even on the deceptively simpler holes, as there tends to be a sting in the tail.
The Beckenbauer is a great course that will thrill the better golfer and, depending on your approach, teach the lesser golfer about precision and humility. It seems humility is the order of the day.
FORGIVING FAIRWAYS. The very next day I tee off at the Audi course, which is located next to the Beckenbauer. Another creation of Langer, although quite new edition to the collection, it feels well established and seems as if it has been here for many years. As with the Beckenbauer, the course fits perfectly into the Bavarian meadow landscape.
One thing that I notice very quickly is that the fairways do seem to be that little bit more forgiving. There are obvious hazards that break up the approach to the greens, which in turn force you to play strategically rather than shoot and hope. I particularly like the par-3s on the ninth and 13th holes, both of which are fully manageable but still requiring plenty of precision.
HIGH-TECH TRAINING. Later, Bernitzky takes me to see the world-class Quellness golf training facilities at the Golfodrom. This is quite an astounding set-up for anyone looking to improve their game and the facilities are impressive.
On offer is just about every form of instruction and guidance imaginable, including a swing analysis and fitting centre, where a team of specialists use such advanced systems as radar technology to measure club head speed, spin rate, launch angle and carry distance. They are then able to offer the exact clubs to fit each individual golfer perfectly.
The three short nine-hole courses are set up purely for practice and instruction, along with practice bunkers, a pitching and chipping area, and two large putting greens (one is housed indoors for practice during the winter months). To complete this array of golfers’ delights are 210 grass tee-off bays and 109 covered tee-off bays, 23 of which can be heated for winter practice.
BAVARIAN FOOD. That evening I am treated to a feast of delicious food and beer at the Zum Heurigen, a traditional traditional austrian-/bavarian restaurant and wine tavernrestaurant located at the Das Ludwig Hotel. A veritable smorgasbord of hot and cold buffet with heaps of meats, homemade wurst, bread and a selection of salads are on offer, with chefs preparing many of the dishes in front of you.
My hosts for this adventure into Germanic cuisine are Bernitzky, from the Maximillian, and Hans Neumeier who is general manager of the Das Ludwig.
Over a wonderful meal with a selection of good local wines and beers, it’s agreed that Neumeier will join me in the morning for my final day of golf. I hear that he’s quite good, well I hope he’s good at finding golf balls (mine that is!).
BRUNNWIES COURSE. The final day before my return to the UK and I get to play the third of my chosen Langer creations, the Brunnwies course. Neumeier, I have been told, finds time to play most of the courses regularly and I get the feeling that I am in for a lesson. This could be a case of damage limitation.
Now, I like the two previous courses, but having grown up on the hills of southwest England, I am a sucker for rolling landscapes, which this has by the bucket load. The hills here are often referred to as the Bavarian Tuscany, which should be perfect terrain for a born and bred Somerset boy.
That said, Neumeier proceeds to show me how the course should be played. The second is a lovely shot into a valley, with views out over the hills. It’s not quite a case of breaking into a rendition of The Sound of Music, but not far off.
I seem to be holding my own rather well until we stop after the ninth for some Bavarian beer and food. This turns out to be a very bad move on my part. It all seems unravel after that, and for the next few holes the loudest sound to be heard is me cursing as I send yet another ball careering off into the bushes. Luckily, I manage to get a grip for the final holes and save face. We approach the 18th which has a shot over water to reach the green. By this time, I am playing as safely as possible and overcompensate. My ball overshoots but at least I am not in the water.
Time to retire to the large and welcoming Bavarian-style clubhouse terrace to rehydrate.
SPECIAL SPA. For those golfers needing a bit of spoiling, or anyone else for that matter, the Quellness Resort is a spa paradise. Quelle is the German word for spring, and it’s the resorts natural thermal springs that make this place special, along with the countless treatments that are available. The water bubbles up from between 500 to 1,500 metres below ground and, depending on the depths it has travelled, it arrives at between 30-60°C.
Spread between three hotels, the spa facilities are on a level that I have seen nowhere else. Ranging from thermal pools to beauty and spa treatments, all needs are catered for. But my time is short and this spa centre may have to be properly covered in a separate article of its own.
I would have loved a longer stay to discover more of the region, but I leave with a warm feeling and a desire to return. It’s easy to stereotype countries but this region has been full of delightful surprises and when it comes to Bavaria, I can guarantee that you will find a welcoming atmosphere here.
So, why should you visit? Simple: great golf, terrific hospitality, impressive training techniques, tasty food and wine, and let’s not forget that fine Bavarian beer.