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- Bernhard von Limburger
Bernhard von Limburger
Bernhard von Limburger learned the game of golf in Scotland as a young boy and joined the local Gaschwitz Golf Club near his hometown of Leipzig. ‘Limmy’, as he was nicknamed, soon became an excellent amateur golfer, winning the German Amateur Closed Championship three times between 1921 and 1925, and he went on to represent Germany thirty-five times in international golf competition.
“He earned a degree in law but never practiced,” wrote Geoff Cornish and Ron Whitten in The Architects of Golf, “choosing instead to publish a German golf magazine that he edited until the mid-1930s. During this period, he laid out a few courses that were, by his own admission, terrible designs.
In the late 1930s Limburger formed a partnership with Berlin golf professional Karl Hoffman, already an accomplished designer. Hoffman and Limburger created several top courses in Germany before World War II and also operated a number of them. But their business was terminated by the war, and Limburger returned to his native Leipzig, which became part of the Communist zone after the war.”
“His magazine Golf was the official voice of the German Golf Association until 1943,” said golf historian, Christoph Meister, “when the journal was discontinued due to war-related printing paper shortages. After the war Limmy felt it did not make sense to continue to publish a golf journal, as most people in Germany had other worries.”
“After 1945,” continues Meister, “von Limburger lost most of his property in Leipzig, then part of the Soviet zone. He had to start all over again… By this time Bernhard had already found his true vocation: golf course architecture… Many years later Limmy expressed relief that, due to the influx of communism in Eastern Germany, meadows and potato fields now covered his juvenile sins.”
“Hoffman and Limburger resumed their practice at the war’s close,” wrote Cornish and Whitten, “but Hoffman died in the early 1950s. Limburger was successful in landing several commissions to build courses for American military bases in the newly created West Germany in the later 1940s, and by the 1950s he was designing full-time.”
Christoph Meister picks up the story: “During the late 1960s von Limburger started a partnership with Dave Thomas and Peter Alliss. One very interesting project saw Limmy travel to Persia to design a course for the Shah on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The only completed project of this partnership was the redesign of the Dufferin course at Clandeboye in Northern Ireland – but this at least fulfilled von Limburger's lifetime dream to design a course on the British Isles.
In the end it is Garlstedt that was von Limburger's masterpiece of strategic design. On almost every par four and par five hole it is very important to place the ball on the correct side of the fairway to have a significant advantage for the second stroke. Christoph Städler, one of today's leading architects in Germany and a former national amateur champion, goes as far as to say that he knows of no other course in Germany with a strategic design implemented so effectively. No single hole resembles any other, even though most are closely treelined. The green-fee player will remember many holes, even after a single visit…
It was always von Limburger's aim to build courses, which after a couple of years looked as if they had always been there. Many of von Limburger's courses fit well into their natural environment, and courses like Refrath or Garlstedt do indeed look as if they have always been there. Only Limmy himself would remember the volume of earth moved during the time of construction.”
“Always a strong advocate of strategic design and a strong opponent of water hazards and overbunkering (especially with what he termed ‘jigsaw-puzzle’ pieces’),” wrote Cornish & Whitten, “Limburger developed a distinctly European style of golf architecture. All German Open tournaments after World War II through 1978 were played on course he had designed or revised.”
The final word goes to Christoph Meister: “Bernhard von Limburger dedicated almost sixty years of his life to the game of golf and during his lifetime (1901-1981) he was clearly the most important golf course architect in Germany. Modern architects like Städler and Swan have been successful in modernising Limmy's courses, keeping his spirit and style but adapting to today's standards and requirements.”