Bad Münstereifel is the archetypical hidden gem… no one in particular designed it, it lies in the middle of nowhere, there is hardly any traffic on the course, no two golfers agree on its merits and absolutely nothing stands between the player and the natural landscape. Perhaps with the exception of "Astropeiler", a historic radio telescope that once was the most expensive and largest scientific installation in Germany. Local enthusiasts keep it working and golfers profit by having an aiming point for the long par three 11th as well as an inimitable backdrop for a number of other holes.
The layout is beautifully simple and simply beautiful, the only manicured elements are the devilish greens. By combining the properties "small", "undulating" and "firm", they create a formidable challenge or spell imminent doom, depending on the player's short game prowess or even more so his mental resilience. There is actually a ground game here, a curiosity on the European continent!
The wild and wacky (and occasionally blind) ride starts with a par three that’s rather mellow, unless one fails to notice that the ball will bounce and roll towards the parking lot. The course picks up speed gradually over the next two holes, before #4 will ask the first serious question: Where to hit the tee ball and which club to use? A question that is repeated many times over the following holes and only overstated once, on the 12th, where something needs to be done to help the first-timer avoid knocking it deep into the woods.
Coming back to the front nine, holes play in terraces up towards Astropeiler and demand precise shot-making more than absolute length. A phenomenal stretch of holes begins with #9, a short par five that nevertheless demands two perfect strikes and a nervy pitch. The next few holes run around the top of the hill, emerge from the forest on the other side and roller coast home over open and very undulating terrain, not to mention the breathtaking scenery.
It plays much harder than it looks on the 6,000-yard scorecard. Legions of overly ambitious long hitters have been destroyed here and dismissed the experience as "not golf", which is their terminology for quirky courses that cannot be overpowered. But on hidden gems only one right is unalienable and that’s uniqueness, which Bad Münstereifel certainly has in spades.
How to put this nicely – in a way that does not disqualify myself as a thoughtless bomber that failed to overpower this course demanding a different strategy – Frankly the layout and design is just clearly very amateuristic.
Holes are routed nervously through internal OB’s and permanent GUR (due to the course being too firm in the summer and there being no chance to stop the ball on the heavily tilted fairways and prompt doglegs of up to 270 degrees (with internal OB on the inside!). The first hole is a bland, featureless par 3 which could easily have been avoided if the next stretch of holes would have been routed differently – without multiple 150 meter green to tee walks.
The next couple of holes feature par 4 holes which require a longer approach than the drive, with trouble on all sides (internal OB’s water hazards and bushes promoted to water hazards). At the 3rd teebox, my playing partner almost got hit in the face twice because the teebox apparently lays right behind the 200 meter post of the driving range, without any warning or measures. Neither can I recall just one well-place bunker. Any toddler could have picked the locations of the bunkers on this course, and if it was a talented toddler it might have been an improvement to the course. This is just a handful of irritations I had during the front nine.
Towards the end, the course gets more and more enjoyable and I even walked off the course quite satisfied. The finishing stretch actually had some interesting, well-routed holes. The drive at the par 5 16th reminded me of the 8th at Royal Dornoch, I wonder if it inspired the designer (won’t call him architect) here.
Despite its shortcomings, Bad Munstereifel is strangely more enjoyable than Bergisch Land which we played the same weekend, and at least it is quite walkable despite the routing ‘facepalms’ one must suppress, and the hilly terrain. The course also played surprisingly firm and the greens, although very basic in design and defence, were a joy to putt on and quite admirable for the undoubtedly small maintenance budget of this club. So please keep that up.
At the end of the day however, there being no less than 700 golf courses in Germany, there is absolutely no way this course belongs anywhere near the top 100.
This is not so much a golf course, this is more a mental golf exercise. If you care about your score, please team up with somebody with local knowledge and pray a lot the evening before.
Its better to stock up some extra balls and enjoin these 18 golf challenges of pure fun and frustration in rolling terrain. Has nothing to do with a balanced championship golf approach, but worth playing for the fun of it.
Inviting clubhouse with a nice terrace for much needed pick-me-up after the round.
Given people's golf preferences it will rate from poor to very good...
Be warned, this is not a "me too" course. It is loads of fun, but it will also brutalise you. I suppose you can go low here, if you play conservatively, but where is the fun in that? Most golfers, when presented with a risk/reward option, will err on the side of heroics and this place appears to be designed for just that.
Case in point: the 16th hole, a par 5 that plays downhill all the way. The enclosed picture shows the likely situation for the second shot. The bell you see on the right side indicates that it is a blind drive and the sloping fairway makes sure you end up there and don't forget to ring it. But before you do, you'll have to make a decision: will you lay up your second shot in front of the gap? It's a small target and easy to block yourself out behind the bushes, but if you succeed, you'll have a shortish iron left. The second option is to thread a low runner through the gap towards the two trees and wedge on from there. Or you can go for the heroic bomb straight ahead over the shrubbery, carry the greenside bunker and putt for eagle. Whatever you do, you'll have to do it from a tight sidehill/downhill lie. I've made just about every score imaginable on this hole, it's one of those rare par 5s with an interesting second shot.
And that's only one of several cracking holes. Another moment of zen is when you get to the 14th and 15th, where both tee boxes are on top of a hill and both play down it. A local rule states that you hit both tee shots and then amble down the hill to hole out on 14 and from the green cross over to the 15th fairway and continue with your second stroke there. What a glorious idea to avoid climbing back up the hill! I could go on and on, but since I didn't put up a spoiler warning, I'll leave it to you to figure out the 9th! (UM)