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.
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)