Formed as Berlin Golf Club by British and American diplomats back in 1895, the club is one of the oldest and most prestigious in continental Europe. Golf has been played at the present site since 1926, although legendary figure Cuthbert Strachan Butchart had already designed 18 holes in 1913 and seeded them a year later. The plan was to host the Olympic golf tournament in 1916, but when that was cancelled due to World War I, the course was fenced in and put to sleep for a decade.
In 1924 the required funds to complete the course were finally secured, but Butchart had already moved to the USA. He never saw—and perhaps never even heard of—his last European design. An English builder was commissioned, who arrived with 60 horses and more than 100 workers, but it seems that all German golfers of distinction wanted to be involved. Karl Hoffmann, designer of the iconic Bauhaus style clubhouse, put his name on the plans and his later partner Bernhard von Limburger snatched the trophy in the opening tournament.
It is fair to say that the club subsequently evolved into one of the most glamorous in Europe. Royalty on the fairways was the norm and Percy Alliss (Ryder Cup player and five-time winner of the German Open) was the professional. No wonder that in 1930 an additional 9 holes were needed and none other than Harry Colt and John Morrison were tasked to produce them. Their "new" holes have since been combined with 9 "old" holes to form the present day 18-hole Championship layout with the remaining 9 Butchart holes making up the secondary course.
At the end of World War II the United States military took over the operation of the 27-hole golf complex and the "front 18 holes" remained in their hands for exactly fifty years until they were handed back to the Germans by US Army General Yates a year before the club celebrated its centenary in 1995. However, even during the "American occupation" the course has hosted many prestigious golf tournaments, the most famous of which was the 1980 edition of the national Open, won by Mark McNulty, who finished two strokes ahead of Tony Charnley and Neil Coles.
Today the classic parkland layout, surrounded by the Düppeler Forest and close to the popular lakes Stölpchensee and Wannsee, is firmly entrenched in the top flight of German golf. Some agronomic issues of the past were dealt with by rebuilding the greens, whose moderate undulations match those of the surrounding terrain very well. So far no one has come up with plans to "bring the course into the modern age" and that is a good thing. The layout makes sense from start to finish and should be left well enough alone.
This course is routed masterfully over a problematic U-shaped site. The two keys were that the 9 hole course remained on one flank of the U and the other 18 holes were routed out and back, so the narrow connector between the two flanks had to be traversed only one in each direction. The result is much more than a good compromise, it can stand with any of the classic Golden Age routings that I have seen. Necessarily most holes are side by side affairs, but they are so cleverly built along the natural landforms that it hardly ever becomes apparent. All this was achieved without skimping on fairway width except perhaps on the second hole, that runs "Out" through the narrowest part of the site and needs to accommodate the "In" hole (the climactic par 3 17th).
100 years of tree growth will change the character of a course entirely and Berlin Wannsee is no exception: just look at some of the old photos in the history section of their webpage. However, the mature trees are relatively sparse and the undergrowth is cleared, so errant shots can be recovered and in many cases played forward heroically. As usual Harry Colt snapped up the best greensites for his par 3s, but the entire property is interesting enough to provide strategic angles without introducing a barrage of bunkers. While I would not go so far as to put this course in the "like in Surrey" category, it is well worth a visit. The third 9, which I didn't get to play, also look quite interesting, if a bit on the short side. I was told that some regard the 7th hole there as the best all over. (UM)
Very nice parkland course with narrow fairways and nice greens. Really quite setting and really historic venue. Think is one of the oldes (if not the oldest) golf club in Germany. Lot of history.
Greenfee is a little bit higher but it is worth it.
I walked around Golf Klub Berlin Wansee a few winters ago and had the distinct pleasure of playing there yesterday. It is a heathland course in the mould of the Surrey/Berkshire courses (without the heather) and enjoys an amazing routing through valleys and with some nice elevation changes, and with pine, oak and silver birch along each fairway. The routing takes you down through a very secluded area, only along the 4th (a large and interesting Third Reich era building with satellites) and 6th (houses by the tee) do you come in contact with anything that isn’t pure nature.
All the holes are interesting, not a long course by modern standards, and is quite tight on many occasions (with some overhanging trees making driving interesting). The par fours are mostly under 400 yards, but there are some really interesting dog legs and strategy from the tee, not power, is paramount save for 2 or 3 long holes.
The par threes are a very testing set, none short, 6/5 iron for holes 8, 14 and 17 which are all beautifully designed and have greens that are set up and tricky to hit. The 10th is a monster at 240 yards to a small green (may have been a short par 4 at some point)
The par fives are all very good and except for the 4th genuine 3 shoters. I really enjoyed these holes.
Every hole has its own personality and you’d never get bored playing this course. The bunkers are well positioned but not as deep as I feel they should be to provide a proper test. The club house is really wonderful and everyone was very welcoming. They have the best course guide books (free) I have ever seen and a free driving range (mats) and a nice choosing area and putting green. I was very happy with my €130 green fee..
The one quibble I had with the 18 hole course was that most of the greens aren’t in great shape, with a lot of scarring. Maybe this was due to maybe not enough sunlight on some of them, as some greens were good.
Also I was quite surprised that when I asked if I could play the (seemingly inferior) 9 hole course I was asked to pay €70..I declined that offer and headed back to Berlin (taxi €38 to Zoo