The Frisian Islands that lie off the west coast of Jutland between Denmark and Germany are very popular with the type of tourist who wants to “get back to nature”, but Sylt, one of the main islands in this archipelago, has always attracted the rich and famous as well. Westerland and Kampen are the principal resort towns, perhaps because they're located centrally on the island, where everyone steps (or drives) off the trains from the mainland, which is connected via the Hindenburgdamm causeway.
However, an influx of golfers arriving to sample some serious links action at the new Budersand course has started to turn the previously sleepy village of Hörnum on the southern tip of the island into a small destination of its own. Local architect Rolf-Stephan Hansen has transformed a former military base – Sylt was the first part of Germany to have bombs dropped on it during World War II – into a stunning new 18-holer that effortlessly joined the ranks of the top links courses that run down the west coast of Europe between Denmark and France.
On a site surrounded by natural dunes, the eighteen holes here have been so well laid out to blend in with their surroundings that it is difficult not to think they were fashioned at the hands of an experienced master designer, never mind a German rookie on his first project! Surprisingly, there is not an ounce of modernism to it (save a few EcoBunkers) and no "trademark" features that shout "look at me". This is all the more impressive when considering that every internal feature of the course was purpose-built.
The scale of the challenge is set out at the very first hole on the fringe of the property, played downhill to a fairway that then veers left and up to a green with a sand hill to the right for protection – as tough an opening hole as you could care to imagine. Since the property is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, there can be many types of wind. For instance, when the notorious North-Westerly is up, the opening hole plays straight into the teeth of it and just barely reaching the fairway becomes an achievement. On other days there might be a mellow, warm breeze from the continent of hardly any consequence.
The back nine holes are, if anything, a cut above the very good front nine, with two brilliant par threes carved into the dunes at holes 13 and 15 and a stream that veers across the closing three holes, creating a Carnoustie-like final flourish to the round.
It’s easy to see why Budersand Sylt was voted the best new German course in 2009 and has since entertained a substantial presence in the German and Continental European rankings.
There is always a special feeling arriving at a place when it's dark and waking up to see how the place looks in the morning glory. In Budersand we came late to the wonderful Hotel next to the Golf Course for a late delicious dinner. After a good night’s sleep, we woke up early and went out on the balcony just after sunrise. It was almost a mysterious feeling to see the whole golf course displayed in front of you that misty morning.
Budersand is offering natural sandy links conditions with massive native and nature protected dunes framing the golf course. I’m impressed by the finished product from the local architect Hansen and his team. They have managed to create an authentic looking links course with 94 revetted pot bunkers, mounds and a mix of natural heather and fescues. Having created such a solid course, it's amazing. This architect is a one hit wonder.
It´s a golf course that requires creativity in you as a player. Keep the ball in play from tee and put yourself at the right spots on the fairway for an easier approach to well protected greens.
One learning for the next visit to Budersand is to warm up before arriving on the first tee off. The first hole is everything but a gentle hand shake, especially into the strong wind, which was the case on this day, and that also seems to be the prevailing wind. It's a tight tee shot followed by an uphill approach to a well protected green.
The following two holes were also played into the wind where the 2nd tee is the highest point of the course with a marvelous view of the course and the ambience around the course. The second hole is also another challenging par 4 where you are given the strategic option to hit a shorter club from the tee and land short of the bunker to a wide fairway and leave yourself with a demanding approach. The other option is to challenge the bunker and land on a downhill slope that will kick the ball forward to a short and quite easy approach.
All par 3’s are strong and well spread out on the course. However, I wouldn´t mind a longer par 3. Especially since 3 out of 4 par3’s play with the prevailing wind in your back. The 8th hole is a wonderful medium length par 3 where the bunkering give you an option to go low and roll the ball up on the green. With another 20 yards this hole would be even stronger and bring the bunkers 20-30 yards short of the hole more in play.
The 13th hole is a Dell inspired green where a pin position to the right provides you with a blind pin. A fun hole!
The 15th hole is considered the signature hole and it's certainly a beautiful short hole of 100 yards or so next to the sea with an undulated green surrounded by gorse, bunkers and fescues. If you are lucky, you also might get an audience in the form of people who are out walking along the sea. I would love to play this hole with a wind coming from the left or into you.
It's hard to pick a favorite hole, but if I have to I would probably pick any of the strong par 4s. It could be the strategic 2nd hole or the difficult 5th hole with a challenging tight tee shot and out of bounds left all the way from the tee to behind green green.
The 11th is a great rolling uphill lengthy par 4 with strategic bunkers on each side. I have always been a fan of this kind of straight, symmetric par 4 where you have everything in front of you, like the 15th at Sandwich.
11 is followed by the short dogleg left 12th hole where, with the right wind, you can challenge the 4 bunkers and the OB left and by that position yourself with a short and much easier approach to a green that sits up in the natural dune. Length is everything on this approach. A miss long and you are in the fescue or heather impossible to scramble, miss short and the false front of green leaves you with another difficult up and down.
Another strong par 4 is the long 14th hole that is played around a large natural dune where your tee shot should be as close to the right fairway bunkers as possible for a better approach to a green where you have another chance to have an audience giving you feedback on your approach and putting.
I have a mixed feeling about the finishing holes. A burn is coming into play on the final three holes that consist of 2 back to back par 5s with the same length in the opposite direction and with a burn in play from tee. I have to play the finishing par 4 dogleg left more to give my fair opinion.
All in all, Budersand is an awesome, fun and well balanced golf course that is strongly routed in great linksy surroundings. I look forward to coming back here in the future and taking the opportunity to play more than one round of golf, preferably in various wind directions. I will then also bring my family who will love both the Island of Sylt and Budersand as a destination.
Granted this was a strange year for most of us golfers, especially those of us that usually travel extensively and see a lot of new courses. In retrospect the year looked completely different than what I had initially intended. However, that didn’t turn out to be bad in any way for me. I had the opportunity to visit some countries that I would have otherwise not seen. One of the biggest “nice surprises” of this year was my visit to Golfklubb Budersand Sylt.
A lot of great courses require some work and a bit of a journey just to arrive, Golfklubb Budersand Sylt is one of these courses. The journey there is pretty special if done by car. It requires a short drive from Hamburg, then you drive your car onto a train, which was a first for me personally. As unique as that is the trip across to the island is really spectacular and affords wonderful views from your car on the train. Warning, if you are headed over during the weekend make sure to show up early for the train which you need to make sure you have a reservation for. One final note is that if you are flying in from abroad and want to spend a weekend for example at Golfklubb Budersand Sylt, something I would very highly recommend, my advice would be to fly into Hamburg, don’t even bother renting a car but instead book yourself on a direct train from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (the main train station in town) to Sylt directly. This will save a ton of time and stress if you are not accustomed to driving in Germany and would rather just sit back and relax on the train. This is also a much quicker way to get there, given the logistics of the auto train. When you arrive, you will need to exit the train and jump into a taxi.
We arrived at Budersand Hotel – Golf & Spa late afternoon with just enough light to grab a glimpse of what appeared to be a true links course, now that was a wonderful surprise. The excitement was building further as you can imagine. The Hotel itself is extremely nice, a true 5-star experience with a Michelin Star Restaurant to accompany it. I can’t think of too many golf resorts that have great golf courses and luxury hotels with Michelin Star Restaurants. It goes without saying that dinner was a wonderful experience in what was an ultra-modern restaurant serving the best of Nordic Fusion cuisine. Another experience I can highly recommend that was a first for me.
I’m happy to report the hotel was equally as wonderful as the experience at the restaurant and that’s not a compliment I thought out too often. We awoke early with amazing views out over the course from our room. The excitement continued to build.
The toughest part of the day was the race up the hill after breakfast to check in for our round. The climb up the hill was more of a challenge than desired, the wind was gusting fairly strong from the right side, a true links experience awaiting. At the first tee, we faced one of the toughest tee shots of the day, wind gusting straight into our faces. The warmup, entirely our own fault consisted of the walk up the hill. The first hole is a cut off all you can chew par 4 with a sharp dogleg left. This tee shot plays slightly down hill and begs you to take on the carry of the left side which is a steep hill with out of bounds on it. Too much risk for me into the wind with no warmup. The approach plays uphill to a green that very much allows for a running shot in. Very solid start!
A short climb to the second tee and you’re immediately standing at the highest point on the course. Get the camera ready, but don’t take too long as it will take a minute to muster up the guts for the next shot. This short par 4 plays from a highly elevated and exposed tee to a fairly narrow fairway lined with trouble in the form of ball losing native vegetation and rough. An extremely testing shot and one that needs to be controlled. This tee shot played straight into the wind off the left. The downhill approach played into a fairly small green with 3 pot bunkers protecting it, front right, middle left and back right, making for many interesting pin positions.
To be fair an excellent albeit tough and exacting start. The 3rd hole, a par 5 was the last one taking us to the far back end of the property before a complete change in direction when the 4th played in the direction of the sea. One of the unique aspects of the 4th and 5th holes were that they play towards a big hill, or perhaps dune that is totally covered in heather, a unique feature on a links course.
Generally, I was quite impressed with the routing, the amount of directional change that was implemented here, the excellent set of par 3’s and challenging par 4’s. While the beautiful par 3 15th hole, with the sea as its backdrop remains their signature hole understandably, my favorite par 3 was the 13th which played at about 154 meters to a green that was set almost in a big bowl (though not in terms of green shaping) with dunes running all the way around and a small opening in the front. If I’m not mistaken allowing for a several semi blind pin positions. The main reason this was my favorite of the set had to do with the unique look and strategy from the tee. We won’t discuss how poorly I executed my strategy on this hole. Incidentally, this was part of such a solid stretch of holes, my favorite par 4, was the next hole, the 14th which played to about 391 meters and required an exacting tee shot middle to left side, taking on the left side bunker of this left to right sloping fairway. The perfect shot allowed a view of the green that had the mountain of heather to the left and the sea to the right as it’s backdrop. What an excellent golf hole.
The finishing holes after the par 3 15th all encompassed a bit of a Scottish burn as part of the strategy almost in a Carnoustie type fashion. With the wind it was quite challenging on the first time around to figure out which clubs you could play here. I think we ended up really lucky with solid shots but in retrospect these could have easily ended up wet given I think we played the wrong clubs. On 17 my drive was 1 meter from the drink. Even tough for me to say perfectly judged.
Golfklubb Budersand Sylt is most certainly ranked correctly in the very top echelons of what German golf has to offer. I can highly recommend the course; I only wish I had the time to play it multiple times during my visit. I’d love to see it in varying wind conditions and have the chance to get a better feel for the holes and intricacies. I’ll admit the quality of the course was such a huge surprise to what I had experienced in Germany and I’m sincerely a fan that would love to revisit it one day.
Combine the course with the experience of the trip, wonderful hotel and amazing restaurant then you have a golf resort that is well suited to luxury golf traveler and ideal for taking along your non-golfing partner as well. I’d happily guarantee their spa would be world class given the rest of what I have seen, without even having set foot there. That’s how impressed I was with the entire package and how much confidence I would have. That means, it’s one of those rare places you can take your partner, play some great golf and be thanked that you did! Take some notes fellas!
PS. While I gave this course a deserved 5 ball rating, I would emphasize that Top100Golf ratings only rate the course itself. I really want to emphasize that Budersand Hotel Golf & Spa in my opinion represents a 6 ball experience if we were rating experiences.
From start to finish this is a wonderful golf course. Great layout .greens were still fast late September and rolled very straight.
Miss a fairway and you will have a hard time finding your ball or hitting it again.
For a high hdcp or beginner golfers this course might be too hard, play any of the other 3 courses on Sylt.
Finally, for the life of Me I cannot in any way figure out how
Hamburger Falkenstein is ranked number 1 ahead of this course. I guess most the raters have never been to Sylt. This course blows away Hamburger, superior in every aspect.
I experienced this course in several wind conditions and like any self-respecting links it always remained playable, but certainly not the same way. The firm and fast conditions are second to none, so even shorter hitters can shine (if they are also straighter hitters). There are no weak holes at Budersand, it is a very balanced course with an especially memorable set of par 3s. Depending on the wind anything from half a wedge to driver can be hit, but even without wind the lengths are very cleverly spaced and the iconic blind shot over a dune is included as well.
Variety does not only apply to the one-shotters, the entire layout is designed thoughtfully and with very little repetion. While two or three of the longer holes could be a bit more quirky and have a few more fairway undulations, the truth is that occasionally it is nice to get a break from worrying how to keep the ball in play.
The burn on the last three holes needs a bit more work, though, as it is often dry and does not have a continuous bed. Other than that Budersand ticks all the links boxes with its marram grass, gorse, fescue greens, fairway undulations, lack of trees and, at any rate, one seaside hole (although on the elevated second tee the ocean on both sides of the course can be seen). Considering the five star hotel on site and Sylt's high roller reputation the greenfee is actually pretty reasonable. In fact, given the quality of the course, I call it a steal.
The "gentleman starter" (quoting the manager here) adds a very nice touch, as he knows everything about the course and provides sensible advice to the many groups, who come here never having played a links before: "You do not need your pitchfork here, but keep your ball low to the ground." (UM)
I largely agree with the previous comment even if this course has a risk-reward profile under windy and dry conditions: like on any links, the ball can easily roll a bit further than anticipated and bump into an unexpected direction if you didn't carefully choose your direction and landing area... This is one of the top links courses I ever played (including Royal St George's). The back nine's architecture is simply superb. One point of criticism: greens not really fast when we played even if they are in a immaculate condition. Fantastic & very friendly staff. If you want to play, be sure to book in advance during the high season. A limited number of tee-offs (" to avoid stress and waiting" they told us).