Frankfurter Golf Club is located in a secluded forest setting within the Frankfurt city boundary. The gently undulating topography is in many ways reminiscent of the sand belt courses located to the west of London. Unfortunately, a century of unchecked tree growth is suffocating the fairways today and the turf quality is markedly affected by the lack of sun and wind. A number of holes have become straight, tree-lined affairs with little strategic interest.
The golf club itself is one of the oldest in Germany, founded in 1913. The original 9-hole course was the work of Charly Gardner and located on another site, whereas Harry Colt and John Morrison designed the current layout in the late 1920s in a traditional old English heathland style. Sadly, the heather is gone these days, with the exception of a small patch behind the fairway bunker on the 15th, which provides a glimpse as to how the course might have looked before the pines grew up.
The club used to be a regular German Open venue (most recently in 1989) and it was once one of the longest courses in Europe with par set at an incredible 78. Today’s par at Frankfurter is between 69 and 71 depending on which tees are selected. Their youth program is one of the foremost in Germany, so betting against a 14-year-old lad heading for the back tee is probably a bad idea.
Christoph Städler has been remodelling the bunkers and greens in 2007 to mixed reactions. In his own words: “For many years these old topsoil push-up greens have shown increasing problems with fungi and poa annua. They no longer measure up to modern playing standards. Thus the members have recently decided to renovate the greens. I have played about 20 Harry Colt courses and I’m a great admirer of his ingenious layouts, routings and undulated greens. Surprisingly the greens at Frankfurter Golf Club are relatively flat in comparison to his other courses and they have lost their challenge over the years when approach shot lengths have become shorter and shorter. A couple of greens are still appropriately contoured but we will provide the majority with bolder shaped surfaces and surrounds, very much in the typical Colt style.”
While the rebuild has certainly improved the quality of the putting surfaces, it didn't exactly promote the ground game. Some critics feel the bunkering and green surrounds show little sympathy for Colt and the elaborate mounding is more in tune with the modern American style made popular by Robert Trent Jones.
One of Germany‘s top 5 courses, excellent conditions, challenging layout, top notch fairways and greens, a must play course in Germany
The course is routed through a densely forested area, which used to be outside the city, but nowadays is located fairly centrally in Frankfurt due to urban growth. As a consequence golfers suffer from traffic noise of the car as well as airplane variety and the views now include some unsightly office buildings (see enclosed image).
The trademark of the layout is its supply of stern par 4s that undoubtedly provide ample difficulty, but negotiating them is about as exciting as watching fairways dry - not that there is much of a chance of that at Frankfurter. The trees leave most of the course in shadows for extended periods of time and shelter it from the wind. The green complexes could by their design provide some entertainment, but without air and sun they will probably never play authentically.
I like the back 9 better, as it has a few shorter holes and a dogleg or two appear plus some interesting undulations. Nothing to scare a 2nd tier London sandbelt course, but a welcome diversion after the series of long, flat, straight, tree-lined bores of the front 9 (again, see enclosed image). Today the main purpose of Frankfurter is not to please its members or stand as a tribute to the Golden Age of Golf Architecture, but rather to educate some of the country's best young players. Although I'd venture that the program will produce few Seves, a talented youngster could certainly do a lot worse than join it. The maintenance and practice facilities are excellent.
Still, I feel I am generous with my 3.5 ball rating, it is more a nod towards Harry Shapland Colt and John Stanton Fleming Morrison than an accurate description of what's actually left of their work. However, there is potential for a 5 baller and the turf is still somewhat sandy, so I say bring in an experienced Colt restorer plus a heather cultivator to return this track to its former glory. (UM)