Hamburger Falkenstein - North West Germany - Germany

Hamburger Golf Club,
In de Bargen 59,
22587 Hamburg,
Germany


  • +49 (0) 40 812177

  • Berthold Apel

  • Harry Colt, John Morrison and Charles Alison

  • Peter Thannhäuser

Hamburg Golf Club was founded way back in 1906 and in those days the club played over a nine-hole course at Flottbek. It must have been a fine course, because in 1910, Flottbek was the venue for the inaugural German Open Championship. But, as golf grew in popularity, the nine-hole course became crowded and new land was eventually found at Falkenstein. In 1930 a new 18-hole course for the Hamburger Golf Club was ready for play and it’s an absolute masterpiece from the brilliant design trio of Harry Shapland Colt, John Morrison and Charles Hugh Alison.

The majority of the original layout remains intact but the great German designer Bernhard von Limburger made a few alterations in the 1960s, adding a couple of holes (at the 2nd and 3rd) at the expense of losing a couple of others.

It’s a glorious, natural course that is laid out on undulating heathland and, as we all know, this sandy free-draining ground is perfect for golf. Falkenstein was originally developed as a championship course and between 1935 and 1999 it became a regular venue for the German Seniors Championship. Falkenstein also played host to the German Open on no fewer than eight occasions and, in 1981, the club was delighted to see Bernhard Langer triumph here (the first German to win the national open).

Falkenstein is an attractive course, which is routed in all directions of the compass. The wooded location provides a genteel oasis to play golf, away from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg’s city centre. While tree-lined courses often have dull highway-like holes, here only the 2nd and 11th are relatively straight and that is just the right amount of diversion on a course full of doglegs and interest. Every hole presents a unique challenge, the bunkering is vintage Colt (with some modern alterations) and the green complexes provide great entertainment without going overboard.

There certainly are some hills to conquer and valleys to drive over, but it remains walkable and, for the championship minded golfer, completely fair. The maintenance practices are to be commended – so often these historic courses are allowed to overgrow and play soft when trees and rough replace the heather and block the original playing angles. Not here at Falkenstein, this is a firm and fast experience like no other in Germany.

The following article was written by golf course architect Tony Ristola and is an edited extract from Volume Three of Golf The Sands Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected]

Harry Colt’s Hamburger Golf Club Falkenstein crushes the myth that large budgets are necessary for ‘first-rate’ golf to emerge. The fact is, in much of Germany you can come close to constructing a Falkenstein for the price of a ‘big-name’ architect’s design fee! If built today, Falkenstein would cost one to one and a half million euros, possibly less! This is due to its sandy soils, superb topography and co-operative climate.

Constructed in 1931-32, ‘the actual construction period was 76 working days from the start of surface construction to the completion of seeding.’ They did not use scrapers, bulldozers excavators and dumpers to move 120,000 cubic yards of soil but horses, tractors and 140 men. Time is money. With good planning, a favourable site and modern earth moving equipment guided by a skilled and committed architect, golf courses of distinction can materialize… affordably.

Falkenstein unfolds like a model from Colt and Alison’s book Some Essays on Golf Course Architecture (1920). The routing, bunkering and greens set the course apart, and reveal the architect’s values, flair and knowledge. It is a wonderful example of what makes the game fun, interesting, the course affordable and its principles worthy of imitation.

Falkenstein’s routing is dynamic, taking full advantage of the natural, rolling terrain, presenting all manner of shots – uphill, downhill, side hill, drop shots and seemingly every mixture of these elements. The outcome is a wide variety of holes with challenging and memorable shot opportunities.

Harry Colt further differentiated the eighteen corridors with expertly devised greens and hazards, but especially noteworthy is Falkenstein’s complete absence of water! The property did not have any naturally occurring water and back in the 1930s it was difficult, slow and costly to construct functional, natural-looking water features in fast-draining soils, hence no water.

The bunker scheme is distinctive when compared with the modern practice because it is designed to influence the line of play to the hole, not simply punish bad shots. Instead of plopping bunkers alongside the fairways in range of better players, Colt’s are set at a wide variety of distances, often eating into the fairways, intruding on the direct line to the hole.

To have a course of class you need quality greens and surrounds and Falkenstein’s do not disappoint. There is no ‘framing’ with mounds, only rolls, knobs, depressions ad bunkers, combined with the contour of the greens and their varied outer slopes. It makes for interesting putting, approach and recovery shots. These greensites are testing, fit seamlessly into the landscape and are cost-effective to construct and maintain.

By flawlessly executing the essentials on a fine piece of land – routing, hazards, strategy, aesthetics and greens – Harry Colt’s north Germany success story remains full of interest, challenge and fun three-quarters of a century after its completion. This jewel has stood the test of time (and) it never has, or will, require costly redesigning, only preservation. Hamburger Golf Club Falkenstein is tremendous value that money alone cannot buy.

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Reviews for Hamburger Falkenstein

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Description: Falkenstein is an attractive golf course, which is routed in all directions of the compass. The wooded location provides a genteel oasis to play golf, away from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg’s city centre. Rating: 5.6 out of 6 Reviews: 8

Hamburg is the premier golf club and course in Germany. It’s a true Harry Colt delight with fabulous golfing topography with 18 holes in existence since the early 20th century. This is authentic heathland golf and has the exact same look and feel of those famous heathland Hamburger Falkenstein Golf Course - Photo by reviewer courses in Surrey/Berkshire, England.

I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that British soldiers during WW2 enjoyed golfing here as it reminded them of home. Beautiful heather lines many of the holes, and with a constant change in direction across highly undulating land, the course is the perfect marriage of beauty and outstanding design.

The first hole gives you a flavour of how the land moves, and the second hole introduces the challenge of playing through the trees. The routing changes direction in each of the first 8 holes before returning to clubhouse. Stand out holes on the front side include the epic uphill par 4 6th hole which you get a glimpse of while walking down the 5th fairway. It’s really eye opening and gets the heart racing just thinking about it. The 6th hole is hugely unique and incredibly steep leaving par feeling Hamburger Falkenstein Golf Course - Photo by reviewer like a birdie.

Consistent with Colt’s acclaimed courses, the short par 4s on the front are strategic, tempting and bold. It’s been noted by other authors that the par 3s at Hamburger are not Colt’s best and in combination feel a little bland compared the outstanding par 4s. It’s hard to forget how incredible the short holes at Sunningdale, St. George’s Hill and Swinley Forest are, so with those images in your mind, the par 3s at Falkenstein pale in comparison – but only because the bar was set so high elsewhere.

The back nine is full of heather and is packed with delightful undulating and dog-legging par 4s before the famous par 5 17th which is arguably the best hole on the course. Those brave enough to hit a heroic carry over the purple heather will have a chance to hit the green in two.

Colt did a marvelous job of discovering 18 fantastic green-sites among the treasured heather, rolling ridges and towering pines - I am firmly a big fan of this German work of art.

6 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
May 29, 2018


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I agree with everything that has been said in previous reviews, but would like to add a few more reasons to play here. First up is superintendent Norbert Lischka. He is a pioneer for heathland cultivation and firm playing surfaces in Germany and keeps his course in world-class condition with just a handful of greenkeepers and a minimum application of chemicals. Hamburger Falkenstein - photo by reviewerClearly the way forward for golf and you'll love how his course plays. Then, if you come here in August, when the heather is in full bloom, you'll be blown away. Not many courses can compete with Falkenstein in the heathery department. On top of all that you'll still pay less than at comparable venues like Alwoodley or Ganton or anywhere in Surrey. Just be reasonable and polite, they'll get you out on the course. And if you enter the HuLoPo competition, which consists of 100 holes played on a long day in June, the club will probably lose money on you!

There is very little to be said against Falkenstein, perhaps the configuration (only three par 5s, two par 3s of similar length) is a smidgen below world class and there is tree encroachment in places. However, the fairways are surprisingly wide on most holes and the playing strategies are absolutely intact. Tree-lined courses often have boring highway-like holes, but here only #2 and #11 are relatively straight and that is just the right amount of diversion on a course full of doglegs and quirk. Every hole presents a unique challenge, the bunkering is vintage Colt (some modern alterations) and the greens are thankfully still original. There certainly are some hills to conquer and some valleys to drive over, but it remains very walkable and, for the championship minded golfer, completely fair. For continental Europe it doesn't get much better than this. (UM)

6 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
January 01, 2014


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I played this course today and it was a special walk through the Hamborg countryside. It was early in the season and the greens were not in the best shape, but who cares. I great layout that I really enjoyed.Moreover everyone from the the moment I entered the club from the secretary to the staff and the members made this USA guy very welcome. I hope to play it again.
5 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
May 09, 2013


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Lovely course in impeccable condition. I saw a deer running on the fairway, met some nice German, French and English players who let me play through. I'm planning to go back next year to play in the "100 hole tournament".
6 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
August 03, 2012


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Definitely a great and beautiful course. Certain natural uphill holes - not too physical though -compensate the fact it isn't a long course. One must also recon the remarkable etiquette of the local members. This club has style ! My partner and I are rather fast players and as soon as the flights ahead of us noticed it, without pressing anyone, we were kindly invited with a gentle smile to overtake them. A very friendly hole 19 and excellent dinner on a nice terrasse completed a wonderful discovery of one of the greatest courses in Germany and neighbouring countries. An experience we'll repeat without hesitation.
6 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
October 03, 2011


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I played some of the top courses in Germany and this summer I had the chance to play Falkenstein. In my opinion this is by far the best course in Germany. It may be not the most difficult course, but it is one of very few old and classic layouts in Germany, the course is strategic and well maintained, though it looks very natural, not artificial or manicured, and with all that sandy ground and the heather it is so beautiful.
5 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
September 22, 2011


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Not the longest of courses but a true parkland with plenty of trees, tight fairways, dog legs and elevation changes. Best holes for me are 12, 15 and 18 but the whole course is a delight to play.
6 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
March 24, 2009


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Weber
May 07, 2009
Can anybody tell me who does the changes? C. Staedler? Will the bunker renovation be a restoration or a redesign?
PAUL
May 09, 2009
lets hope it doesn't get a C Steadler bunker redo..he wrecked Frankfurter with amoeba shaped bunkers.
Weber
May 11, 2009
You're so RIGHT! I'm a member at Frankfurt...
Martin
September 08, 2009
As far as I know, the renovation was done by David Krause. At least that is what he told me!
I'm from Germany and my home club is Frankfurter golfclub, which is also in this list. But everytime i come to Hamburg-the best thing is this course. It's beatiful and well maintained- very good.
5 / 6
Hamburger Falkenstein
February 20, 2008


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Carl Winberg
October 25, 2009
Whilst I was working for BP in Hamburg, I was kindly accepted as a member. My handicap was at that time 2.I was felt so very welcome by all members, and loved the course and the club house facilities. Not least the kitchen offerings. I have never had a proper Schtrammel Max since, or a proper Berliner weisse. Whatever happened to the hundred loch pokale? Great fun it was.