Hamburger Hittfeld Golf & Country Club is located about 25 kilometres to the south of Hamburg city centre and the course is set in the foothills of the Harburg Mountains close to Lüneburger Heide (Lüneburg Heath), an extensive area of heathland and a popular tourist destination in North Germany.
The rolling topography over slightly sandy soil certainly had the potential for a great, classic course and John Morrison was retained to produce it. It was to be one of his last projects and at the same time the first 18-hole course built in Germany after the Second World War.
In 2007 the club celebrated its 50th birthday and the layout, now indeed a classic, is still going strong. And why should this be so? Well, following a number of unsuccessful renovation attempts down the years, the club decided in 2004 to call in Canadian David Krause (a former Robert Trent Jones Sr. associate and an architect with wide experience in Germany) to reconstruct the course.
When the layout reopened, many commentators were agreed that Hamburger Hittfeld had once again regained its status as one of the best lesser-known golfing delights in the country.
Architect, David Krause, wrote the following article exclusively for us:
"Our office completed a study and began master planning the original John Morrison layout in 2000. There had been a few unhappy alterations made over the years, and the growth of trees had made play and especially maintenance of the course extremely difficult.
We altered the routing on a few holes to use adjacent property to provide some space on some very tight holes; namely 4 and 5. We also created a new long par 3, the 7th hole that plays from an elevated tee and gave space for new tees and a better line of play on the 8th.
The other big change was reverting the 13th back to a par 3 along the lines of the Morrison layout, but played at a different angle.
The big job was convincing the golf club members that they needed to give up their golf course for a whole year!
The location of the golf course did not allow a realistic opportunity to close 9 holes at one time, so we presented the master plan with the concept of doing the complete renovation - all grassed surfaces, bunkers, etc. in one phase. I was quite pleased to get more than 90% of the membership to agree to the proposal, although I must admit I was pretty nervous that evening.
The golf course was closed on June 14, 2004 and re-opened on July 2, 2005 and has been well received since. We are currently working on improvements to the practice facilities at the club."
I have mixed feelings about this course. The first 11 holes are great. Although the rolling topography necessitates some climbing, most of it is over the first two holes and there is actually room for strategic play. David Krause's renovation work has done away with a lot of trees and more need to go to provide much-needed wind and sun for some fairways. But the playing angles are mostly intact and certainly better than on many classic courses. If only the entire course were like that, but holes 12-14 are open parkland holes and look out of place. The 12th is far too long and "lop-sided" to have options. The 13th is a standard par 3 over water and more mindless hitting is required on the 14th with is flat fairway and American style bunkering. And while the 15th is a quirky, short par 5 that resonates well with the first 11, it is also the end of the main part of the property.
In my mind the clubhouse and the practice facilities were built in the wrong place, so that a slice of land was split off from the rest and that L-shaped plot now houses the final three holes. The 16th is a stupid par 3 trying to be a quirky classic. It looks nice, but is entirely devoid of strategy. It's a long, steeply uphill hole, but there is no bailout whatsoever for average hitters, who can't reach the putting surface with an iron. Over the green is dead and short is a deep bunker. I don't like these holes that basically say "Grandpa, you're done - only real golfers beyond this point". The 17th and 18th are competent par 4s, but after climbing up the steep hill and ending up on the clubhouse terrace, I didn't feel particularly motivated to play down the hill and back up once more.
It's a difficult site, but by keeping it all in one piece, it could have been made to work. The current compromise leaves a sour taste, even though most holes are actually very good and fun to play. (UM)