Canadian-born architect David Krause – an associate of Robert Trent Jones at Valderrama in the 1980s – established his own business in 1993, arriving in Germany after spending a couple of years in France. One of his first German designs was the Deinster Mühle course near Hamburg and from that fine start he’s gone on to oversee more than twenty golf projects, one of which was here at Hardenberg in 2004.
The local distillery has been producing schnapps and liqueurs for over 300 years, and one of its most famous brands is “Schwartzhog”, a dark-coloured digestif named in honour of a black wild boar that apparantly saved the inhabitants of the nearby castle from an unexpected attack back in the 16th century. The hog is meant to have squealed during the night when it sensed invaders, enabling the Hardenberg army to see off the attack.
Why the history lesson, you may ask? Well, the signature hole on the Niedersachsen course is the par three 11th and its island green complex is shaped like a boar’s head, exactly as depicted on the Hardenberg family crest! From the back tees it's a meaty 200-yard shot – take that Sawgrass #17.
There are actually twenty-four more holes in play at the Hardenberg Golf Resort, a 6-hole beginner’s course and another 18-hole course named Göttingen that was designed by Donald Harradine. Back to Krause's Niedersachsen, it is (almost) everything that is good and bad about modern golf in one course. On the outside it's a completely mixed bag and yet, when stripped down to the bones, there is quality at the core. It looks as if every hole had a different designer and the modern notions of brute force and “Tour style” are certainly there as well. And yet it is loads of fun to play for everyone.
Krause stands for eclecticism taken to an extreme – all for the sake of variety, but at the expense of naturalness and believable aesthetics. Conventional wisdom has it that “Best of” courses never worked and never will, but the set of par threes here defies any such conventions. Despite not being easy on the eye, this modern course is one to play.
Being a huge fan of Donald Harradine I was really looking forward to come to the Hardenberg resort to play his Old Course. I didn't know much about the Niedersachsen Course and expected even less from this modern abomination - or so I thought. Well, I was wrong, "Krause's folly" blows "Harradine's classic" right out of the water.
The key is the variability created by an undisturbed out and back routing over some of the most perfectly rolling land to be had. Every hole has its own, distinctive challenges and is completely different from anything before or after. Sure, there is a lot of eye candy, which I would consider to be way over the top in most places, but somehow this layout carries it. Krause's cause is helped enormously by the conditioning: not firm and fast, but as close to it as can be on sticky soil - a great job on part of the greenkeeping staff and playable throughout the winter as a consequence.
It's a veritable Tour de Force through the world of golf: the supplied image shows the 4th hole and you may be able to make out a few rocky fortifications, which appear on this hole and the amphi-theatrical 5th. That apparently took care of Pete Dye, so that the 6th could be a bunkerless, old-style short par 4, followed by a well-bunkered version of the same template. The 8th with its creek-like water feature looks positively Irish inland and the 9th presents an army of revetted pot bunkers - hello Scotland. And hard on its tail comes the inevitable 11th with the boar's head.
I am not always fond of Krause's work in other places, but credit must be given where it is due: in spite of any number of face palms, this course is a blast to play. (UM)