What does the Universität Golfclub Paderborn have in common with Royal Portrush, Kennemer and Machrihanish Dunes? The answer – fescue greens and a GEO certification for sustainable maintenance practices. In the case of Haxterpark Paderborn's Haxterhöhe Links, it is the first and still the only course in Germany to complete this program. And yes, it's an inland course with fescue greens which are undulating and true, with manageable speed – just like on a links course.
Hats off to the members for accepting the somewhat scraggy look as this is not what German golfers are used to. Once they start putting and see that there is no wobble on the ball, it’s an easy argument. But there is much more to this project than just a set of great greens. The owners actually live and operate within the traditional, non-elitist values of golf and demonstrate that the sport can be affordable and inclusive, without sacrificing its competitive edge.
People with and without disabilities are working on the facilities and the bunkers (121 of them!) all have a flat entry for wheel chaired golfers. The Cinderella story of this operation – including the scientific background, early struggles and predictions of certain failure – is worth its own article, but even looking purely at the golf course and ignoring other amenities such as Boules, archery and a tavern (all public), there is a real sense of community at this place and the course reflects that.
It is one large playing field and most of it is visible at all times. The views over the city of Paderborn are reminiscent of the way many golf courses are integrated into the villages in Great Britain. There is enough separation to comply with modern safety standards, but visually the holes flow into each other. The styling is "austere links" and most of the fairways are heavily shaped to create humps and rolls.
The puritanical – almost 19th century – look and feel is accentuated by many little details such as the lack of modern contraptions like coloured stakes. You'll know when your ball is in a hazard, of course. While there are no fine grasses tee to green, the soil is meagre enough to produce playing conditions appropriate to the fantastic putting surfaces. Architect Achim Reinmuth and shaper Conor J. Walsh certainly had a field day out there constructing the course.
Other unusual features include the bunker construction method using wooden beams and the waterless hazards: chalk pits are simply what you get, when you dig a hole here. Although the treeless site is perfectly rectangular, it doesn't look that way or feel manufactured, but rather comes off as a natural plateau, tilting towards the city of Paderborn. While such a site enables the creation of a seamless flow of holes, it sometimes can become monotonous, when fairways run back and forth all the time. Not in this case, though, because the two loops are routed pretty well.
It certainly helped that the concept didn’t call for "championship length", but rather something that relates to the average club member's game. The layout is short enough to provide daily enjoyment and the back tees are also very playable for special events. In that regard, and also with its five par 3s, Haxterhöhe Links truly delivers what other golf course marketers only promise: to provide a great experience for golfers of all skill levels and people from all walks of life.
Golf needs more of these down to earth, high quality offerings.