Düsseldorf has the highest density of millionaires of any German city; about one in every 1,500 inhabitants files a tax statement with a seven-figure income. So what kind of course would the most prestigious golf club in such a high-rolling municipality have? Perhaps a lush parkland layout, groomed to perfection and lined by 7,500 yards of cart paths? Wrong. In fact, with its mighty rolls and tumbling fairways the Hubbelrath site is much more reminiscent of rough and tough Koninklijke Haagsche than of a streamlined championship venue with a glitzy clubhouse.
Hubbelrath Golf Club was founded in 1961 and Dr Bernhard von Limburger or “Limmy” to his friends drilled a supremely challenging layout through the forest and in the process exposed some amazing natural landforms. The championship East course (Ostplatz) was supplemented by the shorter West course (Westplatz) in 1972, so that the club can accommodate its almost 2,000 members. Under the guidance of Howard Swan, the East course has been remodelled and lengthened to ensure it remains a significant test when hosting important tournaments. Nowadays it's mostly about the top-level amateur circuit, but in the past the German Open was held here on seven occasions between 1973 and 1994.
Many holes look fearsome to the expert and offer a number of risk-reward strategies, but there is always a way to bail out for even the shortest of hitters, so literally every skill level is provided for. No matter how wild the terrain gets – and it gets positively crazy in parts – much of it is golf course and playable. The clusters of trees lining the fairways still encroach on the playing angles here or there, but the tree management of recent years has ensured that Hubbelrath East is not a ball-eater anymore. And that holds true even when it plays firm and fast, which is possible in the right weather conditions and with appropriate care to alleviate the typical parkland problems with loamy soil and shady fairways. Obviously, in the winter it will still be wet, but for much of the year the playing surfaces can be absolutely fine.
Considering the very difficult site it seems a small miracle that the routing flows as effortlessly as it does. Most holes are isolated from their neighbours and there is just one noticeable green to tee walk. It simply is a first class golfing experience and while many clubs aspire to that, very few of them have a course so full of character as Hubbelrath East.
To me Hubbelrath was a revelation. Coming in I knew it was a prestigious course and probably the best in the area, but I didn't expect it to go beyond regional stardom. However, I have to say that I was wrong. Admittedly, I am partial to adventurous routings, extravagant challenges and a bit of weirdness here or there. So this is not one for the cart-riding, crooked-hitting, beer-drinking, faint-hearted crowd - instead bring curiosity and a sense of wonder. However, despite all the eccentricity, we are not talking about a charming tiddler; this is a hard-hitting championship track that will accept no less than your best golf and inspire you to produce it. The first couple of holes are still relatively straightforward and allow you to get a feel for the ground game and the undulated green complexes. A few quirks are inserted here or there, before the roller-coaster starts on the 6th hole and reaches a first climax with the rampant 10th (see picture). This is one speed slot that the average hitter can actually reach, although you wouldn't want to know what's beyond! After another two exciting holes I then began to think it would be nice to be offered a breather. And sure enough, the architect complies with a neatly arranged stretch from 13 to 15, before picking up the pace again and ending the round with two more mind-boggling holes. On the 17th tee I briefly thought that now we're finally going to jump the shark, but in the end I loved it no less than the rest of the course. A master class in taking it to the limit, but not further. With its sublime playing conditions and ultra-memorable holes I believe Hubbelrath East will please even those, who have seen it all. (UM)