The history of the Jakobsberg golf course starts in 1157, when Frederick I Barbarossa founded a monastery on a plateau high above the majestic Rhine valley. After some trials and tribulations the remains of the estate were bought by Hans Riegel Jr. in 1960 and transformed into a hotel. The new owner was not a golfer, but the Gummy Bear king, heir of the founder of legendary German confectionery maker Haribo (an acronym for Hans Riegel, Bonn). He was also a big game hunter, when that was still de rigueur in Africa and elsewhere.
At home he roamed the more modest hunting grounds adjacent to his hotel and entertained the rich and famous. When hunting went out of fashion, he needed a new plan for the hotel and decided to build a golf course. It opened in 1994 and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
The views are certainly stunning, but the real star is the layout. There are no weak holes on the course, all are strategic, fun to play and memorable. No extreme features or gimmicks are needed, it's all about balance here. There are undulations, some rather awe-inspiring, but it is a very comfortable walk. The greens are substantially contoured, but never over the top. There are wide, long fairways and tricky, short ones. Every club in the bag will be tested.
Despite being wonderfully grown-in, the general scenery is always wide open, perhaps most reminiscent of a Tuscan landscape with its scattered trees and gently rolling slopes. This creates an atmosphere of freedom, no doubt helped by the plateau location, so the golfer will mostly look down on the landscape and perhaps feel a little larger than life.
However, not everything that looks wide also plays wide! Jakobsberg has been holding up quite well as a 3rd level Tour venue and host of several German PGA events. It should be a sporty challenge for the eager weekend warrior. Long-term interest is guaranteed, because it is structurally sound and does not rely on one-off effects.Up until October 15th, 2013, whenever a helicopter flew over the golf course and landed near the driving range, causing all golfers to pause and reflect momentarily, it could very well have been old Hans himself at the helm.
36 holes at Jakobsberg was a lovely way for a first encounter with this well received German course. The unique selling point of the course are the stunning views over the Rhein valley just south of Koblenz and the spectacular property full of elevation changes, plateaus and just leading you all over the place and offering fun all day. The routing is very exciting, although 3 of the par threes played a 7-iron that day in that wind. My favourite holes were the par 3 3rd, which is played over a quarry to an interesting back to front sloping green with runoffs left and right. The signature hole must be the par 4 6th which is a wonderful semi-Cape hole over a quarry with the green not visible on the left from the tee and a right to left sloping fairway that rewards a great strike with many extra yards. How much do you dare bite off? Don’t be conservative and long either, because there are trees waiting for your ball. Great hole! Too bad it is sandwiched by two absolutely dreadful golf holes (5 and 7), both dog leg right par 4 holes which force a player to hit a fade or a ‘massive slice’ with a mid- to long iron (that’s the name of the 7th. So far so good, but you also have to aim way right over large trees while being blocked by bushes right next/in front of the tee box and the reward for a well struck tee shot is that your ball ends up in a ‘catch-all’ bunker and you’ll have 170 meters left for your second shot on this (only) 340 meter par 4, with a green guarded by bushes and steep fall down the right side of the fairway. That’s just silly and a bit frustrating.
Another point of critique are the narrow corridors recently created with young trees in the middle of the hole at the par 5 9th (in an attempt to add challenge to an otherwise fine, but easily reachable par 5) and the same for the par 4 17th. In ten years, they will have become too big and you have to cut them down again. From a strategic and agronomic point of view, these features also don’t work because with the extreme drought that the course will be suffering (not for the last time this year due to global warming), it will be a miracle if your ball will 1) clear the trees so you have a shot to the green, and 2) stop running out before the trees on the far end of the fairway You have to let the ball stop on a 20 yard patch of grass or you’ll have no chance to reach the green on this mid length par 4.
Then again, Jakobsberg is not about architectural perfection. It is impossible not to have fun at this course and it is a tough cookie to score well on, that’s for sure. The greens are exciting and good quality and there are some unique standout holes that are worth playing the course alone. If you are a fan of classic lay-outs though, you might be better off at nearby Bad Ems for a proper Golden Age park/woodland experience.
I won’t bore you with more complaints about these drier than dry conditions (excuse me, where are the fairways?) but let’s say I sincerely hope they sort out the hydrophobia and the place will be even more of a joy to play. It’s what the course deserves.
On to the golf, to me it's magical and I always seem to play well here. Jakobsberg is not a pushover by any means, but there's something in the air that just makes me swing easy. The first fairway could use some irrigation, so don't be disappointed, when it's burnt out in the summer, because you may just be able to reach the par 5 green with your second! If not, admire the castle and pitch on (see enclosed image). Other than that I have never found the course in a bad condition. It drains like a champ and consequently the members enjoy a longer season than most. In short, it's a fantastic layout with no strings attached. While tastes certainly differ, I cannot imagine that any golfer would fail to have fun here. Incidentally, should you have the time and good weather after your round, then I highly recommend to complete the scenic drive down the Rhine valley to Bingen. This will take you about 45 minutes - unless you decide to get out and visit one of the many castles or quaint towns on the way. At some points you can even cross the river on a car ferry and drive back on the other side. (UM)