During the 1937 German Open, Henry Cotton played a round of 63 at Mittelrheinischer Golf Club in Bad Ems, the lowest score ever recorded in Germany up to that point. He would go on to win the tournament that year and the next two, making him the sole winner of this title at Bad Ems.
The course had been opened in 1930 and is the work of "Vereinigte Golfarchitekten", which was the moniker used by Karl Hoffmann, Charles A. Mackenzie and Major Fahrenholtz. It is one of the few classic courses in Germany that has preserved its old style character. Despite extensive renovations it still looks, feels and plays like a Golden Age layout – even its length of a little over 6,600 yards remains roughly the same as in Sir Henry's time. It certainly must be considered a rarity that the two recently introduced lakes look like they belong and even improve the hole strategies.
The routing moves about quite resolutely, but there are no exaggerated walks with the possible exception of a pleasant, albeit uphill stroll through the woods between the 15th and 16th. However, on the holes themselves the undulations come fully into play and there is hardly a level stance to be had. The terrain and the green complexes are challenging enough, so there has never been a need for elaborate bunkering and that may constitute the main difference to a Tom Simpson course (Bad Ems was erroneously attributed to him by Cornish & Whitten, which, if nothing else, can be worn as a badge of honour).Although the site is heavily wooded, the playing corridors are wide enough and the soil, while not sandy, is pretty good. Drama, excitement and strategic interest are all there, as is the variety that will keep a layout fresh for the members. It even succeeds in playing firm and fast in places. Fortunately there is no room for lengthening the holes, so hopefully no one will try to finally bring it up to "modern standards". As it is, the course is great fun to play for the average golfer and all but the very best players should find it sufficiently challenging as well.
January 07, 2014