The golf course at Reit im Winkl features a monumental out and back routing, the likes of which are profoundly rare on difficult mountain sites. It is still a tough walk, but the way the holes are stitched together is nothing short of amazing and down mostly to Thomas Himmel. It is also one of only a few courses worldwide to play through two countries. The routing starts off in Austria with a bunch of visually striking downhill holes, before straightening out a bit and crossing the border to Germany after the fifth. Two more quirky downhillers follow and then, as they would say in cycling, the man with the hammer comes.
The 8th to 12th holes are furiously Alpine – all short, quirky and full of surprises. The 9th hole in particular towers ominously over the player; it almost feels like the last pitch to a mountain summit. Thankfully, the halfway hut is up on top of the plateau. But it's not just the holes themselves that impress, but the entire stretch that turns the player in one big loop over and around the peak to set him or her back on their way to the clubhouse. The next three holes describe another mini-loop and are generally flatter, but not without some nerve-wracking moments around a walloping gorge.
Much of the elevation that was lost on the way out is then made up over a long par five and a par three that rise steadily without becoming overly steep, but some players will undoubtedly struggle at this point. The reward comes back in Austria with the final and relatively level par five as it swings back to the clubhouse in an elegant – if somewhat tight – curve.
Even though two thirds of the course is in Germany, the maintenance standards are more reminiscent of the typically well-groomed layouts in Austria, where many courses are in holiday regions that are used to pamper paying guests. And for once, the marshal selling ice-cold drinks out of his cart, is not just a gimmick, but also a very welcome service.
Between the world-class routing, the beautiful mountain scenery, the quirky hole designs, the subtle greens, the challenging tee shots and the explorative hike this experience is as rigorous as it is unmissable.
Footnote: Despite Reit im Winkl Golf Club’s Austrian address, the club is not affiliated to the Austrian Golf Association but is part of the German Golf Association, so we have assigned the course to Germany rather than Austria.
It's a fine line between genius and insanity, so I'm sure that reviews will fall on both sides of that. If you love the mountains, then this adventurous routing will be a highlight of your golfing career. There's just so much uniqueness and not all of it is purely down to the terrain. Case in point: the flat par 3 15th, just a short iron tiddler with no trouble in sight. But there is a huge gorge eating into the green and you know it, too, because you crossed that gorge on the previous hole. Still, you can't see a bit of it and need to challenge yourself to take more club, even though the visuals suggest otherwise. Other holes are not as subtle, but just as quirky. If you hate climbing you can quit after the 7th or take a cart. But it really is meant to be walked, the green to tee connections are very good and the halfway house at the summit is a great way to pace yourself. Also, conditioning is excellent, so if you bring inexpensive balls and lots of water, you're in for a unique experience. (UM)