You’ll find that a round on the 18-hole course at Schloss Langenstein offers as close to a quintessential British parkland golf experience as you could ever wish for. As the name suggests, there’s even an ancient castle located within the Langenstein Estate, where aristocrats from the German line of the Scottish Clan Douglas still live.
Langenstein boasts all the outdoor amenities one might expect of a traditional upmarket country club, including riding stables, tennis courts and a shotgun range. As for the golf, the Douglas family engaged Rod Whitman to lay out a course within the extensive grounds in the early 1990s and this resulted in the Canadian architect fashioning both an 18-hole championship layout and a 9-hole short course for beginners.
The front nine is routed over largely open, rolling land, whereas the back nine has a few twists and turns, such as lakes and a canyon. Of course the castle itself also provides a spectacular backdrop for a number of holes, not least of which is the 317-metre 18th, which runs alongside it.
There are, however, good holes to be found in every part of the layout, be it the water-threatened sequence of holes between the 10th and the 15th or the routing across the nicely undulating terrain from the 7th to the 9th. The round is however rather slow to start with the first three holes being subdued, despite an element of deception, for example in the first approach or the third tee shot. Overall this is a highly diversified design, sporting carefully thought-out shot values, but perhaps Schloss Langenstein is not as bold as might be expected from a young architect with a Dye/Coore background.
Architect, Rod Whitman, kindly provided us with the following article on Schloss Langenstein:
“I was introduced to Axel Graf Douglas, the owner of the Langenstein estate in the late 1980s, by a man named Dan Peasant. He was at one time the director of golf at Casa de Campo, Pete Dye’s course in the Dominican Republic. I believe my good friend Bill Coore spoke to Dan about me and encouraged him to talk with me about prospective design projects.
After some initial meetings, Mr. Douglas retained me as the golf course architect. The goal was to design and build one of the premier private courses in Germany. Mr Douglas was a very supportive owner, with a great understanding of the creative nature of golf course design.
A great deal of time was spent trying to come up with a routing that best complemented the topography and worked with the existing land parcels. As golf was still a relatively new sport to the German public, a 9-hole par three course, along with a separate driving range, was incorporated into the plan.
I lived on site, usually four to six weeks at a time, managing the construction and doing some of the feature shaping myself. I also had a shaper from Canada, Brad Dupuis, assist in construction. An Austrian contractor was retained to do most of the bulk dirt work, drainage, and lake excavation.
Schloss Langenstein was my third solo design project.
It remains today one of my favourite projects. Two years ago I visited
Langenstein and toured the course with the superintendent and the manager
Marc-Frederik. The conditioning was quite good, and the course has matured
nicely. It was for me, personally, a great experience to live and work in
Germany, and I am thankful for that opportunity.”
I wouldn't call this a parkland course as such, because there aren't many trees and certainly none that come into play, which I personally find very refreshing. The relative openness contributes to Schloss Langenstein's enormous playability, which is also helped by flawless conditioning and a design that does use the natural landforms, but never runs away with them.
In my round I could hit and hold some greens, rolled through others and on the first hole I even got the ground game going and my lay up inadvertently bounced onto the putting surface. So there are a lot of opportunities for shotmaking and most clubs in the bag will be used.
The routing - a loop followed by a figure eight - does its part to create a pleasant flow in reasonable isolation. There is one longer walk after the 11th and a few shorter ones, but all are very agreeable strolls through the peaceful countryside. Getting to the first tee and back from the 18th green is a bit awkward, though.
My rating is because there are a few holes that just didn't do much for me. The 7th hole is weak. While I like short par 3s and can tolerate drop shots, these tiddlers should really have an interesting green. The other par 3s aren't particularly stunning either, although I will say that they all require different clubs. The 11th hole is another head-scratcher: quite similar to the 2nd, just shorter. I would have preferred a little more drama or quirk here and there, but can also see the point of those arguing for restraint and respecting the land.
Herbert Fowler's famous quote comes to mind: "God builds golf links and the less man meddles the better for all concerned." I think the Walton Heath mastermind would approve of this place. (UM)