The St Dionys course lies on a wonderful 225-acre site of heather, pine and birch trees just outside Hamburg, on the edge of Lüneburg Heath. Designed by Harald Gratenau and Udo F. Barth and opened in 1972, St Dionys is a fine, undulating moorland course extending to almost 6,900 yards from the championship tees.
The deforestation of the area between Hamburg, Bremen and Hannover in medieval times was due to the economic necessity of providing firewood for salt production at Lüneburg and the resultant landscape of the heath, with its naturally free-draining soil, is ideal for ensuring fairways do not become water logged during prolonged rainy periods. A few patches of heather also appear on the course but, for a full-blown reinstitution, many trees would have to go. As it is, the greenkeeping staff do a great job of removing the undergrowth, so some balls can actually be found.
Due to a recent land dispute, the club lost most of the front nine and in 2012 re-engaged the original designer to create replacement holes on an unused (and rather undulating) part of the site. This change led to a fair amount of criticism, as better players found the new holes too tight and some bounces uncontrollable, whereas older members had naturally come to love the original holes.
The club is working to mitigate some of those effects, but to the unbiased outsider, the new holes are certainly the most spectacular stretch of the journey. A case in point is the new 191-yard 6th, which is reminiscent of some of the great English par threes at courses like The Addington, in that it demands a long and accurate shot over hellish terrain to a green with fall-offs on every side.
The back nine is more subdued, even to the point where a few holes are a bit too simplistic strategically. The action picks up again towards the end of the round, although the challenges are of a more subtle nature and visually not quite as striking as on the front nine. However, the springy turf and true-rolling greens are of the same quality throughout. Altogether it’s a classy experience, added to by the very friendly atmosphere at the club.