It may seem either ironic or a harbinger of things to come that the man, who in 1889 built the first official golf course in Germany, was called Major General Duff. His diminutive 9-holer in the municipal park of Bad Homburg prospered for a while, despite being labelled "Bad Humbug" by Scottish expatriates. However, in the mid 1970s it lost 3 holes and soon after fell into disrepair. A group of local golfers took it over and founded a new club, biding time until a regulation size layout could be obtained.
The members were soon split into two factions, one of which wanted to move to a somewhat restricted site nearby and developed today's Golf Club Bad Homburg (New Course). The second faction continued to operate the 6-holer, now called the Old Course, while venturing further afield to a more generous property in the Taunus hills. They hired Donald Harradine to develop a routing on this spectacular, but rather remote piece of land in 1979. Eight years later the golden ball was struck and the newly established Golf Club Taunus-Weilrod gave the Old Course back to the Bad Homburg club, which runs it to this day.
Donald Harradine was the go-to guy in Germany for difficult sites and his effort at Weilrod is cliff-hanging golf at its best. The architect, never one to miss dramatic opportunities, took an especially uncompromising stance here. The motto seemed to be "golf first" and "conventional wisdom later".
All four par fives are on the front nine and there is hardly a hole that cannot be completely botched by just one small mistake. Former German Head of State Walter Scheel, who played on opening day, is reported to have uttered "oy, oy, oy" on the breathtaking 14th tee and proceeded to blast his ball into no man's land.The course at Taunus-Weilrod Golf Club is full of exciting shots, scenic views and death-defying challenges that "could not be built today". There are certainly some tight or even penal spots and the greens are small. The wild routing can confuse to the point where it's hard to settle down into a harmonious flow. But the open-minded golfer will likely come away uplifted after tackling these 18 holes or at least entertained.
The Taunus region may not be a full-fledged mountain range, but it certainly is hilly enough to satisfy even the hardiest of thrill-seekers in golf. Take a look at the enclosed picture, it's a 177 meter par 3, so average hitters will already run out of irons here. Unless of course you lay up left of the single tree and accept bogey, which is actually what the official strokesaver suggests. But wait, isn't there a large bank behind the green, so why not take a fairway metal, hit right into that backstop and let the ball trickle back onto the putting surface? You don't need to be Tiger Woods to pull it off, but if you do, you'll probably think you are.
The round starts off innocently enough with a wide par 4, although the approach to the built-up green is already dicey. The second hole then, a long par 3 that requires a running shot, lures you into flirting with disaster: the fairway hangs to the left, out of bounds is on the right. After two tricky, but comfortable par 5s the aforementioned par 3 appears and starts a stretch of unbelievable holes that culminate in the breathtaking 14th tee. The homeward run from there is equally breathtaking, from a cardiac point of view anyway, but there's some solid golf involved, too.
Taunus-Weilrod has incredibly spectacular and tough shots, maybe more than any other German course. However, bring a sense of humour, a periscope, an adventurous spirit and half an idea of how to roll the ball along the ground. The small and rather quick greens combined with the twisted fairways will meet many an aerial attempt with disrespect. Perhaps this is also the reason for the relative obscurity that this club enjoys or has to endure, depending on one's point of view. In any case, it feels very remote, while in reality a comfortable 40-minute drive from Frankfurt/Main is all it takes to get there. It's absolutely worth seeing this very unconventional course in a country otherwise not known for breaking the rules. (UM)