I had my doubts when I came to visit Winston. Arriving at the car park and having passed the countless man-made pyramids of earth demarcating the boundaries of the course, I thought this would be the antithesis of Falkenstein, which we also paid a visit this weekend. In terms of style, there's no point in comparing the both. More interestingly, I was curious if the experience would be 'over the top'. I must say this is not the case, the links is well designed and well built and it is as spectacular as it is a fair test.
The front nine have been place near the edges of the woods and therefore have a mature natural feeling. The par 5 3rd is s nice hole, playing into the gorse-lined valley from an elevated tee. The corner can be cut off with an aggressive line over a bushy water hazard. I was smart though (this time), but it left me a long second all the way up to the green again that has two tiers which alter more than two meters. Guess where my chip ended up. The par 3 5th is a gorgeous one shotter in a natural stadium/punchbowl. 6 is a monster par 5 into the wind with trouble down the left , then heading down on the second shot and next to the green on the right.
From hole 8 and onwards the holes are more exposed to the wind and trees are scarce. I can't imagine the amount of earth that has been transferred to build the course. On the back nine, a few holes are built around the man-made 'grand canyon' and the wind comes into play even more. The course can show it's teeth then because the long par 4's play into the prevailing wind. It was a very windy day when we played, and I caught myself smelling a salty sea breeze multiple times before realizing each time this could not be the case.
Favourite holes here are 12 15, 16 and 17 but they are all very good actually. Greens are big and undulated and often decorated with architectural gimmicks as false fronts, awkward angles, deceiving views and . You often have multiple options to reach to green, with high approaches as well as running shots and multiple preferred angles into the green depending on the pin positions.
Therefore also higher handicappers are able to enjoy the course (but please don't meet up in a weekend-fourball…) All in all I was impressed with Winston LINKS and the first ever course I encountered that could genuinely be described as an inland links. A very modern interpretation of this, but it will stand the test of time and
The club and clubhouse do lack some atmosphere if I have to be critical. It's clinical and a bit depressing , but luckily there's two quality golf courses that are completely different. The commercial focus is evident, but The Open is also a lot of fun to play, albeit quite easy, because it's hard to miss the fairway and the course is not long. Combined with a stay in Schloss Kaarz you will be in for a great weekend of golf, but you should have some time for the trip to get there. Well deserved top 100-spot in continental Europe, 84th might even be a bit underrated.
Date: June 13, 2019