Wijnand and Fanja Pon, the Dutch owners of WINSTONgolf, are part of one of the largest family businesses in the Netherlands, employing 12000 people in diverse industries from automotive to agriculture. They were the first Volkswagen dealership outside of Germany way back in the days of the old East Germany. After unification, they purchased a number of big agricultural companies in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, near the capital of Schwerin, and this gave them enough land to build what would turn out to be a generous 45-hole golf complex.
Not only that, on this particular property near the hamlet of Vorbeck, there was a 150-hectare site on which a quarry had previously been planned (to mine a top layer of around 30 metres of pure sand) and this proved to be an ideal, free-draining landscape for a golf facility. And so, at the start of 2001, golf construction company Carolina Golf began shaping the fairways of the Open golf course, working to the plans of Holger Rengstorf, who was an apprentice of Floridian-based architect Bill Amick. Just over twelve months later, and the layout was ready for play.
The terrain is close to ideal for golf. There are undulations, but none too severe and enough natural features to make things interesting. As an example, there is the "rabbit hill" on the property, which is used for two tees, the 4th and the 16th. Getting to the top is just a short walk and the holes are far enough apart to avoid the "not again" effect and instead foster a sense of familiarity. Other holes have artificial features like water hazards, sleepered bunkers or a stone wall, which tie in nicely with the surroundings and also work very well strategically. Sure, there's a bit of eclecticism going on, but it never feels over the top or contrived. The four par threes (at 4, 7, 11 and 15) are all noteworthy holes of different length and character, but the par five 1st with its alternate fairways is an especially interesting design. The 18th is perhaps less innovative, but as closing par fours go, it is a real looker.
The soil is very good, it can absorb a lot of rain and the rolling terrain helps in channelling excess water off the fairways. Combined with rigorous maintenance standards this means that playability will rarely be compromised. Good news for the professional circuit, in this case the European Senior Tour with four appearances to date. If it weren't for a few pedestrian holes like #9 and #14, then all it took to bridge the gap to true greatness were a few cherries on top. But in any event the course is a blast to play and shouldn't be missed when visiting the resort. While the 18-hole Links course that opened a decade later has somewhat overshadowed it, the Open is still and will always be the Beauty to that Beast.
December 03, 2012