In the foothills of Bavaria, a German visionary has opened Golfclub Valley Munich with high hopes for the future. Brian Noone reports
The right to host the Ryder Cup has not been bestowed on a non-English speaking country since Valderrama in 1997, when Europe ousted the US 141⁄2 to 131⁄2. Continental Europe gets another opportunity in 2018, and newly constructed Golfclub Valley Munich may well take the honours.
Designed by David Krause, who was instrumental in Valderrama’s mid-1980s redesign, Valley will be, when completed, the longest tournament course in the world, with any two of its three nines averaging a remarkable 7,160 metres (7,830 yards) from the back tees. Compare that with this year’s Ryder Cup host, Valhalla, which is known as a long course and measures a mere 6,854 metres (7,496 yards).
But the length is hardly the only challenge: sprawling bunkers and frequent half-blind tee shots set off the gentle cadence of the course’s hummocks and swales. Upping the challenge ante further are slender, slaloming fairways bordered by endless swathes of fescue that require rigorous play to large, multi-tiered greens, which are elevated and always surrounded by hazards – sometimes to picturesque effect, as at the island green of the C course’s par-3 seventh.
Each hole, in fact, is equal part visual feast and mental angst. At the C course’s par-5 first, for example, a gargantuan bunker lingers in the distance off the tee and menaces the second shot, but makes the approach, as a sop to struggling higher handicappers, postcard perfect.
Nestled in the forested foothills of the Bavarian Alps, 25km from exclusive hideaway Lake Tegernsee and 40km from Munich, the idyllic 140-hectare tract was developed entirely by Michael Weichselgartner, a German who says he wants to create “Germany’s best golf course”, a destination whose name resonates with those of Pebble Beach and Pinehurst, Muirfield and Melbourne.
With only the first 18 holes complete, along with an expansive practice facility, nine-hole public course and Tuscan-style clubhouse, it is too early to know whether Weichselgartner’s dreams will be fulfilled, though the course has already won praise from European Tour professionals. In any case, he’s got the right attitude: “A course is never finished,” intones the laconic five-handicapper. “Just as one never learns to play golf, a golf course is never finished.”
Centurion, Q4, 2008