Hamburger Golf Club
Hamburg, Germany

Eighth hole, 180 yards;  When taken as a set, one shot holes are typically among the strengths of any Colt design as he famously searched out ideal green locations for them early in the routing process. Here is different though as Colt didn’t design either the third or fifteenth holes as they play today. Thus the golfer is left to appreciate only two Colt one shotters, being here and the tenth. This is the most attractive of the bunch and it serves as a transition hole. As previously noted, the land at Falkenstein was largely open and Colt didn’t have to fell near as many trees as on some of his other inland projects. However, with this hole, Colt takes the golfer from the open heathland and points him toward the most densely forested portion of the property. The next four holes are more tree lined than what has gone before.

Though just a one shotter, the eighth is a transition hole. The tee area is in a sea of heather while the green is nestled into the trees. The next three holes are more akin in playing in a forest before returning to the more open part of the property as seen at the twelfth below.

Twelfth hole, 390 yards; One of the best holes in Europe, Colt perfectly incorporated the hill’s shoulder into the playing of the hole. However the golfer elects to do it (a chasing draw that takes the slope and runs to the left or a drive long down the left), the golfer wants to find the left half of the twelfth fairway from the tee. From there, he will enjoy something close to a level lie to a built-up green that is heavily defended short, left and beyond. How the right side of the green ties in seamlessly with the hill is first class and give J.S.F. Morrison credit as he supervised the construction of the course for the firm of Colt, Alison & Morrison.

A magnificent hole, the twelfth takes advantage of the sloping land.

Thirteenth hole, 340 yards; At least to this writer, this is the best of the non-Colt holes as it captures some of the playing charm that Colt imbued into his work. A central bunker is located right where a well hit three wood would like to finish. Does the golfer dare risk hitting over it with a driver into a narrow neck of fairway? Perhaps but why take a risk only to be left with a dreaded half wedge/feel shot? Time has convinced many members that it is more prudent to lay back from the tee, be sure to hit the fairway, and then come into the sharply tilted green with a full short iron.

Colt's original hole played straightaway and slightly to the right of the central hazard seen above. His next hole was a par three to an area near today's green. Give von Limburger credit for successfully combining the two holes into a fine, testing short par four.

Bernhard von Limburger's drawing shows how he combined a short par four and a short par three by Colt into today's thirteenth. This copyrighted drawing is used with the kind permission of the Deutsches Golf Archive in Cologne.

Seventeenth hole, 480 yards; In contemplating Falkenstein and where it fits relative to Colt’s best work, it has two great attributes in its favor. First, it enjoys lush and healthy heather that lends the course much texture and flavor. Second, in the hands of a master architect, its rolling topography meant that a number of distinctive holes would emerge from a successful routing. No architect has ever been better at routing eighteen holes than Colt and this is a prime example.  To that end, both the seventeenth and eighteenth holes utilize the heather and topography as well as any on the course. As a result, the course gallops home in an invigorating manner. If only the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush could have finished with two such sterling holes, then there would be no debate as to Colt’s finest work.

Two blind drives over large swaths of heather finish off the round. Does any Colt course finish with two finer holes? Perhaps not.

Colt cleverly used the heather as central hazards at Falkenstein. A good drive that carries the crest of the hill gets a big kick forward and leaves this enticing approach shot from appoximately 200 yards into the green, making this a world class half par hole.

Eighteenth hole, 380 yards; Rare is the Colt course that plays favorites to a certain shape shot. Generally, Colt made sure that his holes hit the land in differing ways with the end result being the golfer was called upon to hit different shape/type shots. This holds true at Falkenstein as well though, truth be told, each nine does favor a particular shot. The first nine with the fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth bending to the right certainly is well suited for a fader of the ball while the second nine with the thirteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth going right to left  fits the eye perfectly for the drawer of the ball.  Over the course of a round on a Colt course, the player who can hit shape his ball at will enjoys an advantage, as it should be. Though the golfer is not necessarily rewarded visually with a well constructed shot (i.e. a fade at the fifth or a draw here at the eighteenth) because his tee ball disappears over a hillcrest, he is rewarded with a much simpler/shorter approach shot based on how his tee ball interacts with the ground. Good players relish the subtle playing qualities of a Colt course as Colt allows them to show off their full arsenal of shots.

Colt benched the eighteenth tees into the hillside behind the seventeenth green, creating one final attractive blind carry over the crest of a far hill.

Assuming all has gone well with the drive, the golfer finishes with a short iron approach to an interesting green. Why can't more courses finish in such style?

The tenor of the course briefly changes at the fifteenth and sixteenth. The first is a short drop shot par three of the sort not found on a Colt course and the next hole is a short par four that plays between two large hardwoods that dominate the landing area from the tee. Neither enjoys the playing qualities of a Golden Age course and thus they don’t feel quite a home on a Colt course. Indeed, the club owned the land that the fifteenth green and sixteenth tee now occupies and the fact that Colt and his partner Morrison opted not to utilize that corner of the property is telling. Nonetheless, the manner in which the course steams home with the last two holes leaves the golfer highly desirous to keep playing.

Travelers who take the time to know Hamburg are left wondering if this diverse port city isn’t among the two or three finest cities in Europe. Similarly, those who take the time to get to know Falkenstein can’t help but fall under its considerable charms as well. Though five of the holes aren’t original to Colt, they add to the overall mix of shots that are required in the modern game. As it stands, Falkenstein joins a select few inland courses (De Pan, Morfontaine, and Saint-Germain) on contintental Europe that are a must see for devotees of classical architecture.

As seen from behind the second green, Falkenstein's rich texture and hills leave a distinct - and deeply satisfying - impression.

 

The End