Appeared in September/October 2005 LINKS
Some lowly statistician must get forced into abstinence during Germany’s Oktoberfest—otherwise we’d have no reliable source for the eye-catching figures generated by this mother-of-all-keggers. Last year, an estimated six million liters of beer, 481,000 pieces of roast chicken and 180,000 pairs of sausages were consumed by six million international visitors over 16 days.
The legendary festival, which uncorks each September and ends on the first Sunday in October, began in 1810 as an over-the-top wedding reception. Germany’s future king, Ludwig, betrothed himself to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and invited all of Munich to toast the bride. Their revelry took place at the current 104-acre Oktoberfest site in the heart of Munich, known as Theresienwiese (“Therese’s fields”).
Today huge brewery-sponsored beer tents serve up one-liter mugs of tasty and powerful products to hoist with a hearty “prost” (“cheers”), while a combination amusement park and folk fest carries on outside. First-timers are advised to check out the crowded but colorful opening weekend festivities.
By then you’ll need some fresh air to purify your beer-soaked system. Fortunately there’s a handful of solid golf courses within an hour of Munich via the well-signed Autobahn. Unlike Oktoberfest, golf in Germany is not entirely open to the public—most courses are private, but open to visitors on weekdays, with green fees usually less than $100. English is spoken almost everywhere, but asking locals if they sprechen sie Englisch helps, as does having a handicap card.
Gut Hausern, located 45 minutes north of Munich off the A9, is tucked away in the village of Markt Indersdorf. Opened in May 2003 and designed by Harradine Golf, this layout features three different styles of design: links, parkland and semi-desert with some sprawling, sandy waste areas. It’s a bit schizophrenic but worthwhile, usually playing hard and fast with some of the best greens in Munich. Golf Channel addicts will know Munchen Nord Eichenreid as the current venue for the European Tour’s BMW International Open. Logistics rather than scenery draws the tour to this facility, located just 20 minutes northeast of Munich and near the airport. Though sizzling overhead power lines detract in a few spots, fairways are lush and the greens are among the European Tour’s fastest.
The golf is even better just south of Munich. Feldafing Golf Club is one of Germany’s oldest clubs. Located 25 minutes southwest of the city, the course overlooks Starnberg See, a 23-square-mile lake. This design by Bernhard von Limburger (the country’s most prolific course architect) opened as a nine-holer in 1926; a second nine was added in 1962. Its reputation for toughness is well deserved, with narrow, tree-lined fairways offering fetching but fleeting glimpses of sailboats cruising the Starnberg.
Beuerberg Golf Club is located 35 minutes south of Munich in its namesake town just off the A95 to Garmisch, a drive with great views of the snowy Bavarian Alps. Owned by Swiss businessman Urs Zondler, this delightful par-74layout is another Harradine design highlighted by a stunningly scenic back nine. The downhill 10th, a par 4, brings the Zugspitze (the highest peak in Germany, at more than 9,700 feet) into view. A double green receives uphill approaches into the ninth and 18th holes. Bavarian-style gourmet cuisine awaits in the cozy clubhouse.
Your final (and finest) option is St. Eurach Golf Club, a 40-minute drive south of Munich in Iffledorf and just 10 minutes away from Beuerberg. It’s tucked in a quiet wooded setting that offers fine views of the Bavarian Alps. Opened in 1973, this thoroughly enjoyable layout hosted the European Tour’s BMW International Open from 1994 to 1996. It’s in an area known as the “priest corner” due to the many nearby churches (you’ll see various steeples in the distance). The spires may offer useful aiming points as you navigate through 350-year-old oaks guarding spacious but rolling fairways.
If you’re in need of more serious detox, two hours east of Munich near the Austrian border is Europe’s largest golf resort, Bad Griesbach, home to six courses, multiple hotels and thermal springs that are bound to restore your senses, if not your swing. They may also prepare you for a return visit to Oktoberfest—a U-turn to which we would unqualifiedly say: Prost!