If the Sporting Club Berlin-Scharmützelsee's bid is successful, there could be Ryder Cup drama in Germany in 2022. DW's Jefferson Chase walks us through a beast of a course that wants to host golf's biggest team event.
As the German Ryder Cup committee officially filed its bid to stage the 2022 Ryder Cup, I couldn't help remembering a round I played at the venue in question last fall. The Nick Faldo course at the Arosa Resort in Scharmützelsee, some 50 minutes southeast of Berlin, is an extraordinary place in a number of respects.
The course is the English six-time Major winner's attempt to transport something of links golf to the hinterlands of Brandenburg. The defining feature is the 133 (no typo) pot bunkers scattered across the eighteen holes as if by arbitrary toss of a hand from some sadistic golfing deity.
The greens are no match, speed-wise, for true links courses like St. Andrews or Royal County Down. To compensate, Faldo's course is longer than either of those two venerable sites. A lot longer. 6563 meters from the medal tees, to be precise, although they'd probably be moved even further back for the Ryder Cup. No wonder, then, that the Faldo course has been ranked Germany's toughest. I have a 16 handicap, but go off 22 there because of the extraordinary difficulty.
Play begins on a 500 meter par-five with water to the left and a nasty little brook in front of the green for anyone who fancies going for it in two. I'm not, even though I'm playing from the front tees. The famous bunkers are initially easy to keep out of, and with a bit of common sense, I rack up a bogey, a bogey, a par and a bogey. Three over after four holes. Not bad, I think.
Then the wheels come off. On the par-three fifth, I find the sand to the left of the green. Intrepidly I descend into the bunker, open my stance and the face of my sand wedge and swing through. Three shots later, I'm finally out. Ten meters over the green and facing a nasty chip back. I end up making eight. I'm clearly going to need those extra strokes.
It's just the beginning. Me and my sand wedge are about to get very well acquainted, and as I discover, ours is a love-hate relationship. The key to scoring well on the Faldo course is to avoid the bunkers. The problem is how?
There are traps all over the course, including sometimes in the middle of fairways. Laying up to miss them leaves long shots into greens guarded by yet more bunkers. Going for it with a driver risks having to plonk your second shot short and pitch over the sand. Even when you get respite the course's length, such as on the relatively short par-four twelth, the landing area for woods off the tee is so frugal that you need to be very precise - or lucky - to keep the ball in play.
In the end, I card a 96 - two over my generous handicap. It's been a learning experience, although for now I'm too dazed to recapitulate what the lessons were. Except for: Practice your sand saves, young man.
Still, I'd love to see the Ryder Cup held at the Faldo course. It would be great for golf in Germany. And if the powers that be do give Berlin-Scharmützelsee the nod, I have some advice for the competitors. You may want to start taking your wedges to bed with you.