Enjoy the entertainment and first-class facilities of one of the world's most flourishing cities together with the scenic beauty and challenge of a whole cluster of championship courses within an hour's drive, says Clive Agran.
Fancy somewhere genuinely different for your next foreign golfing foray? For a truly exceptional holiday that offers a great deal more than simply splitting fairways and holing putts, you should seriously consider beautiful Bavaria. As well as magnificent courses that compare favourably with the very best you'll find anywhere in the world, it boasts a whole host of astonishing attractions, cultural activities and unique experiences that amaze and delight in equal measure.
You will encounter a rich and distinctive cultural heritage that embraces glorious music, fascinating food, dramatic history, warm hospitality, exceptional architecture and a genuine and deep-seated passion for sport. Superb scenery and a reliable climate combine to augment the appreciation of the Great Outdoors, which is a huge part of the Bavarian way of life.
Tradition, too, counts for a lot in a state that has a strong identity and its own very distinctive practices and pastimes that cover everything from clothing to festivals. Hospitality is another key ingredient in the Bavarian personality that ensures visitors are warmly received wherever they go.
As far as golf is concerned, all the courses we visited made a particular point of stressing how pleased they are to welcome visitors with very few, if any, restrictions on when they can play. Furthermore, Bavarian golf clubs are remarkably 'unstuffy' and you may well be surprised by the much higher proportion of women out on the course compared with the UK. What's more, men and women frequently play together! Juniors, too, are given every encouragement.
One of the reasons golf is popular in Bavaria is that it combines two of the key elements beloved of Bavarians – sport and fresh air. And it's flourishing right now partly because Bavaria is booming. Only 20 countries in the world have a higher GDP than this one state. With companies such as BMW, Siemens, Audi, Allianz, Puma and Adidas based in Munich and a GDP per capita of nearly $50k, if it were an independent country, Bavaria would rank 7th or 8th in the world.
For visitors, this not only means an appealing feel of affluence but also excellent provision of quality facilities such as classy hotels and top-notch restaurants. You will find plenty of both if you base yourself right at the heart of the action in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Immensely popular as well as prosperous, it offers everything the discerning visitor could possibly want.
For example, in the 'Louis' and 'Cortiina' it has two of the cosiest boutique hotels you will find anywhere in the world. And what's more, there are dozens of clubs comfortably within an hour's drive, enabling golfers to enjoy all this captivating city has to offer as well as memorable rounds on glorious courses. The following ve should be on your 'To Play' list.
Golf Valley was created almost 10 years ago with just one thing in mind, the Ryder Cup. Although it's the owner's dream to bring the biennial intercontinental battle to this spot just south of Munich, en route to the Alps, without more support from the government, it remains a rather remote possibility. It's a shame because the course is in many ways very similar to this year's Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National, and could easily accommodate huge crowds on the 'quasi-dunes' heaped on either side of the sunken fairways.
With three nines, more than enough tough rough, huge greens, inviting fairways to attack from elevated tees, no shortage of water, glorious views towards the mountains and the most extensive floodlit practice facilities you will find anywhere in the world, Golf Valley has much to commend it even if the owner's Ryder Cup dream is never fulfilled.
Golf Valley München
Golf Club Olching (pronounced 'oil fishing') is a pretty parkland course that runs alongside the River Amper and the town home to the international best-selling book The Book Thief. Easy to walk, it has an appealing meadowland feel with perilous water never very far away that poses a serious threat on every hole on the outward nine. The danger is always on the left and so right-handers should avoid hooking and left-handers had better cure that slice before tackling this lovely layout.
Evidently the members have mastered the problem as the club boasts more than 100 single-figure players and club fields sides in both the 1st and 2nd divisions of the national league. Also note that if you tee off very early in the morning, you may catch sight of 'Paul' somewhere to the left of the 15th tee. Approach quietly as he's easily scared – as most beavers are! Why they called him Paul when Justin Beaver sounds so much better remains a mystery.
The established venue of the BMW International Open since 1989, Eichenried is a genuine championship course that simply oozes quality. Although you can't play precisely the same course as the Big Boys because it's staged on a composite track which takes holes from each of three nines, you can't go wrong as 'A', 'B' and 'C' are all terrific. If you play there you might care to note the enormous difference in distance between the white and yellow tees.
You will also not fail to notice the liberal sprinkling of water hazards, which renders the course far less open than it at first appears. As the terrain is pretty at and the rough is only of major concern when they let it grow for the BMW, water presents the greatest hazard to handicap golfers. Two top pros cut their teeth here, Marcel Siem of the European Tour and Stephan Jager, who has just secured his PGA Tour card.
Golfclub München Eichenried.
A beautiful parkland course that benefits from plenty of elevation, Egmating is nevertheless eminently walkable. Built around the time Bernhard Langer burst onto the scene, it celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. The grass bunkers that are liberally scattered about are a notable feature and compensate for the almost total absence of sand. It's also renowned for its magnificent greens which are the pride and joy of the long-serving and dedicated greenkeeper.
If you're brave enough to visit in January and February, be prepared to putt on temporaries. There are five tees to choose from including an orange option about 200 yards from the pin. Appealing though the orange may be, don't be tempted as they're strictly for youngsters. What you can do, however, is pick the apples and plums that can be found in late summer on quite a few of the holes. And if you've the time and energy left at the end of your round, whiz round the delightful nine-hole Arabella course.
Golfclub Schloss Egmating.
Not far from the airport and the course closest to the centre of Munich, Aschheim was built on a former gravel pit. Faced with an enviable blank canvas, the team of designers took full advantage by planting plenty of trees and shifting loads of earth. Only six holes were complete when it first opened in 1990 and the early enthusiasts had to be patient before the full-sized course finally threw open its fairways in 2007.
The considerable advantage it enjoys over most other courses around Munich is its considerable elevation. But it's quite tight and the conventional wisdom is you should leave your driver in the boot of the car. Beware the beehives by the second hole that provide the honey on sale in the pro shop, the proceeds from which support the junior programme adjudged to be the best in Bavaria for the past ve years; that's the junior programme, not the honey – though it too is very impressive!
Golfpark München Aschheim
If you need any assistance or advice about where to stay or play, Bavaria4Golf is the acknowledged expert in the eld and are only too happy to help. With many years of experience and voted Germany's Best Inbound Golf Tour Operator in 2017, the company can create a package precisely to suit your needs and will gladly look after everything from accommodation, activities and restaurants to renting clubs, booking tee-times and transfers.
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Discover Munich's attractions: Base yourself in this beautiful modern city to enjoy all of the cultural, gastronomic and sporting delights Bavaria has to offer.
The thriving capital of Bavaria, Munich is a beautiful city that lies astride the River Isar. It's bustling with no end of activities to keep locals and visitors occupied and entertained. Although acutely conscious of its history and traditions, the city has cleverly embraced modernity with enthusiasm and enjoys the consequent prosperity and success. It has also avoided some of the obvious errors that have spoilt other historic cities – you'll notice and appreciate a lack of high-rise buildings.
In Munich, whatever the season, there's always something to celebrate. That's not to say Münchner (inhabitants of Munich) are frivolous folk. Far from it, they work hard and take their responsibilities seriously, but they know how to let their hair down. Sport is hugely important, especially skiing, cycling, football and, of course, golf.
Bayern Munich is the most successful club in German football history, having won the league no fewer than 27 times and the European Cup/Champions' League five times. Why not take in a match and watch Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski slice through their opponent's defence? The 75,000-seater Allianz Arena is about 20 minutes from downtown Munich on the excellent subway system.
Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena
Bayern's previous home was the iconic Olympiastadion, which hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics. The lightweight tent construction with large sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilised by steel cables was revolutionary. The sweeping transparent canopy symbolised the new, democratic and optimistic Germany. It's on the north side of town and is worth visiting as it was here on September 1, 2001 that England beat Germany 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier. Happy days!
Just over the road from the Olympic Park, occupying a magnificent modern building, are two adjacent attractions that will delight motor enthusiasts. Both belong to BMW, comfortably the largest employer in Munich and a hugely important influence. BMW Welt (World) is a gleaming assembly of all the current car and motorcycle models manufactured by BMW. Petrol, diesel, electric, hybrid... they're all here to be drooled over by those of us who limp along in beaten up old bangers. Test drives and factory tours are also available.
Rather more evocative and nostalgic is the adjacent BMW Museum. Imaginatively laid out so that you can stroll through time, there's a wide selection of some of the famous vintage vehicles and racing cars manufactured by this historic marque.
The BMW Museum: a petrolhead's paradise
For those more into retail than sport, Munich offers a huge range of shops and a whole host of fascinating market places. With so many nationalities resident in the city, there's an enormous range of great restaurants. And, as you would expect of a cultured city that has produced so many famous composers, artists and performers, there's no shortage either of concert halls, museums and galleries and parks, the most famous of which is the Englischer Garten, one of the world's largest urban public parks.
There's heaps of history here, from the colourful Wittelsbach era with its king and queens to the dark days of the Third Reich. Rather than seek to bury them, Munich has creditably confronted its demons and both the Jewish Museum and the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism are fitting memorials.
Where to Play
Where to Visit
Allianz Arena (including Erlebniswelt Museum): www.allianz-arena.com/en
BMW Welt: www.bmw-welt.com/en.html
BMW Museum: www.bmw-welt.com/en/locations/museum.html
BMW Plant Tours: www.bmw-welt.com/en/locations/plant.html
Bavarian State Orchestra: www. staatsoper.de/en/staatsorchester.html
Munich Philharmonic: www.mphil.de/en. html
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra: www.br-so.com
Kunstareal (Art Museums District): www.kunstareal.de/en/
Munich Castles (Residenz & Nymphenburg Palace): www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/uebers/ muenchen.htm
Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism: www.ns-dokuzentrum-muenchen.de/1/ home/
Beer & Oktoberfest Museum: www.bier-und-oktoberfestmuseum.de/en/
Where to Eat
Haxnbauer (Bavarian): www.ku er.de/en Donisl (Bavarian): www.donisl.com/en/
Zum Alten Markt (Bavarian/ International/Gourmet): www.zumaltenmarkt.de/en/
Brenner (Mediterranean/International): www.brennergrill.de/home.html
Kleinschmecker (International/Gourmet): www.restaurant-kleinschmecker.de
Vinaiolo (Italian/Fine Cuisine): www.vinaiolo.de/
Prinz Myshkin (Vegetarian/Vegan/ Gourmet): www.prinzmyshkin.com/en