WINSTONgolf, extraterrestrial golf in Germany

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19 September 2016
9 min. read
Leonard van Nunen
Golf in Germany has undoubtedly gained a new place of pilgrimage with the completion of the WINSTONgolf complex. Just outside Schwerin, the capital of the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in one of Germany’s most breath-taking landscapes, an unparalleled 45-hole golf course awaits golfers. Many of you might not know where Schwerin is located and we fully understand that. We didn’t know either. Some of you might know the city of Hamburg, Berlin or Rostock. Well, Schwerin is located somewhere in between these cities. To give you a rough idea, it’s located somewhere in Northeast Germany. You can click on the little map on the right for more info on the whereabouts of WINSTONgolf.
WINSTONGolf, photo provided by WINSTONGolf (copyright WINSTONGolf)
WINSTONLinks, impressive dunes with a links character (photo credits and copyright: WINSTONGolf)

From VW minivan to golf course

WINSTONgolf was opened in 2002 with 27 holes (WINSTONopen course and the WINSTONkranich Par 3 course) and has been expanded by WINSTONlinks course in 2011. For those who don’t know, this golf complex is owned by the Pon-family – the Pon-family is Dutch and became rich with cars.

The Pon empire really took off in 1947 when Europe is rebuilding. Ben Pon visits the Volkswagen plant in Germany, which operates under British authority. Ben Pon wants to be the Volkswagen importer for the Netherlands. His call has unexpected, dramatic consequences. Ben pulls up his notepad and draws the outlines of a transportation vehicle which he senses to fill a gap in the market. The vehicle, based on the Volkswagen beetle, weighs exactly as much as its maximum payload: 750 kilograms. Ben’s idea resonates and the vehicle is taken into mass production. The Volkswagen Transporter soon becomes a best-seller, with many more variations to follow.

Pon Trading company was founded in 1895 and it’s clear that pioneering is in Pon’s DNA. Pon companies are active in 32 countries in 9 sectors of industry. From passenger cars, commercial vehicles and bicycles, to earth moving equipment, ships engines and electrical engineering. The Pon family is also active in agriculture and as a result of that they possesed a lot of land in Mecklenburg Vorpommern which led to the construction WINSTONgolf.

In the middle of nowhere

The WINSTONgolf complex is located in a beautiful area, but don’t expect other golf courses or major cities nearby. WINSTONgolf is surrounded by nature and nothing else. It’s no punishment to visit the area, the nature is breathtaking. Mecklenburg Vorpommern – often called the “land of a thousand lakes” (in German: Land der tausend Seen) – is hallmarked by its unspoilt nature. Due to its clean air and idyllic setting, medical tourism has become a notable tourism sector in the region. The landscape was formed in the earlier ice ages by terminal moraines. The river Warnow flows through the area and into the Baltic sea at Rostock.

All in all, if you are really into golf then WINSTONgolf is the place to be. But, it’s not the typical golf destination you would select with a group of friends. The construction of the second championship course, the WINSTONlinks course in 2011, might change that, as you can now play two really good courses. You will be missing a vibrant nightlife and bars, but for a weekend this is a great place to visit. With your spouse or your (girl)friends.

In such a remote area everything has to be perfect. In some sense there are parallels with The Dutch in The Netherlands. Both golf clubs have to score a 9.5 or 10 on every aspect (course, maintenance, service, clubhouse) in order to woo golfers to come over. Both clubs are ambitious and both tried to attract The Ryder Cup. The difference is that The Dutch is a member-only golf club and WINSTONgolf really needs golfers to visit to pay the bills.

The WINSTONlinks course

The newest addition to the WINSTONgolf complex is the WINSTONlinks Course. This course is valued most by golfers on Leadingcourses.com. This 18-hole course, designed by David Krause, is styled on British golf courses by the sea, but it is located in the middle of a forest. The typical characteristics of the rough, windswept areas have been duplicated: natural sandy hollows, small brooks and here and there very high dunes planted with broom and heather. The course has fast, often undulating fairways, sand and pot bunkers and hard, fast greens.

Incredible amounts of earth have been moved to create a bizarre landscape which in some areas resembles the surface of the moon. But then covered with beautiful grass. The grass on the fairways approaches the quality of many greens we have seen. And the greens are, even in the spring, smooth, fast, easy to read, but also challenging. The course is not only playable for skilled golfers – at least if you don’t really care about your score. The course is not really forgiving, but in most cases you will have no problem finding your ball. A miss hit is often still ‘in play’ and in most cases can be played back to the fairway or green. Most of the greens are protected by hills, so you will rarely overshoot the green. Greens are fair, but quick.

Summarizing: if you love drama, (inland)links courses and you don’t mind the fact that the WINSTONlinks looks pretty artificial then this course is a great find. This course demands a handicap of 36 or lower.

Teeing off at WINSTONLinks (photo credits: member Juergen9

WINSTONopen

The WINSTONopen course, designed by German architect H. Rengstorf, is more open (what’s in a name) than it’s neighbour with broad fairways and tricky greens. The Open course is laid out in the open countryside and would qualify as a genuine parkland course. This course is a bit more forgiving and less demanding than the WINSTONlinks course. Which does not mean it’s an easy course, certainly not. Most golfers will have difficulties to play their handicap here. The greens are well defended and there is water in abundance. And, sitting on the terrace after your round it’s great to enjoy golfers coming in on the finishing hole, a short par 4 with a second shot that needs to go over the water to land near the pin. Lovely.

The WINSTONopen course is the member’s course, but you are allowed to play the course with a handicap of 45 and less.

The WINSTONopen course, more water and more wide fairways

Facilities up to par

The facilities at WINSTONgolf are fine, something you’d expect from a golf complex like this. There is a new practice range with ten covered tee-off sheds, some putting greens, a chipping area and an area for training on slopes. The driving range connects directly to the clubhouse with the golf shop, reception, changing room and caddie boxes. The pitching and putting greens lie on the way to the first tee-off of the WINSTONopen. Nice.

WINSTONgolf house

If you want to practise first before playing the WINSTONlinks or the WINSTONopen, then the WINSTONkranich 9-hole course is a good place to start. This Par-3 course is laid out in the style of the WINSTONopen and the WINSTONlinks so it gives you a good impression of what to expect from the two 18-hole championship courses of WINSTONgolf. The WINSTONkranich is open to all golfers, no club membership is required.

The WINSTONgolf house lies between hole 9 and hole 18 of the WINSTONopen. Here you can find the golf shop and the reception. It is also the social venue with the RESTAURANTkranichhaus and the spacious summer terraces, which offer a wonderful view over the course and Lake Vorbeck. The food is good, although some golfers didn’t find it too inspiring. The wines – when we visited – were not surprisingly from the brand Salentein (owned by the Pon-family). Salentein wines are made in Argentina. We thought it was a pity that no German wines were served, a missed opportunity in our opinion.

WINSTONgolf house (photo credits: member devrieswagm)

Where to stay?

WINSTONgolf has three partner hotels: Gut Vorbeck, Schloss Kaarz and Schloss Basthorst. When you stay at one of these partner hotels you and your fellow players will receive a 20% discount on your green fees at WINSTONgolf.

Below a quick glance of each of the three partner hotels:

Schloss Basthorst 

The 2 centuries old Schloss Basthorst lies just four kilometers from WINSTONgolf. Rooms, suites and apartments are stylishly furnished in a combination of historic and modern. The SPA centre is an attraction with sauna, pool, solarium and gym and also comprehensive cosmetic and relaxation offers. The restaurants offer seasonal creations, enriched with herbs from the kitchen garden. The spacious terrace offers a view over the English Castle Park and Lake Glambeck and is open daily to guests for coffee and cakes.

Gut Vorbeck
Gut Vorbeck lies in direct proximity to WINSTONgolf on the banks of the River Warnow. The house lies in the heart of the estate. In this exclusive golf & country hotel the rooms and apartments have been furnished with an eye for excellence. The foyer inspires a feeling of wellbeing with sofas and an open fire. The neighbouring canoe station makes the estate a perfect starting point for exciting excursions on the Warnow. Guided rides round the estate and also individual riding lessons on your own mount or one from the home stables are on offer.

Schloss Kaarz
The nearly 150-year-old castle of Schloss Kaarz sits enthroned on a hill near a tiny idyllic village of the same name. This gem of neoclassical architecture is surrounded by a castle garden with protected landscape status and houses 22 double rooms, suites and apartments. Nature not only fills the view from every window – it is also a main theme of the beautifully redesigned, historical interiors. Almost all of the charming rooms are equipped with a bathtub. Breakfast is served in the Roter Salon (Red Room), and during the day, guests can treat themselves to a piece of Kaarzer apple cake at the Schlosscafé (Castle Café). The fruit for this dessert comes from the old orchard in the seven-hectare castle garden with its 500-year-old oaks, sequoias and cypresses.

For packages (stay and play) visit the website of WINSTONgolf or check out the golf packages of our partners .

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Leonard van Nunen

Leonard van Nunen

Evangelist at Leadingcourses.com, responsible for growing the community in Europe and identifying ambassadors. Golf nut and you can always call him when planning to golf!
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