Hartl Resort boasts the largest golf and thermal spa facility in Europe
By Anita Draycott
Think about a holiday in Germany and you’ll probably conjure up visions of fairy-tale castles, beer gardens and cuckoo clocks. But golf? Although the sport is relatively young to the Germans, they have definitely got it right, especially at the Hartl Resort in sunny Bavaria. At this largest golf, thermal health and beauty and spa resort in Europe, you’ll find the ideal hedonistic/holistic getaway combining relaxing golf on a superb variety of courses, splendid scenery and world-renowned spa treatments.
The Hartl Resort in Bad Griesbach boasts five 18-hole championship courses, three nine-hole courses, a six-hole practice course connected with the state-of-the-art Golf Academy and a six-hole child’s course that’s dotted with colourful cartoon characters.
Although more than 135,000 rounds are played here annually, the atmosphere is far from frenetic or factory-like. The automobile-free town houses a collection of three Hartl Hotels (Maximilian, Fuerstenhof and Ludwig), lovely gardens, a variety of cute cafes, boutiques, bars and eateries. The architecture is pure Bavarian with half-timbered chalets and window boxes spilling over with gregarious geraniums. Think yodeling and lederhosen!
Alois and Gaby Hartl discovered the bubbling thermal springs in the valley of the river Rott back in 1972. Mr. Hartl was a golf fanatic; his wife was more interested in spas, fashion and wellness. Together they have created a Bavarian mecca for pleasure seekers.
Although the five-star flagship Maximilian, located at the entrance to town, holds the distinction of being Germany’s best golf hotel, I prefer the more intimate four-star Ludwig Hotel where I luxuriated in a huge two-floor suite with a balcony overlooking the thermal swimming pool.
The golf facilities far exceeded my expectations. The average green fee is about 70 Euros and there are terrific stay-and-play packages. No golf course is more than a ten-minute drive from Bad Griesbach and a free shuttle service delivers you from hotel to clubhouse. The gracious staff seems not to have heard about the conveyor belt mentality at some North American courses.
Ryder Cup Captain, Bernard Langer, designed three of the championship courses. My first round was at his Mercedes-Benz course, a 6,500-metre, relatively flat challenge with plenty of bunkers, water hazards and hand-cut greens.
Langer’s signature Brunnwies course with its hand-cut greens, ranks amongst Germany’s top ten. The Beckenbauer track with narrow fairways and greens, lots of water and bunkers was designed to match the exacting standards of Germany’s famous soccer hall of famer.
Kurt Rossknecht takes the credit for Bad Griesbach’s other two 18-hole designs. The roller coaster called Lederbach offers panoramic views over the lovely Rott Valley, especially from Heart Attack Hill number nine where the elevation climbs 48 metres over its 150-metre length. For this hike a golf cart is recommended but not mandatory.
Rossknecht’s Uttlau course, a gentler roller coaster, plays through a fairytale-like village with a 400-year-old chapel and mountain chalets. You’d swear that Hansel and Gretel might appear over the next hilltop.
Should you require some swing doctoring, the pros at the Golf Academy use a teaching system developed by Manfred Knauss. He worked with a kinetics professor at the University of Munich to develop what they call the Universal Golf Learning System (UGLS), a complete plan incorporating swing dynamics, drills, fitness, diet, the mental game and etiquette. If you suffer from a bad back or arthritic hip, the pros of Hartl Resort will show you a less painful swing solution.
You can also soak your sore muscles in the mineral-rich thermal waters that are pumped from 1,522 metres below the ground into the Hartl hotel spas. Hailed as a cure-all for ailments that affect physical motion, the Bad Griesbach waters not only ease metabolic disorders but also assist in recovery from operations and sports-related injuries such as tennis or golf elbow and damaged ligaments and tendons. For the ultimate healthy cocktail, drink a glass or two daily—especially if you’ve had one too many Pilsners or schnapps the night before. But beware, the elixir may have purging effects.
At the Ludwig spa, there’s a relaxation room with lounge beds, blankets and headphones so you can doze off to Brahms’s Lullaby. For hands-on therapy, a hefty Helga will wrap you in seaweed, slather you with volcanic fango (mud) or customize a massage.
The invigorating alpine air and exercise (thankfully you don’t have to take a mandatory cart on the Bad Griesbach courses) will no doubt stimulate your appetite. Guests at the Hartl hotels are welcome to use the spa and dining facilities at the various properties and golf club houses. You’ll be spoiled by choices. For authentic Bavarian fare in a 400-year-old manor house filled with warm wood paneling, dine at the Uttlau clubhouse or enjoy a refreshing rhubarb drink in the garden. Back in town, Ludwig’s restaurant serves dishes once enjoyed in the Bavarian Court. If you love asparagus, try to time your visit with the Spargel Festival in June. On Thursday evenings the place for hearty Austrian buffet is the Zum Heurigen where you can dine and polka to the tunes of an oom-pa-pa band.
You could easily play golf, sample spa treatments and dine somewhere different every day for a week and still have only scratched the surface of the good life at Bad Griesbach.