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June 1999

Greenbacks: Tips for those teed off about the high price of golf

Finding an inexpensive way to play golf in Munich

Golf in germany is still, for the most part, an elitist sport. This, however, is changing. Players in the U.K. and U.S. are used to trudging up and down the fairways on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Come fair weather or foul, they’re on the links, working on their handicap while having some fun. They simply pay a green fee and play — no problem. They are blissfully unaware of what we, in Germany, must endure just to get to the first Abschlag (tee). For beginners a Schnupperkurs (introductory course) is advisable before investing in costly equipment. A weekend Schnupperkurs, consisting of two three-hour sessions, costs about DM 350 and is taught by a qualified P.G.A. instructor. Once you’ve mastered the basic skills, there are a number of ways to build on them. Private lessons cost about DM 45 per half hour. Group lessons include an Aufbaukurs (skill-building course) — an instructional video and green fees included — or an Intensivkurs (advanced course). Once you are sure you want to continue with golf it’s time to buy your own Ausrüstung (equipment). Getting outfitted in America is cheaper than in Germany, although the exchange rate has narrowed this gap. It is possible to spend as much as DM 3,000–4,000 to get started. Be sure to select equipment which suits both your ability level and personal playing style. Buying a good quality second-hand set of clubs for DM 500 or a new brand-name set for DM 1,200 consisting of 12 clubs — nine irons, three woods plus the putter — is a smart first purchase. When shopping for equipment, remember the story of the beginner who went into the golf shop asking to rent some clubs. When asked if he wanted left- or right-handed clubs he paused, considered and replied, “I don’t know. Just give me some of both.” An advantage to buying in Germany is the superior service your local club pro provides versus that of a golf superstore abroad. Pro advice as to what would suit your individual needs is free. Test clubs are usually available for use at no extra charge. In contrast to the U.S. or U.K., Germany’s courses are mostly relatively new and built at great expense. More affordable public courses are, however, cropping up here — a big plus for the future of golf in Germany. Membership at a private club can cost up to DM 25,000 for a 20-30 year certificate, which includes the einmalige Aufnahmegebühr (one-time membership fee) and the jährliche Spielgebühr (annual playing fee) for the first year. Such certificates are usually transferable should your plans change making it impossible for you to play golf at that club. Fortunately, it is possible to substantially cut the initial costs by joining a public course at about DM 2,500 per year. A public course membership allows you to play an unlimited number of rounds annually — don’t forget, though, that golf in Munich is subject to generally poor weather conditions, thus limiting the season to just 30-35 weeks out of the year. That fact makes paying green fees instead of investing in a membership more attractive to the average golfer. Green fees are around DM 60-80 on public courses and DM 100-150 on private courses (higher weekends). Ask if the green fee is for one round (18 holes) or a day ticket (unlimited rounds). Once you’re a club member, have equipped yourself and taken a few private lessons, it’s time to venture out onto the course. Not here in Germany, where it is first necessary to take a Platzerlaubnisprüfung (a test for the right to play on the golf course). This is usually done in two parts. First, you must play a few holes with the pro so that he may evaluate your golf skills. Second, you must attend Regelkunde (a three-evening seminar covering the basic rules and etiquette of the game). Most players’ knowledge of country-specific rules and etiquette is only sketchy, so more seasoned golfers appreciate the seminar requirement as well. As with most permits in Germany, the Platzerlaubnisprüfung is exorbitantly expensive — DM 400 for the privilege. For foreigners living in Munich the best, and certainly the cheapest, way to play would be to apply for a membership in a club in the U.S. or the UK or bring an existing membership from a home club. Such memberships run about 100-150 U.S. dollars a year. All clubs should be able to provide a membership card and a handicap certificate, both of which are required to play on a private German course. This will get you on to most courses for the cost of the green fees but is usually only accepted by private clubs if the overseas membership in question is actually in the given individual’s country of birth. Bear in mind that if you feel you are Pebble Beach material and want to play in tournaments, this type of membership will restrict you to playing only in “open” tournaments and does not entitle you to participating in internal club competitions. Winston Churchill once said, “Golf is a game that spoils a good walk.” The golfers that enjoy the many beautiful courses around Munich have grounds to disagree. Andy Morton is a golf pro at the Münchner golfzentrum in Eschenried

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