Nicklaus’ German gem at Gut Larchenhof plays host to BMW International Open

Jack Nicklaus-designed Golf Platz Gut Larchenhof—the only Nicklaus Design golf course in Germany—is host to this week’s BMW International Open on the European Tour, bringing worldwide attention once more to one of the most attractive and interesting golf layouts in Germany.

The BMW International Open airs in the U.S. on the Golf Channel today and Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. Saturday’s play will be broadcast from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET, and Sunday’s action airs from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET.

Fan favorite and German native Martin Kaymer, making his first appearance since his U.S. Open win at Pinehurst, highlights the field. Kaymer grew up about 20 miles from Gut Larchenhof’s location near Cologne and is one of 11 Germans in this week’s field.

“I think at least they expect me to play as good as in Pinehurst,” Kaymer said. “I think that’s the minimum. But you can’t think like that; you only add pressure. For me the main thing is to start off well into the tournament, and then we’ll see if I have a chance on Saturday and Sunday.”

Kaymer is a former winner of the BMW International Open, having won in a playoff in 2008 at Munich Eichenried. He is the only German champion in the tournament’s history.

“Two years ago, I didn’t even qualify for the weekend,” the two-time major champion said. “It’s a tough week, and the expectations I think should be low.”

In 2012, the BMW International Open celebrated its premier at Gut Larchenhof in front of 60,000 spectators. England’s Danny Willett claimed the victory in a playoff and returns this year. Other stars in the field include John Daly, Sergio Garcia, Mikko Ilonen, and Henrik Stenson.

“I’ve obviously got very fond memories of my win in Cologne two years ago,” Willett said. “I played really well all week, especially in difficult conditions on the last day. I’m excited about going back there, because the course would suit me much better than the one in Munich does. The scoring’s not usually as low so you need to really work hard for your birdies, and I enjoy that challenge.”

Opened in 1996, the course was included in Golf Digest’s 2012 roundup of the Best Courses in 203 Countries. Outside of the maintained rough, there are long, wispy grasses framing the fairway. It is exposed in parts and tree-lined in others, and water hazards are present on half of the holes to challenge players.

Course designer Jack Nicklaus explained some of the course’s most notable design elements: “The landscaping, with numerous trees and beautiful native areas, also enhanced the final look of the golf course. If given a style today, Gut Larchenhof would be considered a ‘meadow’ golf course. We had generous corridors to keep the course playable for new golfers and higher-handicapped players. But the areas between holes were kept very natural.

“Native trees and shrubs were added in the design process to provide not only additional safety between holes, but to give the course a more secluded feel. Today’s buzz word is sustainability, and I think Gut Larchenhof was ahead of its time.”

The layout is challenging and diverse, but always fair—rewarding players who manage their game well, and rely on precision rather than strength. The degree of difficulty was planned so that the final parts of both the front nine and the back nine feature the more challenging holes, which ensures an exciting finish.

Over the years, more than 600,000 spectators have enjoyed watching top-class golf at Gut Larchenhof. In addition to hosting the BMW International Open in 2012 and 2014, the course’s PGA tournament legacy includes having served as host to the Linde-German Masters for eight years from 1998 to 2005. Then, from 2007 to 2009, Gut Larchenhof hosted the Mercedes-Benz Championship, which was restricted to European Tour winners and players in the top 60 of the Order of Merit or top 75 in the World Golf Rankings. This led Golfmagazin to observe, “The playing field was strong; the course is the absolute star.”