Organic winegrowing around the golf course

The combination is unusual: the grapevines are in the middle of the golf course at the Heitlinger Golf Resort in Tiefenbach in Baden-Württemberg/Germany, between the tees on holes 16 and 18, to be precise. Albatross is the name of the Rivaner grape that is grown here. It is part of the largest privately owned German organic winery, which together with two hotels, restaurants and golf course forms the Heitlinger Worlds of Indulgence.

“Pure nature” is the basic philosophy

Here, in the middle of the Kraichgau, the winery mixes with the golf theme in a surprising way. On the one hand there is wine growing, the multiple award-winning products from the VDP wineries Burg Ravensburg and Heitlinger, which are sold in a total of 43 countries. On the other hand, there is the golf course with an 18-hole and a six-hole course, as well as a top tracer golf academy.

As different as the two lines of business are, the people in charge agree when they talk about the basis of their success: “Pure nature!” This is what winemaker Claus Burmeister describes the philosophy of the winery. “Here in the area we find 160 million year old limestone sedimentary soils that are found nowhere else in Germany.” The soil determines the wine and that is why Burmeister treats the soil with the utmost care.

Warren Jacklin, son of Ryder Cup captain Tony Jacklin, grew up with golf from birth. Looking at the first-class, manicured greens of the 18-hole course, which are remarkably hard and true by German standards, he explains the British approach to maintenance: “It is not important that the greens are green. We water little, we sand a lot.” The result of the resource-saving approach is clearly recognizable: hardly any pitch marks on the putt surfaces, which change in color between light green and light brown. The expertise in dealing with the soil, the avoidance of unnecessary amounts of water and fertilizer is the law here. High quality the result.

“Of course, that means more effort, but the plants are more robust and resistant,” reports Burmeister from his vineyards. The diversity of species between the vines has also increased enormously with organic cultivation, “that’s just great to look at”.

On the golf course itself, which extends over a total area of 84 hectares, numerous biotopes, hedge structures and water hazards ensure that the habitat for fauna and flora is lush. Small ponds alternate with the Kratzbach, meadow areas can be found on the other side of the tracks. Fruit trees keep coming into the picture.

The Heitlinger Hof, one of the two hotels in the Heitlinger Worlds of Indulgence

After a few climbs, the view of the surrounding landscape falls on the back nine of the golf course. It is almost undeveloped. If you’re lucky, you can watch the grape harvest from the Albatross vines during a round of golf in autumn. Hand picking is the order of the day here. Traditional, gentle, much slower and more complex than mechanical harvesting. The result, Jacklin and Burmeister both agree, is simply better.

Living vineyard is the motto, which also applies to the golf course. The “magic of this place” comes from respecting the landscape. The winegrowers and the golfers blend in. After all, the Cistercians were already working here on the calcareous hills of the Kraichgau in the 12th century. Just because they and those who came after them conserved resources, there was still room for the golfers at some point. Sustainable management now benefits them too.