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Bad Salzbrunn Golfplatz (now Szczawno Zdrój, Poland).

Golf arrived in Silesia in 1924 when a Hans Heinrich Prince von Pless zu Fürstenstein together with his English wife Daisy Cornwallis-West initiated the construction of a golf course at Bad Salzbrunn (today: Szczawno Zdrój). William J.  Rusack from the famous Rusack Hotel overlooking the Old Course at St. Andrews was commissioned to design Germany’s first 18-hole golf course after World War I.

The Golf Course at Salzbrunn was officially opened in 1924 as property and under management of the Prince von Pless Spa Bad Salzbrunn. After the first season some weaknesses of the new course became too obvious. Some holes underwent renovation work, while other holes where lengthened using additional land from local peasants.

Twenty two professional players, many of them British, competed for the first Silesian Open Price in 1925; the German Closed Championship was also played in Bad Salzbrunn that year. It was Bernhard von Limburger who won his third Germany Close Championship title. Also the following two German Closed Championships were played at Bad Salzbrunn in 1926 and 1927. 

During this time Bad Salzbrunn also saw two of the greatest continental women players competing for the German Closed Championship title, which was played in match play. In 1925 scratch player Erika Sellschopp from Reinbek won 5 up with 4 holes to play against the great Hungarian amateur scratch player Erszebet von Szlávy, who took revenge in the 1926 championship by winning 3/2 against Erika.

 

Bad Salzbrunn Golf Club Course layout.

Course layout.

 

Between 1924 and 1929 there was only a golf course without golf club in existence at Bad Salzbrunn. The Golf Club was founded in 1929 five years after the official opening of Salzbrunn golf course. In 1931 the golf club had 61 members, a figure that remained almost unchanged during the 1930s.

This rather low membership proves that in the beginning the course was mainly used by spa guests and tourists. It took some time until locals found it necessary to set up a golf club, which was not the owner of the golf course.  An officially recognized club was necessary in order official handicaps issued by the national golf union and accepted by their other member clubs.

 

Bad Salzbrunn Golf Club - The course.

 

Bad Salzbrunn Golf Club Clubhouse and golfers.

Above, views of the course.

 

Most of the local members were bankers, doctors or business men who were also attracted by the special atmosphere on the golf course. For many years, even during the economic recession of the early 1930s, rich, famous and beautiful people continued to visit Bad Salzbrunn; in 1932 for example it was Prince Sigvard from Sweden who found himself among other illustrious visitors from Prague, Vienna, Warschau and London.

The guests stayed at the Grand Hotel Schlesischer Hof, from where the golfers just had to walk up 200 meters through the beautiful Silesian forest to reach the first tee. Milly Reuter, a German discus and golf champion describes the Hotel as a place similar to paradise. Also she wrote in 1930 that if seven million golfers in the U.S. would know about this golf course they would immediately build an airport at Bad Salzbrunn.

 

Bad Salzbrunn Golf Club Advert.

Advert.

 

Annual amateur competitions were also played at Bad Salzbrunn - the Fürstenstein-Cup and the Prince of Pless-Cup being most extraordinary silver prices. In 1938 the German Professional Golfers Championship was played at Salzbrunn.

Ernst Scholz, who was caddie at Bad Salzbrunn in 1941/1942, remembers that one day the great German racing driver Hans Stuck sen., European Hill Climbing Champion on Auto-Union (Audi) arrived in front of the Golfhaus driving his open top sports car there backwards. All the caddie boys got extremely excited when they recognized the driver and they all joined Hans Stuck on the fist tee. He took an iron out of his bag and when he hit the ball it immediately broke into two pieces. Stuck then said that balls where very expensive these times and so he finished his round driving back in his sports car to the hotel. Ernst also remembers that in the same year Mr. Henkell from Wiesbaden, the president of the German golf union, won the driving competition at the annual golf tournament.

Another caddie was Walter Mattern, who started carrying bags in Mai 1941. All Caddies came from nearby Weißstein, whereas the boys from Bad Salzbrunn worked on the Tennis courts as ball boys, a work that was not as well paid. Not only a caddie had to carry a bag with 11 to 13 clubs for over three hours, as Walter recalls today, but importantly the caddy had to be very good at spotting golf balls often hit over a distance more than two hundred meters. Especially in summer it was rather difficult to spot a golf ball lying in between a thousand or more daisies. Walter remembers one caddie who said “the ball went up in the air and did not come back” – needless to say this young man only had a short caddie career.

What Walter remembers most is the caddie baptism, which took place in the caddie house, the first former Golfhaus. The house was generally in a very bad state and it contained the original wooden lockers. Some of these lockers still had wooden doors, but no floor. The top part of the wooden door had an opening the size of a postcard. The candidate for baptism was put in the locker and a little fire was made with paper and leaves just between the candidate’s feet. It was only when the person inside the locker showed first suffocation attacks that water was poured though the little hole in the locker door. Afterwards the person was accepted as a full caddie. Only tough boys became caddie in Silesia, a fact also former caddie Fritz Kangowski was still proud to confirm.

Ruth Schmidt, whose father Gustav Liebenthal was the greenkeeper at Bad Salzbrunn, lived on the upper floor of the Golfhaus together with her family. The golf professional also lived on the first floor; a large clubroom with fireplace covered the ground floor, whereas men and women changing rooms with separated showers were to be found in the basement. Ruth Schmidt still remembers the first golf professional Alfred Stiefel from Berlin as well as his successor Paul Henkel from Oberhof, who always brought sweets for Ruth.

But more than all Ruth remembers the Täussner couple, golf players from Breslau and private bank owners. She was Polish and he was German. When the war was over it became impossible for the Liebenthal family to stay in the Golfhaus and Frau Täussner helped the Liebenthal family to survive and find a flat in lower Bad Salzbrunn. Like so many Germans Liebenthal's had to flee from Salzbrunn when the town was put under Polish administration.

Ruth came back to Bad Salzbrunn in 1978. Unlike in Czechoslovakia no golf has been played in Poland between 1945 and 1990 as there were no open golf courses left. In 1978 there was a restaurant and hotel in the Golfhaus.

In Western Germany Salzbrunn is still remembered at Bad Salzuflen near Bielefeld, where Golfers are competing annually for the Fürstenstein-Cup, a cup that left Silesia together with its last winner. Not long ago I held the original cup in my hands.

Christoph Meister 12/2006.