Leaving tracks in the snow in the morning, and then teeing off in the lush green of the Alps in the afternoon – that’s my mission for today! And I’m excited, but in all honesty… I’m a passable skier, but golfing on the green is new territory for me. Unfortunately, I can’t boast more than a few exciting games at a mini golf course. 😀 It’s a good thing our hotel manager, Bernard Haselsteiner, actually plays in golf tournaments and is taking me on as his golfing padawan after skiing.
The Dachstein – A World Above
It’s eight o’clock, my ski equipment is already packed in the TUI BLUE Schladming’s fun-mobile, a BMW I3. With its 170 electric horsepower, the silent racer makes for a lot of fun, I have to admit that. Actually, I’m not a big fan of electric cars, but the farther I climb up the Dachstein with the Bavarian electric wonder, the cooler I think it is.
When I arrive at the parking lot, I look a little doubtfully toward the mountain station. The weather is great, but it is the first of May – not necessarily a date I would associate with skiing. On the steep cliffs you can see the snowmelt running down. Again and again, avalanches start and send a thundering sound through the air. You won’t believe how much power is behind a wet snow avalanche when it bangs against the barren rock walls – just for the sight, the trip is worth it.
Off in the Gondola – Now to Break 3,000 Metres
Done, I’m in the gondola! This time I even got the panoramic gondola, which has a viewing platform on the roof. So you can go up during the ride and feel the altitude. Since there are a few children on board, I leave the view to them – I’ve just met Miro anyway, a colleague whom I know as a ski instructor. “Ski instructor” is a profession in Austria, similar to “carpenter”, “framer”, etc. In short, we decide to take on the mountain together.
Once at the top, I can hardly believe my eyes! Mother Earth has indeed conjured us three metres of fresh snow on the glacier – typical. My thoughts of the green vanish immediately – now there’s only white. But something else draws my attention – what is the man doing over there on the observation deck? Immediately another surprise: he’s feeding ravens perched on his hand!
I want to try that too! In the absence of bird food, I ask the gentlemen feeding the birds if I could scrounge something from him. “He likes these best,” he says, handing me a few pieces of wafer biscuits. Not two minutes later, I manage this snapshot.
Time to Ski!
When I look at the chairlift, Miro and I immediately realise that the prepared part of the mountain is of no interest to us today, because fresh, loose, powdered slopes are waiting to be marked. An Austrian ski instructor once said: “It’s only good skiing if you can turn around and see your own tracks,” and we’d like to follow suit.
I feel like a kid at Disneyland, or something better. For me personally, it’s just the greatest thing I can imagine, a feeling like flying! The snow is of such outstanding quality that neither of us can contain ourselves. On the first of May, we find conditions that you’d want in the dead of winter. The snow flies in your face while shredding. It’s so powdery, in fact, that I have to fight pretty hard with my short slalom skis. Especially after the jumps, it becomes critical. If you don’t spread the weight 50:50 on left and right skis, then one of them will disappear in the snow and a fall won’t be far off. But with three metres of powder snow, you land so softly.
And Now onto the Green?
Before I know it, it’s already 12 o’clock. I have to go, because it’s time to lose my golfing virginity. Off to the green! At this point, I say goodbye to Miro and make my way to the gondola.
All packed, I drive in the direction of the hotel, change quickly, enjoy the wonderful staff lunch, and then follow our hotel manager and golf instructor Bernhard to the fun-mobile. I’m a little nervous. For the first time on the golf course, it wouldn’t be bad for my ego if I could deliver a passable performance in front of the boss.
Hello Paradise? The Golf Course Dachstein-Tauern
When I arrive at the golf course, I’m awestruck at first. The lawn looks like it’s not even real – greenery geniuses seem to work here. I run my hand through the luscious grass, pluck a blade and smell it – it really is real turf. Secretly, I wonder how I can win over the groundskeeper for my garden at home when I suddenly hear a heartfelt “Grias eink”.
Lo and behold, the owner is here and greeting us! As an ambitious golfer, Bernhard knows him well, of course, and the two talk like old friends. Cool! If it’s going this well, maybe it’s not as elitist as I always thought.
The owner Franz Wittmann Jr. proudly tells me that we are on one of the “Leading Golf Courses”, a special brand of quality. 18 beautiful and challenging holes designed by Bernhard Langer. We are equipped with a golf cart, a small electric cart, and I borrowed the rest of the equipment. We are ready to golf!
No One Is Born a (Golf) Master
Bernhard says we’ll first warm up at the driving range. At the driving range, you just beat the hell out of the ball and warm up for the round. I soon come to a sobering realisation: how far the ball flies in golf has nothing to do with how hard you hit it. This barrier will continue to accompany me throughout the day.
While Bernhard sends ball after ball to nirvana, I’m still struggling to hit one. As is well known, even a blind chicken finds a grain if it just searches long enough. This turns out to be true, as I hit near 60 metres in attempt number 10. To a golfer this is probably a ridiculous number, but it’s still relatively good compared to my few metres before. It quickly becomes clear that I can’t reproduce that result so easily.
But I’m getting better. My ambition is aroused and after a good hour we leave the driving range and sit in the golf course Porsche headed towards the first hole.
Here we go! The TUI BLUE Hole
I stand at the tee and realise that the first hole on the course is named after us – how cool is that? Nearby, there’s another sign: Par 4, HCP 13, 312|292|249|238. I’m perplexed – what does that mean? Once again, Bernhard brings some light to my mental chaos. Each hole in golf has a defined par, which indicates how many strokes a very good golfer – a so-called “scratch player” – needs to sink the ball. HCP 13 indicates how difficult it is to play the hole compared to the others on the course. The hardest is HCP 1, the easiest is HCP 18.
In addition, every golfer has a handicap, which serves to classify skill levels. If you add up the “pars” of all holes, an 18-hole course usually has a value between 70 and 72. For example, if you need seven strokes at the TUI BLUE hole instead of four, that’s three strokes too many. Now, let’s assume that this continues for all holes. In the end I have a total of 126 strokes, and the difference from 72 is my handicap. -54, which is the highest handicap you can have.
The whole system serves to make rounds of play comparable to players of different levels. 312|292|249|238 indicates how many metres the tee is away from the hole. The worse the handicap, the closer to the hole you tee-off. So Bernhard starts 292 metres away, and I start 238 metres away.
Now, For Real This Time!
All right, that’s enough theory for now! Learning by doing is my motto and so we go. Bernhard drives the thing farther than I can see, while I confidently dig a hole in the ground. I try again. Again, no attempt that will go down in the annals of golf history, but at least I hit the ball this time. More wrong than right, I fight my way to the actual green where the distance is shorter and we have to putt. Amazingly, I don’t look as stupid here. Two strokes later, the thing is finally in the hole and I’m relieved. Meanwhile, Bernhard has called the beverage service out of boredom – he’s had enough time to kill thanks to my obvious talent. A cheerful employee hands us two small beers and calls them “hops smoothies” to our amusement – now I’m a little better off.
Constant Dripping Wears Down the Stone
Hole by hole, we move forward and write down our points. Bernhard plays an excellent game, while my points card reads almost like a phone book. But no matter; golf is still fun and I get more and more out of the game.
While I concentrate on the tee at hole 6, Bernhard meets a good friend, Wolfi, who joins our drive. We let Wolfgang go first and he pops the ball right next to the flag on the green for me like it’s nothing. This is a special highlight for amateur golfers, and everyone buzzes with excitement.
Everything Comes to an End
By now it’s nearly 6 pm and it’s getting dark, so we finish our round at Hole 9. This works out for me, because another nine holes would have been pretty demanding for me. Golfing is also exhausting over time, and I’ve already burned quite a bit of fuel on the Dachstein.
We don’t need to talk about the final score here now. Bernhard has played a few strokes over par, a very good performance. I needed a few more than par! 😀 All in all, I had a really cool day! I can only recommend going from the slopes to the green! As we all know, all good things must come to an end, but soon there will be a private TUI BLUE golf cart reserved exclusively for our guests.
So, and now it’s off to home – the couch is already calling for me. See you soon and thanks for reading!