Probably the most controversial course ever built in Germany, it's a wild and rugged faux links - meaning that it looks like one, but was carved out of relatively normal woodland. The soil is somewhat sandy, which does help with drainage, but it certainly cannot compare with the firm and fast conditions on real linksland. The manufactured dunes aren't made of sand, they are basically the material that was dug out elsewhere to create the massive internal undulations. And those are the hallmark of the course that distinguish it from any other in Continental Europe.
It's a clever trick to disguise the general flatness of a site by breaking it up internally. That way it will have all of the playing interest of an undulated property, but none of the strenous walks. At Winston Links it is generally just a few steps to get from a green to the next tee. Together with the generous routing and 15 minute tee time spacings the prevailing sensation is one of having a huge, undiscovered landscape to oneself. The only discording notes are the frequent views of the heavily wooded surroundings, which keep on sending the message that "this is all artificial". Some displeasure has also been voiced at the sharp tips of the dunes, but experiences elsewhere show that this type of Alpinisation wears off over time and once the vegetation gets going, the contours are softened considerably.
So there's no question that the design is absolutely spectacular and none of the holes feature boring shots or routine strategies. On the other hand everything that's good can also be overdone and understatement is not the strong point of this layout. Playing the course from the back tees and in any kind of wind is brutal and even from some of the regular tees (many of which are used for the professional events) decent tee shots may not reach the fairway.
There are so many bunkers and other obstacles that sometimes it seems almost moot to ponder strategies other than "hit and hope". A case in point are the alternate fairways on several holes. While this is generally a popular feature among players, it can rarely be employed, because two fairways need twice the room. Unless you do it like David Krause here and take a fairway of standard width and split it into two arms by breaking up the ground in the middle. It looks like the player has more options, when in reality he has fewer, because he can't go up the middle anymore. And even if the ball lands correctly on one of the arms, then the severely rolling contours can still propel it off the fairway. And while the dunes do provide containment for errant shots, they are quite unpromising to play out of.
Fortunately the punishment does not continue on the greens, although they are quite undulated and seem to resist one-putting very well. But they also offer an array of interesting recovery situations and often several options for shot selection. Due to their internal slopes they cannot be maintained lightning-fast, so mindful players have a fighting chance.
Overall this is certainly a course that deserves to be highly ranked for its uniqueness alone. But whether it is fun to play after the novelty effect wears off remains to be seen. It may well be the hardest and most relentless course in Germany, but is a sustained clobbering really what players are looking for? If yes, then Winston Links will provide that in style.