What I like about the Dutch is you never hear them crowing about how ‘they’ invented the game. They’re happy to let us Scots take the glory. But that’s the Dutch for you; kind-natured, even-keeled, happy to oblige.
TILTING AT WINDMILLS
Whether the game of golf, Kolf or Kolfen really did come across to Scotland's East Coast from Holland (and I suspect by the above etymology it did) is largely immaterial. What matters most is the game is now thriving in The Netherlands and it’s a destination well worth considering for an eclectic mix of culture, cuisine, canals and of course, golf.
In a country the size of Southeast England, there are some absolutely first-rate golf courses. Of those we recently visited no two were the same. There were coastal links, wooded parklands and cute little waterland courses you could only describe as ‘Delightfully Dutch’. There are moderately priced clubs mixed with well-to-do members’ clubs. With the help of friendly tour operator, ‘Golf in Holland’, we were able to access them all. I must add, it’s a hugely friendly atmosphere you’ll find even at the most exclusive golf clubs. But then that's the Dutch for you. Happy to oblige!
THE INTERNATIONAL IS IDEALLY PLACED FOR A FIRST ROUND AS SOON AS YOU LAND.
We wasted no time in getting to the 1st tee. The International is a steady drive and 6-iron from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a brand new course designed by eight times Ryder Cup player & Masters champion, Ian Woosnam. Schedule your first day then to play The International. It’s a big course from that pint-sized Welsh power-monger, a modern example of rolling parkland made from the rubble of upgrading of Schiphol Airport. Who would know it? Curvaceous, silky smooth and punctiliously put together, the fairways meander between duck ponds and rippling hummocks. In spite of its fledgling status there's a nice, crisp feel to the fairways along with super-smooth greens. As you can probably tell, we were impressed. The only issue might be its location so near to the airport and busy motorway system. It isn’t the most tranquil of settings but its convenience and contemporary style make it a ‘must play’ on your first day.
Zaanse Golf Club
Zaanse Schanze is a small village on the banks of the River Zaan just 20 minutes north of Amsterdam and a popular tourist attraction. Being so flat and mostly below sea level, The Netherlands had a major interest in windmill technology. There’s a fair amount of water involved with Zaanse Golf Club. It consists of two loops, an older tree-lined section blended with a more open, modern expanse. The combination works well and the many small canals and lakes that skirt or divide the holes add to its delightful character.
Eindhoven is in the south, close to the Belgian border yet only an hour and a half’s drive from Amsterdam. Near there Burggolf Gendersteijn was our next stop, another course of native flavour with a similar history to Zaanse. It started as a short, wooded nine-holer and expanded into a magnificent 27-hole complex that is clearly popular with locals.
Although we didn’t play it, the original (Green) section, appeared short, tight and testing while the more modern Red & Blue 9’s were open to the air with plenty room off the tee. This is a great combination for visiting golfers. It’s not a tough course but it’s worth including for a steady, enjoyable round.
Royal Palace of Het Loo
At the beginning of June, the Dutch celebrate the harvest of the sea by sampling the tastiest new herring. We were invited to the Royal Palace of Het Loo near Apeldoorn to join in the celebrations. ‘Paleis Het Loo’ is a 300-year-old former residence of the Royal Family that has been open to the public since 1984. The decorations on the inside of the palace alone are worth a visit, even if you don't get a 'Royal' invite.
The City of Amsterndam
THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF AMSTERDAM...
Amsterdam is one of the most rewarding cities to visit in Europe. The blend of influences from many different parts of the world stretch back to its spice trading days. Holland has welcomed cultural diversity throughout its long history and you appreciate this in the amazing range of restaurants from Indonesia, Argentina and The Far East.
Besides culinary possibilities, Amsterdam is a leading centre for the arts. The Old Dutch Masters can be encountered at Museumplein within the recently refurbished Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum as well as the concert hall Concertgebouw. If your taste is for something more temporal, take a tour of the ‘Heineken Experience’, based within the Old Heineken Brewery - one of the more entertaining brewery tours.
But the most enjoyable pastime in Amsterdam might be to simply stand and watch the city’s population pass by on bikes. They say there are 600,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. You see many of them at Centraal Station, tied up and glinting in the sun. The only thing that puzzled me was how on earth owners reclaimed their mounts at the end of the working day.
THE LINKS AT KENNEMER PROVIDE 27 SUBLIME SEASIDE HOLES
Along The Netherlands western coast are some of the greatest links courses in Europe. At Zandvoort you find Kennemer Golf Club, a links encounter of the highest order in the midst of rolling dunes, a superb union of 27 holes a combination of which regularly hosts the KLM Open.
Just 20 minutes down the coast, Noordwijkse also regularly hosts the event. North of Rotterdam, Koninklijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club is yet another surprising links layout. These Dutch links courses are almost a mirror reflection of those you find along the Kent Coast such as Royal Cinque Ports or Royal St Georges.
Utrecht de Pan is more like a classic English heathland course - so I’m told. We didn’t get the chance to play all of these but we will next time. It’s always good to leave a few ‘must-plays’ for future trips.
THIS AMERICAN-STYLE DESIGN WAS OUR FAVOURITE OF THE TRIP
Golfsociëteit De Lage Vuursche also near Utrecht was my favourite round of the trip. It has a modern, American-style flavour but with some classic holes playing through tall firs for the front 9 then out onto wide, lakeside levels that sometimes leave a water carry onto the green. The condition of the tees, fairways and greens is befitting one of wealthier private clubs in the country but the welcome is as gracious as any course we visited. The tour operator, Golf in Holland will get you on and this is one you must play, a class act from beginning to end.