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"Low Countries"

Golf's True Birthplace

The Courses


Kennemer was Colt’s first project in the Netherlands. At one point, there were a staggering 122 German bunkers on its property as well as anti-tank walls. After the defeat of the Germans, the course was slowly nursed back to life. The club covered over many of the German bunkers by dunes and today’s course is a pure golf landscape with no hint of the grim times of the 1940s. Several of the bunkers remain in use today, one as the maintenance facility and three as shelters around the course. Crucial to the re-birth of Kennemer in the 1950s was the club’s archives of Colt letters, hole descriptions and diagrams. It is more complete than any such collection at any Colt club with which the author is familiar. To this day, the club shrewdly uses its archives to guide future decisions. In Colt's April 1926 letter to the club, he wrote in regards to the fifteenth, 'This will be a most spectacular one shot hole' and that it 'should ultimately prove to be one of the best one shot holes ever made.

At Kennemer, Colt faced a challenge of working with one piece of property of two different types – dunes and field. The course starts from the high point of the property in front of the noble yet comfortable thatch-roofed club house in the dunes and tumbles away. The third hole makes the transition within the hole from dunes to field, and the next three holes are all in the field, near the railway line at the edge of the property. Colt then brings the golfer back into the dunes, before he re-enters the field at the eleventh and twelfth, where, interestingly enough, the transition is made from right to left (rather than from the standard tee to green). The right side of the eleventh and twelfth holes features the edge of the dunes, while the left side belongs with the field holes. The golfer then returns to the dunes for good for the run home from the fifteenth. As with both Friar’s Head and Bandon Trails, and unlike, say, Spyglass Hill, the golfer knows that when he leaves the dunes he will return – a reassuring thought that does not lead to despair while playing the less dramatic, but still good, holes along the railway.

One little known fact is that Colt actually routed all twenty-seven holes at Kennemer. His 1937 routing for the third nine proudly hangs in the clubhouse foyer. This nine wasn’t actually built until 1985 by Dutch-born Frank Pennink, who adhered to Colt’s routing with one exception. Interestingly enough, his one deviation is the most controversial hole on the property, that being the sixth. Colt had it as a dogleg to the left but Pennink built it as a dogleg right, in part by making a cut into the dunescape that the author believes Colt would have been unwilling to do. As such, the hole makes for an interesting study in design techniques and how the evolution of golf course architecture was affected by earth moving equipment. Pennink created this saddle in the ridge line off the sixth tee. The hole doglegs right at the base of the hill. Colt routed the tee shot at a ninety degree angle to the right of Pennink's above and then had the sixth dogleg left.

The three nines at Kennemer are referred to as the A nine that Pennink built and the B and C nines that Colt built. In recent years, the Dutch Open has used an amalgamation of holes from each nine.   This makes for a wonderfully diverse test but the great shame is that the seventh and ninth holes from the B nine don’t receive the attention that they deserve.


Utrecht de Pan

Dating back to 1894 Utrechtse Golf Club de Pan is the second oldest golf club in the Netherlands – Haagsche is the oldest by just one year.  Harry Colt designed Utrecht de Pan in 1929 and the course is set in delightful wooded seclusion.

A worldwide audience of golfers glimpsed the charms of the layout in 1967 during one of the “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” series of televised challenge matches when the course hosted a tie between Peter Thompson & Dave Marr. Host of the Dutch Open on numerous occasions – the last was in 1982, which Paul Way won – Utrecht de Pan is a strategic and exacting layout which requires thought rather than muscle, especially during the homeward nine.

The course is laid out in classic English heathland style, dog legging through stands of pine, birch, oak and chestnut trees with memorable driving holes at the 6th, 7th and 10th where the tee shot is played over valleys of heather and sand.  Many are surprised to find the terrain rises and falls as much as it does – particularly at the 6th where both the tee shot and approach are played blind – and with no water in play, the main hazards to be avoided are the trees and the few well-positioned bunkers. On returning to the clubhouse, with its steep thatched roof, there is a statue of Pan – the mythological Greek god – outside, playing his pipes.  Hopefully, you will not have encountered him during your round as he is said to haunt the woods and fields, causing anxiety to those who pass through – hence the term panic attack.  Actually, with a course as good as this, any worry you may have at the end is bound to have been caused by a below par performance, not by Pan!


Hilversum has been host to the Dutch Open Championship 25 times. The original course was built around 1917 by H Burrows. It is located some 30km from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In 1926 Harry S. Colt designed the current 18 hole layout. Although since then several changes have taken place; In the fifties Sir Guy Campbell did a lot of work on the course, particularly on the par 5's. Most recently Kyle Phillips has designed some changes, renovating a few greens and lengthening some of the holes with new back tees. The biggest changes have taken place on 1, 9, 10 and 18 which have been given totally new greens, or even green sites.

Starting with a short par 5 then a short par 4, the excellent wooded heathland credentials of Hilversumsche are immediately apparent – this is a course that stands good comparison with the great Surrey / Berkshire heathland courses of England.  The avenues of predominantly pine trees, line the rolling fairways, sometimes quite tightly, other times giving you a chance to hit out with the driver.  Many of the greens are well bunkered, narrowing the space for your approach shots, or requiring a high flighted shot directly onto the green.  Hilversum will not only give your game a good examination, it also provides an easy going walk through a marvellous woodland setting.  Surrounding the course is a vast forested area, home to many woodland birds – even an eagle or two (even better if they are on your scorecard!).  The resident stock of heather seems in excellent condition and adds a real touch of colour in the summer months.

Royal Hague

A famous chef once remarked that ‘Mother Nature is the true artist.’  The better the ingredients, the better the meal. Yet it is how the chef mixes the fresh produce, how he develops and accentuates flavors that creates a culinary experience. Similarly with golf course architecture, the better the landscape, the better course in the hands of a master architect. In 1937, Daniel Wolf hired the English firm of Colt, Alison & Morrison to build an eighteen hole course on the other side of a ridge from his estate house twenty-five kilometers southwest of the country’s capital of Amersterdam. Their drive up to Mr. Wolf’s house couldn’t have been too inspired as the surrounding land is flat in typical Dutch fashion (yes, 20% of the country is below sea level!).  Regardless of the prior correspondence between Wolf and the firm, nothing could have prepared Hugh Alison and John Morrison (at this late stage in his career, Harry Colt’s traveling days were numbered and he never saw Haagsche) for the sight that unfolded once they climbed the path and reached the top of the ridge.

Stretching out in all directions from this ridge line were rolling sand dunes as far as the eye could see. The benefits were immediately evident of being on the west side of a coastline where the prevailing westerly winds and currents had been depositing sediment and forcing it inland for centuries upon centuries. Large enough to create a heroic setting without being too big to hinder good golf, the dunes were perfect terrain, literally every architect’s dream. Paul Turner, a Colt historian, sums it up nicely when he writes, ‘Though I haven’t seen Kawana yet, I think it is safe to say that Haagsche is the boldest site with which the company ever worked.  St George’s Hill, Pine Valley, and Hamilton run it close but the fairways on those courses don’t heave to and fro like those at Haagsche.   The course is spectacular and needs sturdy legs but the dunes are the right size and the holes never slip over into being too severe and fluky.’

Alison and Morrison waste no time in giving the golfer the full flavor and joy of the rambunctious topography. The first hole is a three shotter that descends from one of the property’s high points to a very low one and then the golfer is marched straight back up the hill to the second green. The third plays across one valley and then over a large depression before the one shot fourth plunges forty-five feet from tee to green. The three shot fifth gradually climbs uphill with the walk from its green to the sixth tee being steeply uphill. However, from this pulpit tee, the golfer is afforded a magnificent long view over most of the front nine. This kind of roller coaster ride never abates from start to finish and first time visitors are often left in breathless wonderment as to what they have just experienced. Like Colt, both Alison and Morrison accomplished their work in such a manner that they often don’t always get the credit that they deserve. They never built silly water features nor did anything that called attention to themselves as they were content to let the holes and property speak for themselves. In the case of Royal Hague, only twenty-three greenside bunkers and one fairway bunker were required.

Like a great chef, just having the best ingredients isn’t enough as it’s what one does with them that counts. In this case, the talents of Colt’s firm are clearly manifest by the extraordinary array of diverse green complexes. Some like the first, seventh and fifteenth are partially tucked behind dunes while others like the ninth and twelfth occupy the high spots of their surrounds whereby poorly struck balls are shed away.  There are some uniquely situated ones  as well like the fourteenth cut into a saddle and the notorious sixth, surely one of the fiercest/meanest/finest green complexes in world golf. Coupled with today’s agronomic practices and the short grasses that feed many a ball away from these crowned targets, Royal Hague justly belongs in the top tier of continental European courses. Indeed for some, there is no course they would rather play, such is its high level of excitement mirrored with excellent golf.


Founded in 1915, the Noordwijkse Golf Club was based out of a nine-hole links until 1971 when its land was acquired by local authorities in Noordwijk for a housing project. Forced to move, the club then shifted a little north of the town and into a heavy duneland property close to the North Sea that had enough room for a full eighteen-hole layout. While the new site is blessed with mostly ideal golfing terrain, it also includes dense woodland areas.

The modern Noordwijkse was designed by Englishman Frank Pennink, apparently with the assistance of club Secretary Paul de Jong, and is a difficult links with most challenges provided by the enduring winds and dangerous bumpy linkscape. Pennink’s routing takes you to all points of the compass with holes laid out across some pretty dramatic sandhills. Sensibly on such an exposed site the holes are not over designed, most greens are small, flat and generally flanked by single traps.

Aside from the native rough areas and tall pines, from the tee there is an absence of driving hazards with the only fairway bunkers coming on the 18th. The ground is mostly very good for golf, however. Within the open and exposed duneland the standout holes include terrific rolling par fives at the 2nd and 11th and the short par four 8th played over a rise then down and around some decent sized dunes. Strong links holes like the 10th, 13th and 14th are also good while the 15th and 16th are both mid-length par fours built on superbly pitching golf land that feature excellent green sites. While there is no doubt that the setting here is conducive to good golf, there is much to admire about Noordwijkse.  


Royal Zoute

Given Belgium’s coastline along the English Channel as well as its proximity to London from which so many great golf architects emanated, it is not a surprise that Royal Zoute Golf Club enjoys one of Europe’s richest golf histories. Around the turn of the twentieth century, British residents played golf in the sand dunes near the wealthy Belgium resort town of Knokke. Count Maurice Lippens, the chairman of Compagnie Immobiliere du Zoute which owned the dunes and much of the surrounding land, realized the attraction of the sport and what it could mean for the area. In 1908, he formed what is now called Royal Zoute Golf Club (the Royal appellation wasn’t added until the 1920s). To build the golf courses, Count Lippens brought in Harry Colt, who had established himself in a relatively brief time as belonging with such men as Herbert Fowler and Willie Park Jr. as the best at constructing golf courses that were natural in appearance. Colt was quite pleased to earn the commission of the two courses that he built for Count Lippens between 1910 and 1913. They were among the first he built on the Continent; for instance, his famed work that transformed the Netherlands didn’t commence for another fifteen years, in part due to World War I. Sadly, all the courses were destroyed in World War II and St. Andre was gone forever. Of all of Colt’s European work, its loss may be considered the greatest.

Fortunately though, in no small part thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Allen, golf resumed at the two inland courses of Royal Zoute in 1947. The championship course that is profiled here plays along the perimeter of the club’s property whereas the par 64 competition course is within the loop created by the big course. Colt had a propensity for creating loops within loops, be it eighteen hole loops like here, or nine holes within another nine hole loop ala Kennemer and Muirfield. One reason that he did so is that as the holes tack around the perimeter, generally no more than two play consecutively in the same direction. Thus, the golfer always needs to make allowances for shifts in wind direction.

Royal Zoute Golf Club, or Knokke as it is often called, is home to a links golf course that ranks alongside the great coastal layouts of Europe – even if it is located a few blocks from the beach and is without sea views.  Nestling in a wonderfully natural and gently undulating landscape, with smart houses around its perimeter, the club boasts two 18 hole courses – although of significantly differing lengths.  The Championship course (known as the “Outer Course” or “l’Exterieur”) is respected and admired throughout the golfing world.  The Executive Course (the “Inner” or I’interieur”) is a much shorter warm up or practice layout.  There is something Royal Lytham-like about Zoute’s premier course.  The layout is quite tight at the beginning, with several partly tree-lined holes, demanding skilful course management rather than power-hitting.  Hit the ball off-line from the tee and Zoute will invariably exact a toll, especially with its array of pine, hawthorn hedges, silver birch and poplar trees lining several fairways.  Among many memorable features here, the greens are usually a joy to putt on and the testing par 3’s, long and short, are all fabulous.  Best of all are the more open parts of the course, characterised by holes like the wonderful par 4 9th and the par 5 12th, where the fairways navigate their way between rippling (rather than towering) waves of dunes – links golf at its absolute best.


Inaugurated in 1909, Fontainebleau is one of the oldest courses in France. The golf course was designed by Tom Simpson and improved by Frederic George Hawtree and his son Martin, both English golf course designers. It is located in the Fontainebleau forest, near the town, on the ancient imperial hunting ground. Its narrow fairways are bordered with various species of trees such as pines silver birches, wild cherries, beeches and centenary oaks. It is very well defended with 103 fine sand bunkers and also, dense outcrops of brooms, lilacs, ferns and wonderful jennets, which makes the course so attractive and difficult. And, according to the seasons, a symphony of colours and smells awaits you.

Due to its sandy soil, the ground is soft and is perfectly playable at any moment however bad the weather conditions may be. Its Norman style clubhouse is decorated with tree frescoes painted by Paul Taverner, a member of the Barbizon school. A great traditional golf club, many golfers consider Fontainebleau as one of the best in Europe. In 2001, it was ranked by the Golf European magazine readers, as number 1 in France and is classed 17th in the Golf World Top Continental golf courses.



The Chantilly Golf Club is situated in the famous golfing circuit of the Chantilly region of Ile de France. The Club consists of two beautiful, 18 hole courses, namely the Vineuil and the Longeres. The Vineuil Course of the Chantilly Golf Club was designed by renowned British architect Tom Simpson and was opened in 1908. The club, over the years, under the guidance of its president, Baron Eduard de Rothschild, saw it being restored into a wonderful golfing venue.

The 6396 metres, Par 71, Chantilly Vineuil Golf Course consists of a magnificently crafted parkland style course. Created amidst the natural bushlands setting, it has classic greens, neat rolling fairways and tricky bunkers. The masterpiece course was upgraded from 18 to 36 holes over the years, still retaining the traditional and original theme of Simpson. The Vineuil Course of the Chantilly Golf Club also consists of a grand Clubhouse that possesses the rich heritage and warmth of France's Chantilly area. The picturesque natural surroundings offer tranquillity and peace combine for a wonderful experience.

St Germain

The Saint Germain Golf Club is located in the woodland forests of the Saint-Germain-en –Laye region, near Paris and is regarded as the most beautiful course in the French capital’s golf circuit. The Saint Germain Golf Club was founded in 1902, and was originally known as the Golf de l'Ermitage. Due to its original location beside the Seine flooding annually, the Club shifted base to its present location in the St Germain woods in 1920. Today, the Saint Germain Golf Club provides 27-holes of enticing golfing adventure- a magnificent 18-hole Championship course, as well as a brilliant 9-hole, par 33 Genets courses

The 18-hole Saint Germain championship course was ready for play by early 1930’s, and was designed by renowned English golf course architect, Harry S. Colt. The beautiful course is subtly crafted amidst the flat woodland region, surrounded by huge stands of mature oak and chestnut trees, in a classic wooded parkland styled course layout. It winds its way across the flat terrain with a well-conditioned course layout. The wide greens are well-trimmed and quick; the vast, slightly undulating, tree-lined fairways are bounded by crafty sand bunkers; along with the roughs, obstacles and native forest vegetation, to make the Saint Germain course a true challenging championship course. The grand (new) wooded clubhouse of the Saint Germain Golf Club replaced the original one after a fire destroyed it in 1952.