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Imagine: It’s the 15th century in the Netherlands & you’re at the local pub. Someone challenges you to play ‘colf’. So you collect your club, which looks a lot like a heavy version of the hockey stick. You and your opponent agree on a target: the church door in the next village down the road. The aim is to get to that door in as few hits as possible. You manage to hit a passer-by and a few windows along the way, but you don’t let that spoil the fun. This extremely popular sport was in no doubt the predecessor of golf – although the Scots wrongly contest this of course.
How the story continues? Well, at some point the magistrates had had enough. The number of injured people and broken windows increased dramatically and colf was banned within the city walls. But quitting was not an option for the colf fanatics. That's when the cleanly cut fairways started to emerge and the clumsy and heavy wooden balls were replaced by much smaller ones (and we do owe the Scots for that). The game, quite literally, took off.
Fast forward to the 21’st century…Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands, is the city where anything is possible. Here you can be amazed by fine art, see the 17th century UNESCO World Heritage city centre from the canals, shop ’till you drop; visit the theatre, or go out on the town until the early morning light. Amsterdam is one of the most exciting cities in Europe and a great destination for city trips. This city started as a little village in the 13th century, but through trade, entrepreneurship and its location near the water it grew into one of the dominating cities in the world through the 16th and 17th century; Amsterdam’s Golden Age. Nowadays, Amsterdam is mixture of cultures, art and history. The city centre with its canals is a UNESCO World Heritage protected area. There are numerous museums and art galleries. Add to that the endless shopping possibilities, theatre, opera, and exciting nightlife, and you can understand why Amsterdam is such a great tourist destination.
But did you know that there are more than 20 golf courses within half an hour of Amsterdam city centre? During the Golden Age in golf course architecture, many of the same master architects that worked in the United Kingdom came across the English Channel to Continental Europe. Two in particular were Tom Simpson and Harry Colt. They divided Paris rather equally but further north, Colt’s work dominates in the Netherlands while Simpson’s does in Belgium. Of the ten courses built by the firm of Colt, Alison & Morrison in the Netherlands, eight still exist to this day. In many ways, his work here is better preserved than in the United Kingdom, making a tour of his Dutch courses a must for any student of architecture. The fact that his work has been well looked after here is particularly surprising, given the horrors of World War II and the German occupation of the Netherlands.
Golf trips to France have started to become popular, particularly for keen students of our sport's history & course architecture. This is primarily a result of the outstanding golf courses that are littered all over. The entire country may be golf's last great secret. The greatest architects from "The Golden Age" – names such as MacKenzie, Colt, Allison & Simpson all created their own masterpieces here during the 1920's. Of course, a trip to France is so much more. Amazing culture, gastronomy, history and scenery are the foundations. These attractions are extremely appealing, particularly for the non-golfers. Paris and its majestic surroundings are home to wonderful clubs like Chantilly, Fontainebleau & St Germain.