The island of Texel is the largest and most populated of the West Fresian Islands in the Wadden Sea and it’s reached by an hourly ferry service from the nearby port of Den Helder on the northernmost part of the North Holland peninsula.
The golf club is located in the north of the island, adjacent to the Nationaal Park Duinen van Texel, which is a protected area of heathland, salt marshes, sand dunes, pine forests and long, unspoiled beaches running along the west coast of Texel.
Architect Alan Rijks set out the original 9-hole course in 1996 then he returned in 2014 to expand the layout by adding another nine on adjacent farmland so the club now boasts an 18-hole links-style layout, 9-hole par three course, driving range and practice area.
The old nine extends towards the coastline – though the nearest point the course ever gets to the strand is still one and a half kilometres from the green on the par four 5th hole – so you’ll never get to see the sea, but you may well feel its salty spray when the wind’s up.
Highlight holes include consecutive par fours at the 2nd and 3rd which dogleg in opposite directions to their respective greens, and the short 6th at the far end of the course. On the new back nine, all three par threes (at holes 10, 12 and 16) are highly entertaining.
Architect Alan Rijks provided this exclusive quote in 2020:
We built holes 1 to 9 about twenty years ago, with a minimum of sand, and this project was a success on this island.
Holes 10-18 were built in 2014. It all started from a flat piece of farmland. We moved and got soil from the island and used around 180,000 m3. We used the sand from the dune area and seeded with red fescue, which needs less water and gives a good quality.
Even in the rough areas we used red fescue as it gives a great texture during the summer and autumn and players can easily find their ball and play on. Nature helped us with the wind and created new hills. In one year this became a great site and no one believed it started from farmland.
A real links is not possible as it has to be right on the coastline, created by the sea with sand and wind, so, to be honest, it is links-like, but nearly all the players think I have blended the course out of the existing dunes. That gives me a good feeling for the design and the team that built the course.
Played the course 2 and half times over two days in April as part of matchplay competition. The front 9 was being renovated and the new clubhouse has just opened. The renovations are extensive with addition of new “dunes” and grasses. It’s clear that the owners are aiming to create a golf destination. The quality of the fairways and greens is excellent, if anything the greens are too fast for a casual round. In 2023 when the changes have settled in Texel will shoot up the rankings!
Describing Texel as “links-like” is just about right. There are times on the back nine when, with just the right about of imagination (& missing perhaps one or two of your contact lenses), you could be at The European Club. And there are times on the front nine, on the lower side of a fairway, that your ball is in meadow grass and you’d swear (quite literally) that you’re at a common-or-garden polder course.
My playing partner got us underway with a stiff slice onto the driving range - where members on the tee insisted it was not out of bounds. Shut the front door! Can’t be true. The hole is named “De Cock”, and my Viking companion muttered something similar as his ball sailed right. But not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he then spent a questionable 3 mins looking for it amongst the others lying around (making strong argument for using yellow golf balls). He then got a great second with a regulation “nothing to see here” par 4 the ensuance. My own drive was excellent. I do have this knack of falling out of the car, sprinting to the first tee, then under the watchful gaze of impatient onlookers (technically on time because it’s still the same minute as our tee time) cracking away a decent drive. For a fleeting moment it’s actually as though I can play golf. This is often my only good drive of the day but does make me think I’ll thrive under the pressure of the Seniors Tour when there should be also onlookers for the other 17 holes.
The front 9 is a little more restrained and a little less “links-like”, but engaging holes nevertheless. The 2nd is a welcome view, a tight little black dress of a dogleg left, arguably with hips on the narrow side. People need to stop describing doglegs as having elbows. Knees might make more sense, but I’m going with hips for now. The 3rd is a complementary dogleg swinging back the other way, with incongruous (not for the last time) water hazards out left. The links-o-meter starts clicking on the 4th & 5th holes. I enjoyed the latter, a short dogleg right with blind second shot depending on where your drive ends up. Holes 7-9 remind you where the “like” in “links-link” comes from. And I didn’t like them as much.
After a so-so par 3 10th, the course changes fairly dramatically. These are the newer holes and they are more impressive looking. This is where the greener shades of Ireland threaten to emerge. It looks like natural duneland to my untrained eye, every now and again you’ll have an incongruous chocolate drop mound lining a fairway to remind you it’s all just a ruse. They should take a page out of Cruden Bay’s book and claim it as some kind of ancient burial ground - might put a positive spin on these lumps. Occasionally I’d hit a tee shot behind one, just 4-5 yards off the fairway, and not find my ball in the long grass. This would be my main criticism of this back 9, it’s too narrow in places and the rough could do with some sheep shearing. We only had a mild wind but on another day these fairways could be too much of challenge for weaker players. Considering it was pretty much all manufactured from flat farmland, they’ve done a very good job. And it’s not just the landscaping from tee to green - the green complexes also take a step up on these inward holes.
Highlights on the back 9 were several, in particular the short holes at 12 & 16, and the stern links tests of 13 & 15. On the 18th tee you are faced with a familiar looking site, a topical rendition of the Himalaya bunker from Royal St George’s - which serves to remind you that this course it but a pastiche of a links. I actually liked this touch - not sure how many golfers would know this provenance, and if it’s a good feature, why not copy & paste it elsewhere? If Ronald MacDonald gets credit for this perhaps Alan Rijks should too. Although I’ve been informed that Sandwich has since removed the railway sleeper filling from their version, so maybe Texel will now follow suit.
Texel does have an important role to play in Dutch golf. It offers something distinct and the quality is generally high. Clearly an NL top 20 track for me and I will be back. I’d pay to play it again (but always opt for the twilight fee after 4pm as it was more than 50% cheaper that the rack rate). Perhaps not a standalone destination for the international have-sticks-will traveller, but all domestic golfers should check this course out. They will lose a few balls, and they will enjoy it.
As a brief side note, writing this humble review has ticked off one of my cherished golf bucket list items. Sitting Royal St George’d between #6 “playing NGLA” and #8 “not losing a ball during a round” was: #7 “write up the first review for a course on Top 100”. I can now lay the pen to rest and start practicing properly for #8
How would you say this course holds its own against the other - with all due respect - lower profile links(-like) courses on the North Sea shore: Domburgsche and Royal Ostend?
To Maarten’s Brain Teaser: Royal Ostend would be my favourite, with Texel next, and then Domburg narrowly missing out on the silver medal.
Domburg & Ostend feel more like “true links” to me, so if that’s your thing, you might prefer looping twice at Domburg to teeing it up at Texel.