In 1996, four good friends and golf professionals (who lived in The Netherlands), sat in front of a warm fire at Loch Lomond and formed a golf company called Made in Scotland that aspired to improve the game they loved in the Netherlands. This humble beginning would later lead to the expansion of their company along with the realization of their dream to create a world-class golf experience that would compete with the top golf courses in Continental Europe.
Made in Scotland worked together with Colin Montgomerie and Ross McMurray of European Golf Design (which is a joint venture between IMG and the European Tour) to create a course that would live up to the high standards necessary to host European Tour events. On the 14th of May 2011, The Dutch officially opened and was then put forward in the country’s bid to host the 2018 Ryder Cup. Unfortunately for the Netherlands, France won the Ryder Cup bid, but the infrastructure and facilities developed at The Dutch remain a lasting legacy and are pitched at a level capable of all the demands required to host any large-scale professional golf event.
The Dutch also represents a completely different kind of golf experience to anything that previously existed in the Netherlands. The level of service and the quality of facilities, from the practice areas to the meeting rooms and locker rooms are second to none. The club was formed as a place where business meets golf, where companies pamper clients and build relations in a very special environment. The Dutch is a rare treat for the lucky members and their invited guests.
Apparently styled in the fashion of an inland links, The Dutch features links-like bunkering, undulating green complexes and diverse, burn-like water hazards. The entire facility is set up for the hosting of European Tour events, at least the main Netherlands stop... the KLM Open was destined to be staged here at some point. The Dutch is really the only venue in the Netherlands that has the perfect facilities, space and infrastructure to easily and logistically host these events, which makes perfect sense given the club was a potential Ryder Cup venue and was designed as such.
In 2016 The Dutch was duly rewarded as host venue for the KLM Open, which historically has always been contested on a classic links or heathland course. Home favourite Joost Luiten won the event, becoming the first Dutchman to win his national Open twice. Frenchman Romain Wattel won the 2017 tournament and China’s Wu Ashun lifted the trophy in 2018. The KLM Open relocates from The Dutch to The International at Schiphol Airport in 2019 to commemorate the airline’s centenary and the 100th edition of the Dutch Open.The Dutch is very private club, extremely private even for the standards of The Netherlands. Therefore, even if you are coming from overseas and call ahead or write in advance, you won’t get a game unless you know a member or have a corporate contact.
I visited The Dutch only three weeks after the KLM Open had been held on the course so I knew I was playing a new track with an impressive championship pedigree which had hosted a European Tour event for three successive years. Still, for those who like their golf to be of the egalitarian variety then they won’t be playing here as this place is modelled on exclusivity. If you do secure an invitation through a member or you’re here on a corporate ticket, then you’ll experience quite the pampered golfing day out.
All the peripheral stuff is top notch. On arrival, your car is parked and your golf bag left at the practice area, allowing you to get ready in the sumptuous locker room. After your round, the extremely comfortable clubhouse is just the perfect place to relax and have a bite to eat before heading home. If reviews were based on service and off-course amenities then The Dutch would be up there with the very best of them. None of these extraneous factors can be taken into account here, however, so a proper appraisal of the golf facility has to focus entirely on what’s between the 1st tee and the 18th green.
With that in mind, it should be said at the outset that it’s something of a minor miracle for a course of its standard to ever be built on such a flat piece of land, with fairways laid out in two adjacent “compartments”: the 1st hole and holes 8-18 occupy the main portion of the property and holes 2-7 lie to north of this area. Presumably, the construction of the interconnected ponds produced enough fill to create most of the course contouring, especially around the green sites, which have obviously been well-built, offering plenty of interesting recovery options around the putting surfaces.
Looking back on my notes for the separate section (#2 to #7), I only remarked on the huge swale to the left of the 3rd green and the punchbowl green on the 4th green as that was really all that took my eye on a functional, but rather uninspiring stretch of holes. Moving onto the main part of the course, things seemed to move up another gear, with the par threes at the 8th and 10th getting full marks from me. The second of these short holes plays across the large pond that’s closest to the clubhouse and the aquatic element on this hole provides a knee-trembling start to the back nine.
In actual fact, the 10th hole is good preparation for what’s to come at nearly every hole on the back nine – the comparatively benign par three 14 is the only one that doesn’t feature a water hazard of some description. Ditches running alongside then cutting across fairways and ponds protecting the front of greens are the norm on the inward half so astute course management is absolutely paramount on this nine or you might well become disillusioned and run out of golf balls very quickly.
Don’t expect to play an “inland links” at the Dutch as it’s not got the firm and fast playing characteristics required of such a course, though the green contouring, greenside bunkers and shaggy mounding imbue it with links-like qualities both on and around the putting surfaces. I’m not so sure I’d want to have my handicap tested to the extent that it would be if I was a member playing here all the time but maybe the almost constant threat of severely depleting your golf ball inventory is the sort of incentive required to sharpen up your game!
I played in the Dutch Senior Masters at The Dutch near Rotterdam last autumn. The main event is a similar format to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship where an amateur is paired with a pro and the best score counts in a two-day (Fri-Sat) team competition.
My game largely deserted me for the two days but the slothful pace of play over the rounds gave me plenty of time to study the course and subsequently vent my frustration generally about slow play: From The Cradle to the grave
I’ve been debating whether or not to write a review for The Dutch, as I don’t like the course. Given that I was graciously invited it felt rude and ungrateful to write a negative post. Having thought about my experience for twelve months, I now feel able to stick my head above the parapet.
There’s no denying The Dutch is a good course, which has been well built. The location and the land are unremarkable for golf, comprising of two dull, flat fields set several metres below sea level with a peat substructure. Remarkably the course drains well. It rained cats and dogs on the Saturday and there was no standing water whatsoever. The build comprised of lightweight air-filled concrete under greensites and polystyrene filled mounds to reduce weight. Millions of cubic metres of soil was shipped in to raise the low-lying ground and for shaping. The result is high quality and should be generously applauded. However, there’s nothing compelling about the architecture, although I felt the greensites were well done. Everything is quality through and through, from the tee boxes, bunkering and greens to the wonderful clubhouse. But I found the course soulless and lacking in character. It’s a “been there, seen it before” kind of experience which left me both impressed (in terms of what has been achieved) but distinctly underwhelmed.
The client company, Made in Scotland, may well have commissioned two Scots to design the course (Colin Montgomerie and Ross McMurray of European Golf Design) but The Dutch is diametrically opposed to Scottish golf and I think a trick was missed. The design is supposed to be a nod to an inland links – I saw nothing remotely reminiscent of a links course, either in look or playability. Maybe they should have taken a 200-kilometre trip east to Germany. The Links course at Winston (whose owners coincidentally are also Dutch) may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly looks like a links and will be remembered. Which is more than can be said about The Dutch. On the other hand, the coffee was excellent, but more impressive was the patience shown by my pro partner, Mark Davis, who not only carried me like an awkward sack of potatoes but was also great company.
So four good friends sat in front of a warm fire at Loch Lomond (Made in America?) and formed a Golf company (Made in Scotland), that aspired to improve the game they loved (which was arguably Made) in The Netherlands.
I wonder how much whisky they’d gotten through that day, because I can’t quite see what this course does to improve the game in Holland. Except perhaps by improving standards of conditioning and service (appreciated by the few who manage to get a game here). Although noted that the green sites are highlighted as a positive...
...and admittedly I’ve not even played The Dutch. However, the reporting back from several friends who have are pretty much aligned with this review. At least the coffee was good though!
Are there any changes you think they could make to the course that would raise the architectural bar/interest levels?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the architecture, it’s just not my style. Even if I was qualified I wouldn’t suggest making any changes. It is what it is and I’m sure it has achieved and perhaps exceeded the founders’ expectations. The only thing I’d change is the “inland links” marketing – it’s a misnomer. But maybe the term fits more comfortably for the likes of Sand Hills and Ballyneal, both of which look and play like a links.
Good point on the inland links marketing - would make it easier to appreciate The Dutch for what it is and not what it isn't.
And I should be more positive and not submit comments like those above when I've been drinking too much Whisky myself.
As you make your way into the clubhouse it is evident that an enormous amount of attention has been paid to the fine details here at the Dutch. On top of that it’s clear that no expense has been spared with the furnishings from the quaint whiskey and cigar room, equipped with private lockers for the members, to the cozy meeting rooms, Board Room and library. Various paintings, maps and old golf collectibles decorate the walls, many with the purpose of drawing as many parallels as possible between the Netherlands and Scotland – arguably the two homes of golf.
Of all the features the clubhouse has to offer, the men’s dressing room is unquestionably the most memorable as it’s one of only a few in the world that has a fully equipped bar taking your orders and offering drinks upon entrance. With lounging chairs all around and flat screen TV’s in abundance, a trip to the men’s room takes on new meaning here at the Dutch. It provides the perfect setting to tempt your opponent into a few pre-round drinks to establish that ever so important competitive edge.
The practice range is where I could easily spend my day. First of all, it’s one of the few in the Netherlands where you can practice from real turf instead of mats. The balls are stacked and waiting, both at the chipping and pitching range as well as the driving range. As always, a trip to the first tee is not complete without a stop at the putting green. At the Dutch, this is an absolute must and it will shock most golfers because the greens are incredibly fast and very undulating. In my opinion, The Dutch is the only course in the Netherlands with world-class green complexes and I was personally thrilled with them. I honestly didn’t think that any club in club in Holland would build greens as good as these – if anyone gets the chance to play this course, I’d highly recommend paying very close attention to their features. I think greens are an essential element that separates good and world-class courses. It’s also one reason why there are only a couple of courses in Continental Europe that ever make the World Top 100. Review by David Davis (Top 100 Benelux correspondent) - click here to read the full story.