The Dutch is billed as an “Inland Links”, but it isn’t. There are some tricky burns crossing fairways/greens and an unexpected prevalence of Oyster Catchers, but that’s as far as it goes. You see, there is a certain shame to being a “Polder Course”. Saying you’re playing one is like admitting you’ve named your son Adolf or Boris.
For those of you without a Geography degree (or “van” prefixing your surname, preferably by birth), a Polder is reclaimed land that was once flooded. By definition it’s usually flat, silty, and often remains surrounded by a lot of water. Not ideal golfing terrain. Polder Courses feel endemic to The Netherlands like acne scars on a teenage boy.
I have played many Polder type courses here in Holland and many of them are terrible. Much of the better land in NL - for there is an abundance of dunes & fantastic heathland - is protected via Environmental regulation, which leaves many Dutch golfers to make do with the Polders. Where is Donald Trump & the Scottish government when you actually need them?
However, The Dutch is an exception to this rule. That’s right. It is an Uber/Elite version of a Polder Course. It confirms that with a bit of design smarts & lots of cash you can create a good golf course. While I’m having this epiphany, I should also mention that apparently generic name “The Dutch” used to make me roll my eyes - more than “Polder Course” does for others. Post-epiphany I have to admit it is a much more relevant name than I’d initially assumed. I agree with the previous reviewer on this point. No less appropriate than “National Golf Links” perhaps. My humble opinion is that as the course gets older they should be bolder in showing pride for the Polder. Having created a Polder Course this good is no small achievement and there is no need to call it an “Inland Links”.
The interest on the tee shot is fine - better than at Bernardus and comparable to Lage Vuursche - but for me it’s the green complexes that make the course. Via a combination of undulation and speed, coupled with an anxiety not to miss the target, they are challenging and memorable. We had some daring up & downs to make from short grass & run off areas – which was a lot of fun. They’ve clearly invested money here and sometimes you get what you pay for.
The excellent conditioning and presentation also cannot be ignored and highlights how important this can be to elevate a course. I normally enjoy firm & fast conditions, but I don’t think that would fit here. For one thing, I would have had more balls running off of the fairway into water. The H2O is very much in play and visible but it won’t kill the average golfer - i.e. me. The fairways have plenty of width and usually a safer side (consequence of which is a more difficult next shot).
The routing is not the most inspiring walk, but this was designed as a tournament course and that calibre of golfer probably isn’t looking around checking out landforms, biodiversity, and considering taking his dog for a walk. In all seriousness though, this must always be the case when you purchase a new parcel of land in a small wealthy country like NL. I think they’ve done a better job with the routing than at Bernardus (which can feel restrictive) and despite being tetris-shaped, the holes themselves never feel cramped. The green to tee walks were fine and I also can’t remember more than 2 consecutive holes playing in the same direction. But to Bill Coore’s routing qualifier/question “how would you walk the land if there was no golf course there?”, at The Dutch the answer might be that you’d walk over to the (excellently appointed) clubhouse and have a beer.
There is plenty of hole variety on offer here and that will really help with giving the course a lasting appeal for regular visitors. Some examples:
Hole 1: Avoid water on right off tee, with left giving better angle to green. No bunker protecting this safe side, therefore a gentle handshake.
Hole 2: Things immediately get interesting here as you have a choice on the tee - bite off more of water to leave easier approach, or play safe to the left but face a longer shot in. This tee decision repeats on a few of the following holes.
Hole 3: Well bunkered shortish par 4, with bunkers imposing on landing zone. If you can fly them you’ll gain an advantage.
Hole 4: Big green for a shortish hole. Would like to have seen more challenging recovery shots should you miss. Later holes have this, but maybe it’s good pacing not to have a difficult par 3 so early in the round (here’s looking at you De Goyer).
Hole 5: First time I missed a fairway, and promptly left my second shot in there too. Warning heeded.
Hole 6: I am omitting describing this hole, as above I suggest only “some examples” would follow.
Hole 7: Proper short Par 4 of around 330 yards, with a few options from the tee. Water fronting the green will discourage mere mortals from having a go, but it must have been entertaining during the KLM Opens
Hole 8: Interesting green at this mid length par 3. My ball ran through the back and I may as well have taken a tent & sleeping bag with me. Avoid this spot if you can.
Holes 9-11: Ditto Hole 6. This isn’t one of those reviews of all 18 holes.
Hole 12: Another enjoyable shortish Par 4. Not sure this one is driveable, but you almost get a tantalising glimpse of the green. If you’re not in perfect position on the fairway, be warned there’s water in a depression fronting the green (this was my one lost ball).
Hole 13: Striking raised green dominates the hole in the distance, rising up like a Volcano (calm down, not suggesting it’s a template). You almost want to miss it on any side so that you can challenge yourself to the up & down attempt.
Holes 14 & 15: You get the picture now.
Hole 16: Good time in a match to put in a significant water carry with a Par 3. Squeaky bum time (I closed my eyes & nailed it - just).
Hole 17: Perhaps the best short Par 4 on the course. You must hit the fairway and the left bunker is really a distraction - you want to be near the water on the right to have a chance at the relatively shallow green that is angled away from you.
Hole 18: Nice closing hole - decisions off the tee and also for the second shot. Want to hit the green in 2? Good luck Bryson.
As I try to recall the holes now, I realise some of them were very worthy, and the finish 16-18 is particularly strong.
In terms of constructive criticism, I would suggest 2 aesthetic things: Some of the artificial fairway mounding was a little too “pointy” on a couple of the holes. It is mostly well done, so on these holes it then becomes noticeable. Apparently it does settle with time. The other item was a bank of reeds on #12 – which disguised the tee shot a little and partially hid the green. I’d like to have clearly seen the bunker complex and have a glimpse of the direct route (before taking the safe option). This would provide a bit more temptation to go for the green. Previous reviewer also calls this out. Other than this, I probably won’t criticise The Dutch for not being an ancient windswept links course on the west coast of Scotland. Accept it for what it is - and not what it isn’t - and you will enjoy it.
This is Top 10 NL in for me, perhaps #9 at best. The Dutch as such is not a particularly soulful natural experience - so don’t expect that (I didn’t). It’s value proposition as a playing experience is good: A strong test offering ample hole variety, best in class presentation, and good greens. A quick mention too of the service levels & practice facilities - they are outstanding. This isn’t my thing as I usually rush from the car to the first tee and then immediately speed from the final hole to back in my car before my wife notices I’ve gone - but it’s important to some people, so I should call it out.
If you can get on for a round at The Dutch (good luck), do it. It is an elite experience and offers a welcome contrast to the more natural courses in the country. Rumour even has it that George Peper & Malcolm Campbell are preparing a sequel to their True Links book, detailing the world’s 246 True Polder Courses (all of them in Holland). The Dutch will be the first course featured.
Date: August 19, 2020