Hilversumsche Golf Club is one of the most exclusive clubs in the Netherlands but thankfully you can still get a midweek game if you book in advance. The club was founded in 1910 and H. Burrows laid down the original nine holes in 1917. Harry Colt added a further nine holes in 1928 and Sir Guy Campbell made further modifications, most notably to the par fives, in the early 1950s.
This delightful course, which winds its way though the woods and the forest, has played host to numerous Dutch Opens – 30 between 1923 and 2012 – and it has just got even better. Kyle Phillips has recently remodeled Hilversum and stiffened it up for future generations, doing a fabulous job. This is a tight course by anyone’s standard and you will now need to hit it long as well as straight.
The course begins and ends with testing par fives and in between there are many fine holes, especially pairs of long par fours at the 3rd and 4th on the front nine and the 15th and 16th on the back nine. The par threes are all outstanding and – surprisingly for a championship course – three of these four short holes are less than 170 metres off the back tees.
The Dutch Open returned to Hilversumsche in 2010 following a four-year stretch at Kennemer Golf & Country Club. Martin Kaymer claimed the 2010 title during a stellar year that culminated in the German being crowned Europe’s Number One after winning four European Tour titles and his first Major at the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Sadly, the start of the 2011 Dutch Open at Hilversumsche Golf Club was delayed due to vandalism, when four greens were dug up the night before the start of the event. However, this didn't deter England’s Simon Dyson who won the title by one shot from compatriot David Lynn. This was Dyson’s third Dutch Open win and the result moved him into the World Top 30 for the first time in his career.
The following year, Peter Hanson won for the fifth time on the European Tour, taking the Dutch Open from nearest challengers Richie Ramsey and Pablo Larrazábal with an aggregate score of 266, 14 under par. He started the last round a shot off the lead but managed to sink a long-range eagle putt on the par five 18th to win the event by two strokes.
This course is very good, but I think it could be great. The back 9 (11th tee to 18th tee shot) is already great, and the front 9 is good but there are elements that just pull the course back. The fairways were fantastic, rippled like any great links. The heather fantastic and beautiful as ever and enough land movement to keep things interesting.
As with many courses at the moment, they could do with removal of a lot of trees (which I think they are trying) and green bushes which look out of place in the heathlands setting.
The greens were very poor to putt on, very slow with not much character due to that, the ball doesn’t break much when having to smash putts from 20ft.
The routing seems very peculiar too, i suspect in an effort to return to the clubhouse after 9 holes, but means a lot of long walks between some holes (12/13, 17/18). Finally, the approach shot to the 18th and the green surround is very out of character with the rest of the course, a case of trying to do too much which renders an unnatural and disappointing finish. The 9th, although a mid range par 4, feels like a much better finishing hole.
Hilversumsche Golf Club is another course that I don’t get to hardly enough. The current trend in The Netherlands is clearly aimed at much needed tree removal and creating firmer and faster playing surfaces.
The biggest surprise of a long weekend that had me entertaining my Top 100 Golf colleagues on their first visit over to the flatlands was the conditioning of the Hilversumsche. The turf and fairways and greens were perfect, the firmest in The Netherlands. Bravo to their Greens Committee, Management Board and greenkeeping team. It was absolutely wonderful to treat my colleagues to a perfectly maintained course.
My only wish for Hilversumsche is that they manage to get the permission to remove a couple thousand trees and bring the heathland back to the way it used to be. The course will be all the better for it, maintenance will be significantly easier and the beautiful vistas that open up will be a true joy to behold.
Wonderful to see this course starting to realize its great potential.
Hilversumsche, along with Eindhovensche, were two surprise packages when I visited them last week because I didn’t think either course would come close to what I’d found at Utrecht De Pan. I haven’t yet played Rosendaelsche (which is firmly on my “must play” list for my next trip to The Netherlands) but if it’s anything like these other three magnificent tracks then golfers in this country don’t know how fortunate they are to have such a quartet of top heathland courses on their doorstep.
I understand that tree clearance is still a big issue here because the layout straddles two provinces – with eight holes (1,2, 8-12 and 18) in North Holland and the others in Utrecht – and one of the local authorities seems more amenable to requests for arboreal housekeeping than the other.
There’s also a fair walk from green to next tee on some of the holes (especially from the 12th to 13th and 17th to 18th) which doesn’t help the rhythm of the round. The professionals on the European Tour use a different course routing during the Dutch Open when a round is played over holes 1-3, then 13-17, followed by 4-12, and finally 18.
The short par 2nd serves early notice of the delights that lie ahead, where the fairway drops off a ridge around a hundred yards from the green, with the putting surface positioned on top of another ridge on the other side of a small gully.
The 3rd then heads gently downhill over what some might easily mistake to be an elephants’ graveyard, such are the fantastically random contours of this wonderful fairway. There was also evidence of vegetation clearance on the right side of the fairway at the 7th, presumably to assist the natural regeneration of heathers.
While I enjoyed the front nine, I absolutely loved the back nine, starting with the testing par three 10th next to the driving range. The par four 12th is one of best two-shotters you’ll ever play, with a ridge of native vegetation slashing across the fairway seventy-five yards short of a green that falls away from front to back – and this hole is only rated stroke index 8!
The par three 14th is also one of the best short holes you’ll ever play (it’s only 114 metres from the back tees) but it would a much better proposition if the tee box was raised a couple of metres so you could see the fearsome bunkers that lurk in the gully in front of the green.
Hole 16 was probably my favourite hole on the card, played slightly uphill and swinging slightly right to left. Jagged edged bunkers, heather mounding and surrounding trees frame the green superbly and the right to left sloping putting surface is not one to be taken lightly.
And just when you think you’ve seen it all, the fabulous deep swale to the front left side of the 18th green will take your breath away when you consider how effective such a simple, yet cunning device can be in deflecting approach shots away from the putting surface.
If it hadn’t been so late in the day when I finished my round, I might have been tempted to walk straight onto the 1st tee and play some more - there’s not many courses where you’d want to do that but Hilversum was one for me.
It took me three hours to get here by train, bus, and a half an hour walk so I was really hoping it was going to be worth the journey ( which could have been a lot shorter). I was expecting a lot from this place having seen the KLM Open on tv. It seemed the preparations have already started for this years tournament because the conditions were absolutely brilliant. The fairways were outstanding and the greens were beautifully kept. We played off the tips and we knew we were in for a test.
The par 4 2nd measures 314 meters which plays longer because you can't hit a driver due to the very small opening to the green; and there are 4 par 4s that play 411, 413, 434 and 435 meters from the tips. Combine this with the tree lined fairways and you're going to need your A-game to score around this course.
The famous par 3 14th of only 114 meters is also a joy to play. It has a big round flat greena nd 5 bunkers of which only one is visible from the tee! The par 3s as a set I think are among the best in the Netherlands. the fifth is a beautiful long par 3 that plays over heather into a punchbowl green (sort of) and the eighth is also a brilliant one shotter.
If I had to choose between the four major heathland courses in the Netherlands De Pan, De Eindhovensche, De Rosendaelsche and this one De Hilversumsche I think except for the 2 easily reachable par 5s is the hardest test, and especially when the heather blooms I reckon also very esthetically pleasing.