Constructed in the mid-1990s on land reclaimed from the IJmuiden estuary between Amsterdam and Haarlem, the 18-hole course at Houtrak Golf Club is a challenging layout located within an attractive polder site. The golf club still has some way to go before its course reaches maturity but a good job has been done in creating a fine contemporary golfing facility.
Architect Gerard Jol has accumulated many golf design credits in the Netherlands over the years and he has become pretty adept – with the skilful use of earth moving machinery and intelligent planting of vegetation – at turning flat, bland terrain into interesting, subtly undulating golfing landscapes. Houtrak is a very good example of such a transformation.
The course lies close to the noisy main flight path into and out of busy Schipol airport and its proximity to surrounding wind farm and maritime businesses does it no aesthetic favours. However, it does somehow seem to overcome the limitations of its location, providing members and visitors alike with a much appreciated golfing diversion from the outside industrial world.
The Dutch Futures tournament on the European Challenge Tour has been held here since 2007.
Houtrak is a polder course. Uh-Oh. So, yes, there is quite some water around. If Noah was a member here he’d have built his ark long before god suggested he do so. Long & soft? Yep. Exposed to the divine elements like Hugh Grant on Sunset Boulevard: cruel wind often not too far away & wet wet wet rain when we played (you feel it in your fingers, you feel it in your toes). Longish rough and scrubby undergrowth can be found on any dry patches of land lining the unfairways. In short, it’s a test befitting a minor Hollywood scandal (which might explain why they put out some decent teams in the national competitions). Not always the ingredients for cooking up a tasty golfing treat in my humble view.
However, the twist in this movie’s plot line is that it’s not at all bad. Seriously. It’s a decent course - probably the best option in Amsterdam after The International. And in reality it is a fair test, especially if you can hit your ball straight. Matt Fitzpatrick would probably love it here. As early as the second hole you see enough fairway movement to elevate it - literally - above your average Polder Baan. The holes showed some variety, particularly on the back 9. Having said this, if you felt a sense of Deja Vu (of Deja Vu, of Deja Vu) at playing the same 400 metre par 4 you played a couple of holes ago, I wouldn’t argue with you.
The Par 3 14th would grace many courses, and I also liked the Par 4 16th where you hit to a rising fairway that gently doglegs left, leaving you with a testing shot over a small canal to a green raised up and staring back at you. The greens were generally good and certainly not flat. Bunkers were sometimes in the right place. Conditioning throughout was good. Probably the most interesting architectural aspect for me was the routing - kind of like the spokes on (half) a bicycle wheel, with holes returning to the clubhouse hub. There is now some tree growth that it’s starting to resemble a polder course in parkland clothing. This gave holes some isolation & definition which many golfers will like. And because it occasionally affords some shelter from the elements. Not a course I’d rush back to, but one I will play again. If you see golf as a sport and want a good test, you’d like it here. A good example of its type and one of the better options to seek out if in the Amsterdam area
A parkland course set on the outskirts of Amsterdam, I guess it is probably quite typical of many Netherlands courses in that it has little canals (and therefore water hazards) everywhere. And I mean everywhere. From a brief count there are probably 31 different times when water comes into play.
The long rough added significantly to the difficulty of the course with lost balls likely when straying. This alone made my stroke round look pretty poor at the end. The greens were quick and true, but had some patches as well.
I liked the aesthetic of the course, especially the back nine where there was a nice isolation of the holes. The back nine was probably more interesting too.
Fair review, just one small detail. It's not a parkland course though it does look a bit like one. In The Netherlands we call this a "Polder" course. Which actually is an indication of the land it sits on just as would be the case if it were a parkland. Polder = reclaimed land and as you might know The Netherlands is full of courses like this. Believe it or not Houtrak is one of the better "polder" courses. Doesn't say too much for the average level of "polder" courses does it? Imagine they will even play year round on these courses but you need fly-fishing waders to not ruin all your shoes and clothes for that.