You won’t need your passport to board the first tee at The International at Amsterdam Airport, just take your normal golfing gear. But if you’re a plane spotter you might get distracted.
Set a few hundred metres to the east of the Buitenveldertbaan and Oostbaan runways at Schiphol Airport, the golf course at The International is sited more for convenience than charm.
Ian Woosnam is the headline architect of The International but it was the Belgian designer, Bruno Steensels of Mastergolf, who brought The International to life. In November 2012, shortly after the course opened for play, David Davis our Benelux correspondent teed it up alongside the architect. David’s comments follow, but continue reading his review further down the page to get the full story.
“There’s been a lot of hype and excitement around Amsterdam’s new championship golf course called The International. As fortune would have it I joined the Belgian architect, Mr. Bruno Steensels, who received the unique opportunity to literally paint his own canvas, carte blanche, for a round at his new pride and joy.
At first it’s quite hard to imagine a golf course being placed in this extremely chaotic location right between Amsterdam’s Schiphol
Being a golfer that really loves the quiet and tranquil settings often found in golf and having just returned from a trip to Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon last week where I received just that, I would classify this location as terrible but perhaps equally important terribly convenient. Amsterdam has long been without any real professional golf facility within 30 minutes of the city and absolutely no championship courses. This has traditionally served for mild logistical nightmares when it comes to organizing the country’s only stop on the European Tour, The Dutch Open. I suspect however that the future is bright with this course offering everything a Dutch Open and its participants and sponsors could ever desire.
I realize that I can’t iterate enough my personal preference and bias towards natural, secluded, quiet and tranquil locations, however to the pure credit of Mr. Steensels he’s certainly won me over with this purely magnificent design creating 18 completely unique holes in an outside to inside clockwise to counter clockwise routing that showcases dramatic (for The Netherlands) elevation changes of 14 meters (7 meters below sea level to 7 meters above sea level). This has resulted in a quite dramatic dunes landscape and as far as I’m concerned won the sand castle building contest for the year all at the same time.”
David's review is continued below, dated 28th Spetember 2013.
This golf club is like a golfing version of Red Bull Leipzig. On one hand you have to admire what has been achieved in a short space of time, but on the other hand I feel it simply should not exist.
None of this is the course’s fault though. The linksy feeling, hole variety, and green-sites are nice. You feel this can add significantly to a country where modern golfing options are still greatly overshadowed by their octogenarian counterparts. The end construction result on this flat wet polder next to Schipol airport is impressive and I enjoy the uniqueness of a 747 almost landing on your head as you walk to the 8th tee. It’s not an inspiring natural site, but it is at least memorable. I have always enjoyed my games here too, especially in matchplay. Holes like #2, #8, #10, and the finish of #16-18 all offer something different.
This is countered by examples like #3 & #4 - good holes that would work on a course like Lage Vuursche, but the watery graves here are clumsy juxtaposition for me. In terms of strategy “The International “ feels quite binary - one difficult route for your 300 yard driving scratch player, and then one other taken by the remaining 90% of golfers. This might be my main criticism of the course - it feels slightly one dimensional & doesn’t deliver the greatest pleasure to the greatest number of golfers. The average member, distracted by the excellent service, the exclusive vibes, the decent conditioning, & tournament credentials, will not be at all bothered though. And it was likely intended as a tournament course, so perhaps the designer was less concerned with playability aspect. It has recently hosted the KLM Open.
Their website has a lengthy ode to their designer Ian Woosnam, but this course was Ghost Written by Bruno Steensels (it has a very similar routing to De Goyer). This branding touch feels like a clue as to who they are trying to appeal to - and for me hints at the experience of style over a product of substance. I have even been asked by a member of staff upon arrival if he could clean my clubs. My clubs are always clean before a round, so these kind of touches feel ludicrous. Last autumn I was playing at the Kennemer and my playing partner there - a friend of means - was considering joining “The International”. I asked why on earth he wouldn’t try to get in where we were currently enjoying ourselves (27 holes of classic design on delightful linksland that’s never busy). He replied that “The International” is where business gets done and so is much better for developing his network. This sums the place up for me - but the golf is still good. If you are a golfing visitor to The Netherlands, you won’t really be missing out if you don’t play “The International”, but if you can get on, it’s still worth playing. And it is convenient for the airport
I had the opportunity to play The International in early April through a corporate invitation. Certainly looked forward to it given its ranking on this website and the fact that the Dutch Open will be played there later this year. Unfortunately the experience was spoiled by fairways which were in a very poor condition. I'm a member of a nearby "polderbaan" so I know that drainage is difficult for courses which are not built on natural sand, but these fairways were bare in patches and close to unplayable at times. The greens had been heavily sanded so probably slower than they would normally play but perfectly fine. The course is clearly laid out to be challenging and it could be the poor conditioning was related to getting the course ready for the Dutch Open later in the year. Facilities are indeed excellent and the whole complex has a very "high-end" feel about it. But in the condition I played it doesn't merit a top 10 ranking (I have my own nearby course as comparison and the fairways there were in an excellent condition). As the course matures I'm sure it will be excellent. One to revisit in five years time....
After some considerations, I decided to join as a member earlier this year. I have no regrets making this choice. The International can't be compared with the old classic clubs we have in The Netherlands. It's not situated in dunes, woodland or heathland. In fact it's surrounded by two motorways and one of the runways of close by Schiphol Airport. The noise of approaching airplanes and heavy traffic is noticeable in every corner of the course. But the golf course itself is excellent. The routing is wonderful and has an almost natural flow, which is quite unique for a brand-new, modern styled golf course. Lovers of risk-and-reward golf will appreciate the design. The holes have plenty of strategy and can be played in various ways. Green complexes are of the highest standard and the same can be said about the level of maintenance. The International has a beautiful, modern clubhouse. Not the kind of sugar cake palaces in retro style that can be found in many new high-end clubs, but a contemporary design from a leading Dutch architect. The club is under good management and run well. It's great to be a member of a club without general meetings and members who think they have a say in things they are in fact clueless. Nice!
#1 - par 5 (476m white/461m yellow), dogleg left with a nice risk reward corner that can be cut off although you have to drive the huge bunker to the left of the fairway. Doing this correct will allow you to have a shot at the green in two. Otherwise the second shot is contested with a large bunker and mound to the right of the fairway. Lay up before and face a longer tougher approach, play over the bunker and your rewarded with a nicer lie and an open view of the green with a wedge in your hand. The green is extremely large with various levels and undulations, protected by bunkers front left. A running shot could be possible by way of a draw from right to left for those going for it in two. A really nice hole but semi gentle start to prepare you for what’s to come.
#2 - par 4 (345m white/323m yellow) this shortish par 4 favors a driver over the right center bunker to be left with the best angle and view of the green. Lay up in front of the bunker and be faced with a blind approach and short to mid iron. The green like all the greens here has many different sections and pin placements for variety. A large false front and elevated green make this approach tricky in the wind. Deep bunkers protect it both right and left front.
#3 – par 5 (493 white/461 yellow) this medium length par 5 dogleg right down the hill is a great hole. Your drive is faced with a decision as to which line you want in order to approach the green or go for it in two. Aim right of the only tree on the course and you have to bomb it over the large bunker, aim left and you need to be long so the tree does not come into play. The fairway is very wide for anyone wanting to play this as a 3 shoter. The approach shot is to a 900 sq meter green with water on 3 sides of it. It’s an intimidating shot no doubt. A second shot long and right will allow for a chipped third shot and great angle into the green. Playing left of the large tree allows you more green to work with but brings the bunker behind the green more into play. A challenging par 5 with a great risk reward opportunity at birdie.
#4 – par 3 (128m white/109 m yellow) the first of our 3 shotters is the only short one on the course. Wouldn’t you know it would be all carry over water to a green surrounded on 3 sides with water. The green is also very large with many levels and possible pin positions not to mention the visual deception that if you go long your in the water as well although there is a massive catch bunker there to save thinned or skulled shots. Watch out for the wind on this tricky little hole.
#5 – par 4 (304m white/283m yellow) this is a great little drivable par 4 with danger everywhere. Water runs the entire length of the hole on the left side and the closer you get to the hole the more the water cuts in. A straight line at the flag will require driving the entire distance carry due to how far the water cuts in just in front of the green. There is a bail out right but this is blind. This hole is also full of distraction as it runs direction in front of one of the runways that planes are landing on at the airport. So those of you with a high ball flight watchout! 150m might get you a little more than a birdie or a swim with the ducks.
#6 – par 4 (332m white/311m yellow) this medium to short par 4 offer a really unique decision off the tee. It has water hazard running down the length of the hole mostly to the left side however you can choose to play in left with driver to fairway on the other side of this water hazard, or choose to keep right and short leaving a longer approach and more difficult angle to the green. The risk of the longer shot includes bunkers that catch anything left and of course the carry which is long depending on your tee. The green is long and protected by bunker on the front right side that come into play for the players choosing to lay up short and right of the water hazard.
#7 – Par 3 (193m white/183m yellow) the second of our short one shotters is a relatively long and tough par 3 into an elevated green that is protected with bunkers on the left side. This green sets up ideally for a draw if you want to follow it’s natural angle and take the deep bunkers out of play. Missing right into the run off will leave a very tough up and down depending on the pin location.
#8 – Par 5 (512m white/487m yellow) – the third of our par 5’s is another risk reward type of hole. A good and long drive avoiding the bunkers on the left and the large ones on the right (which visually make the fairway seem much smaller and more challenging that it is) will leave the option to go for it in two. However, the green is split by a rather large bunker forcing you to play either left right or over that bunker. Bunkers to the left and right sides of the green complicate this decision. This is yet another very large green offering a variety of levels and pin placements.
#9 – par 4 (409m white/382m yellow) – this hole is the hardest hole on the course in terms of ratings playing into the prevailing wind. It sets up perfectly for a draw off the tee and doglegs to the left. The approach which will in most cases be a long iron or a utility/wood has to contend with a water hazard short and middle to left (depending on the angle) of this long and slightly raised green.
#10 – par 4 (381 white/358 yellow) – this par 4 starts with a visually intimidating driving over water for the first half to a fairly generous landing area protected on the left side by bunkers. The hole is another dogleg left. The approach is faced with a very tricky highly elevated green with a false front and steep run-off to the right.
#11 – par 4 (294m white/278m yellow) – this is a another great little short par 4. Big hitters will be tempted to go for the green in one however anything but the most perfect of shots will be met with a tough up and down from the many bunkers in front of the green. The hole doglegs right very sharply and the tee box is one of the highest points on the course. The players is tricked into thinking they should go for it. What’s unique is that proper course management would all you to hit a really short iron like a 5 or 6 from the tee and be left with a wedge to the green. While hitting driver/3wood/hybrid towards the dogleg bring you only further away from the hole although they do open up the green for the approach a bit better.
#12 – par 4 (404m white/397m yellow) – this par 4 is basically the first straight and long hole on the course. It requires two solid shots to reach and is free of bunkers. The green is long and heavily undulated.
#13 – par 3 (177m white/161m yellow – this medium length par 3 is another excellent and totally different one shotter. This is played over a marshland/water hazard that gives the appearance that it requires a full carry when in actuality there is a far bit of room in front of a green that is large and runs at a diagonal from right to left back away from your tee shot. Also seems to set up for light draw to follow the angle.
#14 par 4 (371m white/352m yellow) a dogleg right par 4 that dares you to take on the bunkers in the corner to shorten your approach to this highly elevated green protected by bunkers short right and left with run offs in back.
#15 par 5 (506m white/487m yellow) this is a forced 3 shot par 5 . with a dogleg left dictating where you play your second shot which leaves you to choose between playing closer to the water hazard for a shorter and better angle on your approach or flirting with the uneven ground and longer route yet playing it safe. The green is protect by water and bunkers to the left.
#16 par 4 (359m white/324m yellow) the drive on this medium length par 4 has a forced carry over water when played to the left side that is separated by a young tree which makes you decide if you want to go for the very long carry and a short approach or play right of the tree where there is little water and be rewarded with a longer approach shot but a slightly better angle into this green which is elevated considerably.
#17 par 3 (213 m white/211m yellow) this long par 3 serves as an excellent hole on the closing run here. A long and accurate tee shot is required from an elevated tee to a green protected by a run off front left and a bunker right including a false front. The green has several plateaus making putting tricky from the wrong level. Par is a great score here.
#18 par 5 (479m white/463m yellow) the closing hole is an excellent risk/reward dogleg right par 5. A long drive will give a definite shot at going for the green in two. An excellent job was done to really entice players to go for this. The second shot is over water that is middle to left of the green. It appears that there is room to the right between the mound and the bunker to the right of the mound however there is a swale that will make a right miss far more complicated than is visually apparent.
Amsterdam International offers an excellent routing and a very challenging and enjoyable new course. Outside of my critique with regards to the location I have one other construction issue that is mentionable. Considerable effort and investment has been put into creating a sort of yellow brick road/natural stone cart path throughout the property and visually this is acceptable most of the time, however, this car path is extremely slippery when wearing spikes and in some places quite steep. In damp condition it’s a serious hazard and many people will end up falling as a result of this. It’s really a shame considering the investment and labor hours involved in such a beautiful path. I’m sure they will come up with a solution in the short term but for new be extremely careful and don’t walk on it if it’s wet.
In the mean time if you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to play here, jump on it, thanks to Mr. Steensels you will be treated to a great ride and wonderful experience. I for one have become a fan! David Davis