As soon as you arrive at Kennemer Golf & Country Club and you catch a glimpse of the undulating links land and the thatched-roof clubhouse that sits proudly watching over the course, you know you are somewhere special.
Founded in 1910, Kennemer is located at Zandvoort, which is a popular Dutch seaside town that is better known for its motor racing circuit than its golf course (the Dutch Grand Prix was hosted at Zandvoort for many years). In the early days, the Kennemer Golf Club played on a rudimentary nine-hole course and when it moved to its present location in 1927, the brilliant Harry Colt was commissioned to lay out the course amongst the towering sand dunes and the result is staggeringly good. Kennemer must rank as one of Colt’s finest designs.
In 1985, Frank Pennink was tasked with adding nine new holes and Kennemer now has 27 excellent links holes. Each nine has a name and is also referred to as the A, B and C course, so things can get a bit confusing. The A course is also called Van Hengel (named after Steven van Hengel who was a member and an eminent figurehead in Dutch golf), the B course is called Pennink and the C nine is called Colt.
The original Kennemer course comprises of nines B and C and the Dutch Open course comprises of the A nine followed by holes 1, 2 and 3 of the B nine followed by holes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the C nine. All 27 holes come thoroughly recommended.
With lovely undulating ground, dunes, gorse and the odd pine tree, Kennemer is a classic links course. Throw in the odd blind drive and you know you are playing an old-fashioned affair. Course conditioning is always exemplary and there’s no doubting that this is the real thing.
There’s so much history at Kennemer both inside the clubhouse and out on the course. Seve Ballesteros won his first pro tournament at Zandvoort in 1976 and his fellow Spanish countryman José Maria Olazábal followed suit in 1989 by winning the Dutch Open here. The atmosphere inside the clubhouse is reminiscent of a traditional historic British club. If you’re a links lover, Kennemer should not be missed and should be added to your European must-play list immediately.
This 27-hole property is no stranger to hosting major tournaments with a commendable list of Dutch Open winners. The B&C nines with the involvement of Colt & Pennink are widely identified as the best nines, however the routing used for championship golf interestingly uses all of the Van Hengel (A) nine along with the best holes plucked from the B&C courses making up the back-side.
I found the property to be largely “all there in front of you” with a limited number of blind shots or elevated greens in places. There is no shortage of encroaching vegetation or newly planted tree clusters which has its pluses and minuses.
My favourite aspect of the property were the greens incorporated into the sand dunes, which were a lot more exhilarating compared to the mundane design of flat fairways running into flat greens. The greens have more pitch than undulation to them, which emphasizes being below the hole in regulation. I enjoyed the walk and the history in the remarkable old clubhouse.
I can’t remember looking at a course webpage on this site with so many reviews offering a hole by hole critique of the layout! Some reviewers also seem to gain additional satisfaction from playing the 18-hole configuration used by the pros for the Dutch Open but I was more than content to just play the three 9-hole circuits as marked on the regular scorecard when I visited earlier this week.
Kennemer’s a really classy place, even though the fabulous old clubhouse has a surprisingly informal and lived-in feel to it. It’s the sort of club you feel privileged to visit and be treated as a member for a day. Every single member of staff I came into contact with went out of their way to make my day a memorable one which was really appreciated as not every top-rated club throws out the red carpet for daily green fee golfers.
An earlier reviewer mentioned some of the views being “disrupted by extremely ugly apartment buildings” but those blights on the surrounding landscape didn’t bother me in the slightest. What did annoy me, however, was the constant whine of car engines from the Zandvoort racing circuit only a couple of kilometres to the north of the course – maybe I got it on a bad day when there were a lot of practice sessions going on and the wind direction wasn’t helping but it was a real nuisance having hat background noise all day long.
Our 3-ball was designated to play the A (Van Hengel) nine followed by the C (Colt) nine, with the possibility of playing the B (Pennink) nine after lunch, if the course was still quiet. The opening five holes (A1 to A5) were really solid, all of them playing away from the clubhouse from elevated tee positions to fast running fairways – except the par three 3rd which faces the opposite direction with a green beautifully benched into a large sand hill.
I thought the course then quickly shifted up a couple of gears, with holes A6 to A9 all top drawer. I’m sure others will hate the blind, right doglegged 6th but I loved it. The long, uphill 7th bends right and somehow squeezes through a dune ridge to a green that slopes markedly from back to font, then the downhill par three 8th plummets down to the green from a great height. This fantastic closing sequence of holes concludes with the par four 9th playing to a green that drops offs alarmingly on its left side, close to the clubhouse.
The first three holes on the Colt nine don’t get used for the Dutch Open, probably because the blind opening hole is a step too far for the pros (especially when they’ve already been traumatised by the aforementioned 6th on the Van Hengel circuit). Well, I thought this right doglegged hole was probably the best on that 9-hole loop, playing to a long, shallow green with an enormous bunker in front of the putting surface – and the C11 and C12 holes that follow were decent enough too.
I disliked the 15th (C15) hole and I think it’s the weakest on the property. I know uphill par threes are always a difficult sell aesthetically but this one is so forced and unnatural, it really doesn’t fit into the natural routing. If the green has only been sited on top of a sandhill at the highest point on the course to allow a magnificent tee shot location for the next hole then that’s a price not worth paying for me.
The concluding three holes (C16-C18) are all sound, with the Colt circuit finishing par five, par three then par four – and the final hole in this sequence rises sharply uphill towards a raised green that nestles in the sandhills in front of the clubhouse, with this impressive building providing an imposing backdrop to the final putts on the home green.
We managed to play the Pennink nine in the afternoon and I thought overall that this circuit was more solid than spectacular. The first three holes (B10-B12) which are used for the Dutch Open are all perfectly functional so I can understand why they’re preferred to the initial trio on the Colt nine for the professionals.
The remaining half dozen holes on the B loop (B13-B18) sweep round the northernmost part of the property, following one after the other in the same general westerly direction until the routing turns sharply left, bringing the par four B18 hole back to the clubhouse. It’s all very dependable links golf but the subtle undulations of the landscape on these holes might be a little too bland for some.
The original 18-hole layout comprising the B and C nines offers the most authentic links layout here but I really admired the A nine designed by Frank Pennink – why it’s not called the Pennink nine instead of the Van Hengel nine is a mystery to me – combined with the C nine, especially as the four holes from A6 to A9 form the most thrilling sequence at the club.
I know there are vegetation issues on the A loop, where some bushes and small trees close to the fairways could be cut back, but there’s so much movement in the terrain to make it my nine of choice at a splendid 27-hole facility.
On an astonishingly cold saturday I had the honour of being allowed to play the routing that is used for the KLM Open; which De Kennemer will host for the upcoming three years. The routing (as stated by other reviewers) consists of B1-3, C4-9 and all 9 A-holes.
The four of us took off on B1 and were confronted with a severe wind of 7 Bft. My standbag usually fell over on every hole several times and it was very hard to make good strokes or swings. So far the conditions: The course was outstanding. B2 is a lovely par 3 playing uphill that plays harder than it looks.
The next highlight hole is C6 (or 15) another uphill par 3 with a valley between the tee and the hole, but a visual elevation change of about 20 meters and a bunker beneath all of this to catch the shots that didn’t quite make it and tend to roll back slowly all the way down the slope just to leave a near impossible long blind bunker shot.
This one and the next three are all part of quite an exhilarating finish consisting of the reachable par 5 C7 (16), the wonderful downhill 17th that’s reminiscent of the greatest short holes in the game such as the 7th of Pebble Beach, however lacking no glamour in terms of the backdrop; as the clubhouse that is placed strategically at the highest point of the course is quite a feast for the eye in its’ own right.
De Van Hengel course commences with a long downhill dogleg left par 4 which played impossible considering the prevailing wind. The rest of the holes are all great holes except for 2 which is a bit boring but by no means weak. The standout holes are the great strategic and reachable 6th, where you think the Tiger-line at the blind tee shot most certainly leads to an OOB while in fact it doesn’t.
The 204 meter downhill par 3 8th might just be the best and most beautiful hole in the Netherlands. It has a similar feel to the 4th at Koninklijke Haagsche and even the 15th at Ballybunion. One stands on the teebox all exposed to the elements (WIND) and there’s the choice between hitting a pure long iron or with some winds a driver might be necessary, or hitting a low running shot, using the large landing area in front of the green.
Did I mention that the green is very small, long and sloping to the right trying to push the balls away from the green and there’s gorse on the left and trees on the right and some bunkers here and there? What a magnificent hole.
The 18th is just a nice finishing par 4 and the none can enjoy a well deserved beer in the awesome clubhouse. It is hard to judge where the course should stand in the rankings but I believe the KLM Open routing is a more fair but slightly less exhilarating a test as de Koninklijke Haagsche, and therefore equally enjoyable. MO
Played 27 holes at the Kennemer Golf and Country Club on Friday May 11th at 10:00 AM from the back tees. These were my final holes in a 4 day golfing trip in the Netherlands. For this review will include the 18 holes used to play the KLM Dutch Open which includes holes (A)1-9 on the van Hengel Course, holes (B)10-12 on the Pennink Course, and holes (C)13-18 on the Colt Course.
Overall, these holes were excellent with a variety of shots required to play the lay of the land. On the day I played the wind was blowing the hardest in the four days. Generally, the wind was more shielded on the van Hengel course as it had more elevation changes and was more secluded than the Pennink or Colt courses. The tees, fairways, and greens were all in excellent condition and manicured superbly. The fairways were firm and the greens rolled true. Accuracy was key as it was difficult to get good contact on the ball from the rough.
On the day I played the wind was generally with me on holes A1, A2, A4, and A5 and played into the wind on holes A3, A6, A7, A8, and A9. Hole A1 is a relatively easy 397 meter dogleg left par 4. Hit a slight draw off the tee and the downhill second shot is a nice way to start the day. Hole A2 is a 521 meter par 5 where the ideal drive is on the left side of the fairway and the green can be reached in 2 and is a good birdie hole.
Hole A3 is an uphill 135 meter par 3 with a green that slopes from the back to the front. Hole A4 is a 365 meter par 4 with nice views as the tee is elevated and on this tee had some deer as spectators. The second shot is also downhill and the hole plays relatively short. Hole A5 is a 383 meter par 4 dogleg right with the ideal drive down the left side of the fairway to get a good view of the elevated green. Hit on the green on this hole as a shot to the right will go down the well manicured slope.
Hole A6 is a 332 meter par 4 dogleg right that has a blind tee shot. The drive must be kept on the fairway as to the right the lies can be treacherous for those trying to cut the dogleg. Hole A7 is a 514 meter par 5 with the ideal drive to the right of the tree that is on the left side of the fairway. On this hole the wind was gusting into me and was a solid 3 shot par 5. Hole A8 is an excellent downhill 203 meter par 3 with superb views that is a true test. Hole A9 is a strong 382 meter par 4 that requires precision on the tee shot and an accurate second shot. This is an excellent finishing hole to the van Hengel Course and the rough is very difficult to the right of the green with more room left of the green.
Hole B10 is an excellent 409 meter par 4 which requires accuracy off the tee as the rough can be brutal. When I was playing the group ahead of me let me go through as they had a difficult time finding their tee shots in the rough. Hole B11 is an excellent relatively short 144 meter par 3 with an elevated green that has a severe slope in front of the green. Anything short will roll back down the slope.
Hole B12 is a 480 meter par 5 that requires accuracy off the tee and is a birdie hole with the green guarded by a single bunker in the front. Hole C13 is an excellent 342 meter par 4 that played into a strong wind on this day. Not hitting the ball in the fairway can lead to trouble and the green is guarded by bunkers on the front right and left.
Hole C14 is another excellent par 4 that measures 351 meters and again played into a strong breeze. Accuracy is again key and the green is guarded by bunkers on the left and front right. Hole C15 is an excellent 149 meter par 3 that had a strong right to left wind on this day. Short of the green is a severe slope and the tee shot can roll down the hill if you do not reach the green. The bottom of the hill has 2 large bunkers. Hole C16 is a 439 meter par 5 from an elevated tee and was aided by a strong wind. This hole played my easiest of the day as my second shot was only from about 165 meters. This hole plays as a par 4 in the KLM which makes sense for the pros.
Hole C17 is an excellent downhill 155 meter par 3 that played into a strong gust. The green is guarded by three bunkers and will test your ability. Hole C18 is a nice way to finish the day on this uphill 363 meter par 4 with views of the majestic clubhouse.
Again strong winds were into me and the hole requires solid accurate shots to hit the green in regulation that is guarded by four bunkers. Kennemer was a great way to finish my golf tour in the Netherlands and is an excellent links. In fact, all four tracts (Utrecht de Pan, Koninklijke Haagsche, Nordwijkse Golf Club, and Kennemer) were all excellent and would highly recommend them to golfing enthusiasts.
Click here to see the You Tube photo slideshow video I’ve created. Jim Brady
The last couple years I've had the opportunity to play Kennemer several times and every time it's quite enjoyable and interestingly enough every time it's empty. I believe they have well over 1000 members but based on my experiences there I'd say less than 50 are active and the average age of the membership will likely be about 15 years higher than the number of active members I just mentioned. The experience however is always enjoyable and the people you do run into are very nice, from the caddy master right through to the restaurant manager.
As far as service goes I'd rate Kennemer among the best in The Netherlands as you would expect from one of the top private clubs. The clubhouse is beautiful from the outside and a wonderful backdrop from out on the course, especially the approaching holes. Inside, however, it could use a bit of a makeover as everything tending towards the run down side even though it's been well maintained. I doubt many things have been changed since the clubhouse was built. As such the locker-rooms and other facilities are simply a bit out-dated.
Kennemer has 27 holes, however the championship course comprises nines A and C and while B is also nice for the purposes of this review I will talk about A and C only. I would also like to say that there is absolutely nothing below average at Kennemer however I'm going to be as critical as I can. From an architectural standpoint Kennemer is a bit of a roller coaster ride for me.
It starts great, the 1st hole requires a very good and long drive down the center in order to have a chance at reaching this green from the back tees. I also like the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th holes. All of these are challenging holes some nicer than the others of course but all require accurate tee shots taking the wind into consideration.
The 2nd and the 6th holes are by far the weakest holes on the front 9. The 2nd just being rather easy, boring and straight with little trouble and the 6th in my view is a bit of an odd hole providing a blind shot with a sharp left to right dogleg. No doubt there are people that like it, it just doesn't really make you think very much and seems hard to screw up unless you pull or push the ball 75 meters off one way or another.
The last few times I've played the tee shots on both the par 3's (the uphill 3rd and elevated tee 8th) they were very challenging and into a strong wind coming into our face slightly from the right if I remember correctly. At 203 meters the 8th hole into the wind is a real bear not to mention the fact that you are at one of the higher points on the course and completely exposed. The 9th hole heads back towards the club house and into the wind is also very challenging at 382 meters.
The C course in my opinion is by far the weaker of the two 9's. The first holes is a blind tee shot which is tricky if you don't have the line but very generous as there is quite a lot room out there to play with but it is the first of a few holes which are among the least interesting on this otherwise beautiful and challenging layout. The 2nd and 3rd holes are long straight and boring much like the 2nd hole on the A course. It's abundantly clear why these holes were not used in the KLM Open when it was hosted at Kennemer.
The 4th and the 5th holes get us back to serious golf both with demanding drives which were into the wind on all my last rounds. The 4th green seems much smaller than it is and is quite easy to misjudge and leave the ball short due to it's elevation. The 5th green is highly undulating and also tricky. The 6th hole is a love it or hate type of hole which reminds me a bit of the very odd approach shot to the 2nd hole's plateau green at Cruden Bay. The green on this hole is perched high atop a mound so make sure and take enough club or risk rolling all the way down into the bunker at the bottom. Notably one of the more comical green side bunker I've ever seen (and luckily not been in).
The 7th hole is one of the easiest holes on the course but also one of the most fun for sure. It's a easily reachable par 5 where you tee off from one of the higher if not the highest points on the course with wind behind (at least during all my last rounds) and it's one of those drives that gets your adrenaline pumping as you swing away and let it fly. I'm certain many men walk away from this tee shot thinking "now this is the reason I started golfing, and giving a little "hooah!".
The 8th hole is a great little par 3 to a tricky raised green with false sides/front all the way around and bunkering. A challenging par into the wind. The closing hole is also challenging into the wind at 363 meters with a long uphill approach as you climb back up to the clubhouse which overlooks several holes of the B and C course.
I'm a lover of golf courses that are secluded and in the nature away from highways, cities, noise and other man made objects that take away from the natural beauty. This would be one of my only critiques with regards to Kennemer and unfortunately something they can't do anything about.
There would be beautiful view out over the dunes is unfortunately disrupted by extremely ugly apartment buildings. It is this point and the lack of 18 solid golf holes (12 in my opinion) from an architecture standpoint that will forever keep Kennemer as my number 3 course in The Netherlands, that is until something better comes along to push it further down the list which I don't see happening anytime soon.