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.
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.