The Hague or Den Haag (in Dutch) is known as the “Legal Capital of the World”, thanks to the likes of the Peace Palace and the International Criminal Court. With royal palaces and regular music festivals, the Hague could never be labelled as a boring city but, with Koninklijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club located nearby, and Noordwijkse and Kennemer a little further along the coast, the Hague could be the most exciting links golfing destination on mainland Europe.
Golfers worldwide first sampled the delights of this royal club in 1963 when Byron Nelson played Gerry de Wit in one of the earliest games during the popular “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” series of televised challenge matches.
The similarity between this section of Dutch linksland and that of the British coastline is uncanny. Even though the Koninklijke Haagsche Golf Club was founded way back in 1893, we must thank the design firm of Colt, Alison and Morrison Ltd. for today’s legacy, with the course opening for play in 1939. According to a column in Het Ochtendblad (The Morning Paper) printed in October 1939, Captain Alison designed the course, but couldn't be present for the official opening as he lived overseas.
It’s an exacting layout which pitches and rolls across undulating land. You can be forgiven for having a lack of balance at Haagsche because you’ll find many uneven lies. Host venue for the Dutch Open on numerous occasions (the last was back in 1981), Haagsche is course that cannot fail to impress links traditionalists.
Top-flight professional golf returned to Royal Haagsche in 2010. The inaugural Van Lanschot Senior Open was hosted here in the Hague and Englishman George Ryall prevailed, claiming his maiden European Senior Tour title. Irishman Des Smyth claimed the 2011 title in thrilling fashion with a brilliant final round of 65 then Japan's Masahiro Kuramoto won the 2012 event with an even par aggregate score of 216, beating Andrew Oldcorn by two strokes.
It makes a pleasant change to find great links courses outside Britain and Ireland, so get your skates on and discover this stretch of North Sea coastline for yourself. You'll definitely not be disappointed by the golf that's on offer.
I have always wanted to play Koninklijke Haagsche ever since I worked for TV when the European Senior tour played here a few years ago, I remember the site being breathtaking. Nothing changed as I stood on the tee, it's fair to say that the course is laid out on probably some of the best golfing land in the world.
But I am sad to say this was one of the least fun rounds of golf I have ever played. I thought the course was brutal in every way (from the back tees which I played), it was so hard, but not in a good way, it was overly penal bordering on silly/unfair. I couldn't have been happier for my round to end, which is a great shame, as I want to love it.
The land is hugely undulating and combined with it's links nature (windy, firm & fast), and a number of blind shots makes for a great test. The problem is that these factors alone make it tough, but to add on top of that....greens that are upturned saucers - a lot of them raised & exposed to the wind (2 & 9 come to mind) (the green surfaces were also very very slow, so difficult to putt on, though if they were any quicker i'm not sure how you could keep the ball on the green), narrow fairways (some only 20 yards wide after a blind drive), a huge number of bushes and trees (get rid of them all, the land is so good it doesn't need them).
The 14th (420 ish par 4) was probably the most penal hole i've ever seen, a tee shot over vegetation to a fairway you cannot see, with an approach shot on a hanging lie, to a green raised about 20m above you with a dune to the right and a drop off to the left. Golf is about error, but here there is no room for any, you are required to hit perfect shot after perfect shot. I played recently in the USA and lost 0 balls in 6 rounds, here I lost 7 in the first 14 holes and I think only 2 of them were actually deserved.
I think this place could be even more spectacular if it wasn't trying so hard to be tough. I couldn't imagine having to play here every week, I think i'd lose my mind. Beauty & the Beast.
Calling the Haagsche a penal course is going a bit far. I have played it multiple times without losing a ball (and in that sentence lies the answer which applies to most courses). A first timer playing off the back tees on land like this could struggle. The fairways are challenging if you miss in the wrong places, but there are options, and as an erratic driver I still often (but not always!) play to my handicap here. The drive at 14 is admittedly tough because you have OB left - but it’s also a thrilling second shot.
Royal Hague is routed across a hugely impressive rolling piece of links land that’s ideal for golf. The changes in elevation are dramatic in places, sometimes leading players to exposed crowned green-sites bursting with challenge. Ironically, for such a flat country, I’m lead to believe that the sand dunes in Den Haag are the final piece of natural undulation before Holland becomes really flat in many directions.
The front nine has a much more open and unprotected feel to it, while the contrasting personality of the back nine leads you through more defined delightful passageways, including the local version of Amen Corner – although there are no water features on this course. The club is also embarking on refurbishing all of the bunkers to have a cleaner more defined look that bottom-out appropriately. To date, this project is a huge success.
I thoroughly enjoyed the constant change in direction, especially on the front nine. The par 4 6th hole might be the toughest par 4 in the world, essentially unreachable in two shots into the wind. Is it a fair hole into the wind? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. There are critics who voice disappointment that the two downhill par 3s on the front side are very similar in length, however they play in opposite directions which is the saving grace and both fit perfectly into the flow of the routing. I honestly found every hole to have its merits and be completely memorable in their own unique way.
Despite the 18th hole being isolated behind a row of trees from the entire rest of the course, I found it very hard to critique this course as every hole presented a new challenge and a new exciting visual. I’m thrilled that this course is another Charles Alison masterpiece included in the World Top 100 courses. Across the entire 18 holes, there is a great sense of excitement with a number of the blind shots as they progressively reveal the hole to you. There’s also no scarcity of uphill shots too for a nice balance of strategy across the topography. Fairways and greens are hidden away by the rolling Dutch landscape. There’s no shortage of crowned putting surfaces which add to the links challenge of keeping the ball on the dance floor. Generally speaking, the green contours themselves aren’t particularly of interest, however the location of the putting surfaces relative to their surroundings make up for this with handsome visuals.
Upon reflection of my trip to Holland, I confidently consider Royal Hague the number 1 course in the country as it’s a mighty encounter on a gorgeous piece of property with a dynamic routing that will joyfully bring you to your knees. This is one of a handful of truly outstanding golf courses in Continental Europe.
Royal Hague definitely has star quality - especially when you get to share your round with a genuine Hollywood legend!
The current number 1 course in the country, rated the second best on the continent of Europe, and squeezing into the World Top 100 at number 98 when the global chart was updated almost two years ago, Koninklijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club had a lot to live up to after I examined its ranking credentials before playing the course last week.
The Dutch Open is no longer played here (the course last hosted the event in 1981) but that surely has to do with commercial and/or political considerations – the course’s modern-day absence from the Open roster can’t be because the layout is too short or too weak because it provides golf on an epic scale, with fairways pitching and rolling relentlessly across turbulent terrain.
On the front nine, apart from the 5th and 6th, where the fairways rise gently from tee to green, all the other holes rise or fall significantly, especially the downhill par three holes at the 4th and the 8th, which are as good a pair of short holes as you’ll find anywhere. The short par four 7th, played blind from the tee, was the only hole on the card to disappoint as I didn’t like the shaggy mound protecting the front of the green.
Onto the back nine and the lovely big swale to the front of the putting surface on the 11th hole and the subtler greenside undulations around the green on the beautiful – and relatively flat – 13th were really easy on the eye. The short par four 14th (when played from the regular tees) looks mighty tight from the tee but the fairway opens out at the landing area before narrowing towards the green perched on top of a sand ridge.
The par five 18th then drops down to the most southerly point on the property, furthest from the coast, where the fairway is densely tree-lined on both sides. It feels a little out of step with what’s gone before but the trees help to concentrate your efforts to propel your golf ball safely towards a putting surface that lies a little bit away from the clubhouse – why the home green doesn’t sit fifty yards closer is a bit of a mystery, unless it’s for health & safety reasons, of course.
With Frank Pont consulting, the course is in good hands. Whether it’s installing little run offs around the greens (like the putting surface on #13), replacing bunkers (as with the new greenside trap at #17), or removing scrub to expose natural sandy surfaces (to the left side of #18), these little ongoing improvements – when added up over time – will go a long way to ensure the course moves in the right direction in terms of its presentation and playability.
The Haagsche offers a great combination of rugged beauty and challenge, and is situated in a significantly undulated and at times windy dune landscape that makes shot selection tricky. The conditioning is good and it offers true and deceptively tricky greens sited on perfect plateaus or nestled in hollows. If you miss them and end up in one of the run-offs, you can often have a tough shot trying to get near the hole, and in the back of your mind you won't want to risk chipping or putting off the green it's possible. For me, this is more interesting than heavy bunkering everywhere as you get to play different types of shot. In fact, it wasn't until I stood on the 13th tee that I realized I was looking at a fairway bunker for the first time! This raw piece of land doesn't really need them.
The first hole is an easy birdie/par opportunity, but then the elevation changes and sloping fairways make holes 2 and 3 more challenging, The 4th is a lovely looking Par 3 where l I had no idea what to club but somehow managed to birdie. Good holes just continue to follow as you route your way back to the starter's hut. Loved the stroke index 1 Par 4, think it was hole 6. Faced with a drive looking straight at the dune, couldn't tell if the fairway went left or right. It goes right, and all the way up. Had to play it as a short par 5, and if you miss to the right you have some fun if the pin is on the same side. It's moments like that when I might start recording some video - hoping to capture some magic or disaster from my playing partner. The best stretch of holes that stick in the mind were possibly 13-15 that take you out to a corner of the property and then turn back for home. Found myself in a position on top of a dune beside the green on hole 13 and I wonder if any member has ever been there. Would have been better off with mountain climbing boots than golf spikes. On any number of other Dutch courses you'd be in water or out of bounds. Always nice to find your ball and have a chance, however ridiculous. The 18th is a nice closing hole, albeit a bit out of character with what has gone before - it's tree lined on both sides. Would perhaps also be nice if the green was pushed back a bit closer to the clubhouse for the finish, instead of the practice putting green. Minor complaints though.
All in all the Haagsche is probably the best course I've played in Holland - it ticks slot of boxes - and although perhaps not my favourite, definitely deserving of its current ranking. The land really was perfect for a golf course and Colt made the most of it - the routing, design, and green sites are all very good. They are also not standing still - apparently making some changes to holes 17 and 18 this winter to add yet more challenge.
If you are planning a visit, bear in mind you don't really get winter greenfees in Holland, and as it costs in the region of a cool €150 for 18 holes any day of the year, choose a nice summer's day when the conditioning and weather will be at its best. BB
Went back to the Haagsche this week and it was good to see the recent changes they’ve made to several holes.
16 has a new run off area at the back right of the green, green side bunker removed on 17 to promote more interesting play around the green (and on the day I was glad they’d removed it) and the bunkering around the closing hole altered to add a little more strategy on those fortunate enough to go for the green in two.
This is a great property for Golf and I think I’d have to revise my original review - it’s closer to a 6 ball rating than 5 ball. A duneland classic with but a few faults has just got that little bit better
The round started out with a relatively easy 460 meter par 5 that was playing with the wind and is downhill. I did make my one birdie of the day on this hole and it was nice starting on a hole like this. The second and third holes were solid par fours that play about 350 meters. The second fairway slopes broadly from left to right and the green slopes from back to front. The third played uphill and accuracy is the key. The 4th is an excellent downhill 202 meter par 3 guarded by bunkers on the left, front, and right of the green. I thought the views from the green to the tee were excellent. The fifth is a 441 meter par 5 which was highlighted by the undulating fairway and tiered green. I thought the 441 meter par 4 sixth was the most difficult on the links as it required long and precise shots. The views again were excellent after finishing this hole. The 345 meter par 4 seventh was another excellent hole with a blind tee shot and a pole placed on top of a dune where to aim. The 209 meter par 3 eighth was another excellent hole guarded by a bunker in front. The 328 meter par 4 ninth was another excellent shorter uphill hole highlighted by a green that slopes broadly from back to front.
The back nine started out with a 439 meter par 5 highlighted by a broadly undulating fairway and an elevated green that slopes from back to front. The pine trees on the left seemed out of character to the links up to this point in the round. The eleventh was a solid uphill dogleg right 378 meter par 4 and the 153 meter par 3 twelfth was highlighted by the Donald Ross type crowned type green that was perfectly manicured. The 385 meter par 4 thirteenth was another solid hole. The 387 meter par 4 fourteenth was my favorite tee shot into a valley with more excellent views. This green was highly elevated and the walk to the green was one of the steepest I have encountered on any mountainous course. The 386 meter par 4 fifteenth requires another precise drive and is just another excellent hole. This is a hole where two members in a cart went through me and they asked me how I was enjoying the round and I told them am enjoying every minute. The 350 meter par 4 sixteenth required two precise shots and the 155 meter uphill par 3 17th was another excellent hole with a tiered green. The round finished off with the challenging downhill 500 meter par 5 eighteenth culminating with the view of the fabulous clubhouse. Overall an excellent golfing experience and another solid test of golf. Click here to see the You Tube photo slideshow video I’ve created. Jim Brady
The US country club idea is for some reason a concept that hasn’t really seemed to catch on in Europe perhaps that’s due to the fact that it brings with it much higher membership fees and creates a lot more work for the facilities or perhaps it’s just a matter of history and the fact that many of the courses far outdate the concept all together. In any case, De Haagsche comes as close to this concept as I’ve yet to see on this side of the pond. Beautiful tennis courts, a complete fitness facility and an enormous, warm and inviting clubhouse that just gives the feeling you need to stay for dinner and later gather around the fireplace for drinks. All this and I’ve not even started on the golf yet.
Right out of the starting gate it becomes abundantly clear that a round of golf at De Haagsche is truly like a wild roller coaster ride. Literally, this may well be the most undulated course I’ve ever experienced. Hands down by far the most undulated in The Netherlands otherwise known to be the flattest country in the world. The landscape moves like the swales of the North Sea on a windy day. This makes the importance of a few extra meters on your drives often tremendous and the difference between hitting a blind 4 iron and a pitching wedge approach on many different holes. Another challenge as you might be able to imagine is that this also means that flat lies are pretty rare and blind shots on approaches abundant.… click here to read the full review from Top 100’s Benelux correspondent, David Davis.