The Veluwe region in the province of Gelderland is quite unlike many parts of The Netherlands in terms of its topography as it’s far from flat and featureless. Instead, this 1,100 square kilometre area is hilly and forested, formed many thousands of years ago by glaciers pushing sand deposits sideways from the Rhine and Maas deltas.
It’s a popular place for Dutch people to visit, discovering beautiful nature reserves like De Hoge Veluwe National Park and Veluwezoom National Park, museums such as the Kröller-Müller and Het Loo Palace, along with many other little attractions like small zoos and animal parks located in among the woods, the heaths and the sand drifts.
Situated outside the small town of Ermelo, near one of the Royal Netherlands Army barracks, The Links Valley golf facility occupies 65 acres of an old landfill site which was given a new lease of life with the introduction of a new golf facility in 2018. Designed by Frank Pont and shaped by Conor Walsh, this layout is billed as Europe’s first reversible course.
It’s basically an “inland links” layout, cleverly incorporating several large sandy scrapes into the design. And because the site is sand-capped, the fairways play remarkably firm and fast. The North course features one par five (at the 1st) and two par threes (at the 3rd and 8th), while the South course has a couple of par fives (at the 1st and 9th) and three short holes (at the 2nd, 5th and 7th).
The reversible Links Valley is a thoughtful effort, with the variety of green sites being the course’s (courses’) best feature. It’s a shame this thoughtfulness didn’t extend to coming up with a better name than the oxymoronic “Links Valley” though. It’s not a Links, and being perched up on a hill, it’s not a Valley. Bit of a rubbish name then but perhaps it’s wonderfully appropriate after all considering the former land use.
There are skyline greens, perched greens, graded greens, greens with false fronts, and most of them have sufficient undulation, as well as short grass around them with collection areas for enjoying various recovery attempts. This draws comparisons with the designer’s decent efforts at Turfvaert & Swinkelsche. A punchbowl is all that’s missing. I also like the way the greens are angled to the line of play, so that second time around you would think a little - execution optional - about your angle of attack. The designer may be recycling old ideas here, but they are good ones that give sustainable pleasure.
I’ve played 36 in one direction and 18 in the other, so the routing is actually a little mixed up in my head. It’s efficient use of the land and there is little that goes to waste. You essentially play a few holes on a hill and then the rest around said hill. Or vice-versa. This isn’t super-inspiring but was likely the best option available. At this point it should be noted that when golfing on a “hill” in Holland, “hill” is usually a euphemism for “landfill site”.
There is good hole variety within the compact routing - blind tee shots, gentle doglegs in both direction, at least one short par 4 (with an overly penal blind central grass bunker), and some interesting routes to the greens. There’s also more land movement & elevation changes than on your average Dutch polder course. It’s not overly long, so there are no yard trimmings required here, as long as you choose a suitable tee. At this point you have to tip your cap to the designer.
The green side bunkers are well placed but I’d welcome a few more fairway versions. Perhaps this was considered, but due to a lack of width in the site, the idea was binned. In places there is too much sand near green sites, an idea reused a few times, which leads to extremely hazardous waste areas, an idea I personally find rather trashy. It is clear that the designer has treated the land as a canvas on which to throw down a bunch of ideas that he had at his disposal. The design feels quite minimalist and is not littered with the superfluous features you find on some courses.
I’m happy enough with 9 holes but undecided about the reversible concept. Is it a clever sustainable & commercial solution to adding additional hole variety on a limited parcel of land, or is it a compromise that jeopardizes the full golfing potential of a site? Perhaps it’s both and the tipping point is in the quality of the execution. Recently I’ve been working from whilst schooling my kids, and I imagine this is a little what it’s like trying to design a reversible golf course. Multi-tasking like this surely has an impact on overall quality - with each hole likely to be affected when it cannot have complete focus and consideration in isolation. Perhaps there’s a niche market for female architects to design reversible golf courses.
If anyone tells you this place is garbage, they wouldn’t exactly be lying, but context is everything. I do like this track and it’s a pleasant environment that I’ll happily to visit once a year. It was a bit of a dump when I visited, due to being unfinished, so I’ll also look forward to seeing how it beds in and improves over time. There are even little voices in my head suggesting it could have been a Nederlands Sacred Nine - which would also have provided some significantly better naming possibilities.
The Links Valley is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the domestic Dutch golfing scene, and worth seeking out for any international visitors curious to experience the rarity of a reversible golf course. If you have the opportunity to play here, don’t refuse.
I played here at the end of a short 3-day trip to The Netherlands in October 2018, a few days after the chic new clubhouse had opened. At that time, the course didn’t have a page set up for it on this website so I’m only now getting round to writing about it. The South (a.k.a. Gold) course was in play the day I was here but I’ve since heard the club sometimes holds events where one course is in use in the morning then the other in the afternoon.
It’s a little disconcerting to arrive at the club and see the gas flare situated close to the car park but that’s a legacy of the property’s former use as a landfill site which allows underground gases to be flared off safely. No doubt this equipment will be screened off eventually but there’s nothing wrong with reminding everybody of what went before this place was reclaimed – after all, the Dutch have a pretty good record at land reclamation, even if it’s normally on flatter ground closer to the sea!
There’s a lot to like about the South layout, especially the par three 2nd & 5th holes (both of which feature front-to-back sloping greens) and the par five 9th, with trees to the left of a fairway that bends left and narrows as it approaches the pear-shaped green below the clubhouse terrace. Throw into the mix blind tee shots (at #3, #4 and #6) along with large sandy waste areas (at #5, #7 and #8) and you have an unexpected little links-like treat situated 80 kilometres from the coast.