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.
Date: March 28, 2020