Toxandria is not the least celebrated of the “Oude Negen” courses - that relative dishonour likely belongs to cuckoo-in-the-nest Broekpolder. Yet it doesn’t have the wider recognition of a Hilversum or Kennemer. Does it deserve to fly thus so under the radar?
First up though, the name. Despite sounding like a polluted nation state from a dystopian Aldous Huxley novel, Toxandria actually refers to an old part of Southern Holland (& Northern Belgium). A region first documented around 400AD by Roman scholars, the rough Germanic translation might mean “Land of the Southerners”. Nowadays the Dutch area is a province called Noord Brabant - hence the club’s full title. I do not take this trip down memory laan to name-shame those clubs with generic titles, but rather to applaud the small effort required to add a dash of local flavour. Any golf club that encourages you to Google its name before your visit is off to a good start.
Second up, the golf course. The first 9 holes were laid out by Harry Colt, and I think he also completed the second 9 around 10 years later with the help of John Morrison. This architectural provenance ensured my expectations were as high as the average British tourist in Amsterdam. The attractive opening hole is therefore a slightly confusing. It’s a natural beauty with a fairway gently curving away from you left to right, framed but not interrupted by trees. There is a single fairway bunker on the inside of the dogleg and then another right side of the green. This means the smart play is to hit well away from the bunker, leaving you with the best angle to the green. No real risk & reward or sliding scale of strategy here. Tis but a scratch though and just one of eighteen.
Many of the other holes are as pretty as the opener and the bunkering becomes more logical. The land is not particularly undulated and in general it’s a flat course. Several holes feel like they need the same draw from the tee (which meant my power fade often ended up right edge of fairway). This never gets boring as there’s enough variety on second shots, but it does become Familiar. Only one or two playing corridors felt narrow and generally they were just wide enough. It didn’t feel like a particularly tough course, but my scorecard begged to differ, so perhaps it’s a sneaky one. A strong wind did add to the challenge and apparently it often gets breezy here.
Certainly not beezy though and we had the place to ourselves on a Saturday morning. This is a trend I’ve noticed at old clubs with members of a respectable age. Perhaps they avoid weekends as they think it’ll be busy and are happier to play during the week. Could of course also be the current C-word situation having an influence. One of my favourite aspects of the round was actually the relaxed vibe of the place. Some courses let you know they’re a bit special but others allow you to discover it for yourself. Toxandria was friendly & at ease, humility with just a dash of quiet confidence. It’s just the kind of place I’d apply to for membership if a mid life crisis tempts me to cheat on my links course.
The routing is a fine walk in the woods, yet is interrupted by 2 new Frank Pont holes that quite literally go off at a tangent at #5 & #6. These do not have the character of the originals - more Noord Brabant than Toxandria - but I liked them. Taking on & carrying the large bunker 50 yards short of the green at #5 is a thrill, and the tilted green #6 is one of the more striking on the course. More generally it all flows together very well, with just one awkward green to tee walk deep into the back 9 that I can recall.
The class of Toxandria was probably the greens. No dramatic shaping to them, but subtle breaks that will take a few rounds to get the hang of. They rolled as true as steel shafts and were as well conditioned as any in NL. I imagine they can get them up to Linford Christie levels if they so desire.
Toxandria isn’t resting on its Roman laurels and they are busy improving the course with a clear vision of what’s needed. They aim to be finished before their centenary in 2027. Key areas they are working on is tree removal for width, turf conditions, & opening up views between holes, as well as creating (or reinstating/expanding) short grass areas around the greens. The Usual Suspects then, but a fair piece of police profiling as an absence of these qualities are often responsible for crimes against many golf courses. I would maybe touch up some of the bunkering too, but perhaps that’s also part of the plan. When complete, they will be close to maximizing the site’s potential and will have significantly improved their course.
Toxandria does fly under the radar - although it’s not quite a B2 stealth bomber - more people should already see it. As to where it fits into the bigger NL picture, the top 5 courses are sewn up (for now). Positions 6-9 are also fairly secure (you can throw a blanket over these in any order you like). This leaves Toxandria, along with maybe 4-5 other courses, slugging it out for a coveted 10th place. For me it misses out on a split decision (that might all change by 2027’s rematch). Missing out is just a flesh wound, because Toxandria is a fine natural golf experience from the golden age & one that can feel right at home amongst the upper echelon of golf courses in The Netherlands
Date: July 11, 2020