Occupying more than two hundred acres of former farmland, which is bounded on three sides by woodland, the 27-hole Swinkelsche golf complex is a wonderful example of just what can be achieved through modern construction techniques for a relatively modest cost.
Architect Frank Pont and his team of shapers, led by Conor Walsh, have somehow managed to transform what was a largely flat and featureless property into a natural looking heathland landscape – and one that’s as fit for golf as you will find anywhere in the Netherlands.
Five of the Championship holes are routed through the adjacent forest and little, if any, shaping was required to bring them into play. For the remaining holes though, over half a million cubic yards of sandy soil was shifted – along with the installation of wetland areas, a meandering stream and several water features – during the formation of these fairways.
Overall green sizes range from 6,000 to 9,000 square yards but large areas around the putting surfaces have been finished with green mix, extending the total greenside area around many of the pin positions to as much as 16,000 square yards.
Pont’s “experimental” short par four 11th hole – which is almost as wide as it is long – certainly causes something of a stir with those who tee it up here for the first time. Standing on the tee, facing the enormous sand pit that lies in the middle of the fairway, there has to be at least four different paths to consider en route to marking a potential “4” on the scorecard.
The following edited extract by architect Frank Pont is from Volume Seven of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected].
“The project was uniquely satisfying for me as a golf architect, for three reasons. The first reason was that the client gave us full creative control of the design. The client, brothers Harry and Hendrik Swinkels, stated early on they hired me because they knew little about golf and fully trusted my judgement. Our reference material included visits to several classic Dutch courses and the brothers indicated they were happy to see a course emerge with similar classical and strategic design ideas incorporated.
The second reason was that the client gave me a site that consists of pure sand, with an expansive extent of 250 acres. Furthermore, the property possesses a low water table and, in many areas, is bordered by beautiful mature pine forests. The large site permitted the possibility of many different routings, allowing us to create a sense of space for the players when walking the course. We created strikingly different landscapes throughout the site: from undulating heathlands, to a large lake bordered by some holes, to a number of traverses through the forest.
The third reason pertains to preparation time. Given the lengthy lag between the start of the design and the actual course building, I had a lot of preparation time to deeply consider all design elements of the course, such as the routing, hole-strategy, bunker-style, green designs and what kind of landscape to create on the flat agricultural land. The routing underwent much iteration before we happily settled upon the final configuration of holes, whereby the key was ensuring lively changes of direction.
Swinkelsche’s sizeable greens are generally undulating
and possess a mix of ball-collecting and ball-repelling shapes. This means that
many approach shots finish next to the greens; something we anticipated by
building much larger green surround areas. Regarding bunkering, in order to fit
the big scale of the landscape it was important to make the bunkers
substantial. The bunker shapes are irregular, supported by fescue-laced edges.
And heather-laced too, in places, making them fit nicely into the newly created
Located around half an hour’s drive south east of Eindhoven city centre, the new golf facility at Swinkelsche lies within a pretty flat farming landscape so immense credit must be given for the way many of the holes have been shaped to inject subtle contouring into the playing corridors.
What struck me immediately was the quality of the fairway turf, which I’d anticipated in advance to be parkland in nature – not a bit of it as it’s of a free-draining heathland quality that was an absolute joy to play from. Bent grass greens were also a big surprise so hats off to the owners for the very high standard of construction.
The bunkering is exceptional, with rugged, jagged edge sand traps helping to add visual stimulation on flatter parts of the property, none more so than at the short par four 3th hole, which features an enormous bunker complex to the right side of the fairway, forcing golfers to find a narrow landing area on the left side.
Everything progresses rather nicely until reaching the par five 7th, the first of two holes which wrap around a small lake on the most southerly part of the property.
The combination of sand and water hazards is a daunting enough prospect for the ordinary golfer at the first of these holes but the 8th then brings a large sandy waste area into play off the tee before out of bounds hampers approach shots to the left of the fairway as it runs alongside the edge of the adjacent forest to the green.
Any disquiet about those two holes is small beer compared to the short par four 11th, however. With a massive waste area facing the tee box, it seems only logical to aim right or left but the sight lines are far from clear – certainly on a first play – so the hole didn’t really work for me on the day.
I’m all for making golfers think a little harder about where they should be hitting their ball rather than just blasting away off the tee so fair play to Frank Pont for doing just that on this hole. He’s also established a few interesting wetland areas around that part of the course which no doubt boosts the club’s eco credentials.
I loved the split fairway approach to the par five 14th, the bunkers lined along the right side of the 15th fairway, the routing of the short par four 16th heading back into the woods (even if the gap through the trees is a little too tight), and the raised green on the par three 17th.
Just a pity the round ended in anti-climactic fashion for me at the rather confusing 18th. It’s obvious the home hole must progress to the right of the small ponds and wetland areas that lie ahead of the tee but the fairway is poorly defined and it’s not at all clear where the safe landing areas are as you tack your way round towards the home green.
There are good and not so good aspects to the Championship course at Swinkelsche but one thing’s for sure when you tee it up here, if my 4-ball group’s experience is anything to go by – the course is bound to provide an entertaining round of golf with lots of talking points along the way!