Dating back to 1894, Utrechtse Golf Club de Pan is the second oldest golf club in the Netherlands – Haagsche is the oldest by just one year. Harry Colt designed Utrecht de Pan in 1929 and the course is set in delightful wooded seclusion.
A worldwide audience of golfers glimpsed the charms of this layout in 1967 during one of the “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” series of televised challenge matches when the course hosted a tie between Peter Thomson and Dave Marr.
Host to the Dutch Open on three occasions – the last was in 1982 which Paul Way won – Utrecht de Pan is a strategic and exacting layout which requires thought rather than muscle, especially during the homeward nine.
The course is laid out in classic English heathland style, doglegging through stands of pine, birch, oak and chestnut trees with memorable driving holes at the 6th, 7th and 10th where the tee shot is played over valleys of heather and sand. Many are surprised to find the terrain rises and falls as much as it does – particularly at the 6th where both tee shot and approach are played blind – and with no water in play, the main hazards to be avoided are the trees and the few well-positioned bunkers.
On returning to the clubhouse, with its steep thatched roof, there is a statue of Pan – the mythological Greek god – outside, playing his pipes. Hopefully, you will not have encountered him during your round as he is said to haunt the woods and fields, causing anxiety to those who pass through – hence the term panic attack. Actually, with a course as good as this, any worry you may have at the end is bound to have been caused by a below par performance, not by Pan!
Utrechtse de Pan is arguably the best course in The Netherlands. Architecturally it is the best routed course, not only in The Netherlands but one of the best routed courses in the world – a huge compliment that Mr. Colt most certainly deserves.
It’s a highly hidden gem still but in years to come this will change. De Pan is to this Colt fan one of the great master's best efforts anywhere and perhaps his very best.
Why, you ask? First of all, the property is incredibly small, yet the masterful routing gives you the feeling that each hole is completely separated. The sandy heathland makes for ideal golf conditions, firm and fast with appropriate tree removal. The course had hardly any original shaping and the landscape is full of undulations, humps and bumps with greens that can be approached in many ways providing a myriad of options to all lucky enough to enjoy this great course.
The club is also constantly getting better and moving in the right direction with regards to maintenance, irrigation levels, reclaiming width and firming up fairways and greens.
Bravo, please keep striving to make De Pan the best it can be. It’s one of the world’s great courses. The coming years will prove this to the world.
Great to see Utrecht De Pan join Royal Hague in the latest World Top 100 listing as it's arguably the best amongst the small but high quality group of Dutch courses that date back to the "golden age of golf architecture". Constructed on an attractive but relatively small parcel of land, most holes sit in peaceful isolation as Colt and Alison's clever routing fully utilizes the wooded heathland landscape. I'm not convinced by those suggesting that the course is too short at 6,667 yards from the white tees which seems to be more than enough length for the vast majority of players. This is a thinking man's course so a modicum of strategy is required throughout, particularly from the tee. Although fairway bunkering is minimal, a handful are expertly located in the classic Colt style and as with so many of Surrey's finest courses, glorious swathes of heather threaten almost every shot.
The opening trio of holes give an early indication of the wonderful variety on offer. A relatively short opening par five gets us away nicely, followed by a much more challenging and attractively bunkered par four, with the third being the first of a delightful collection of par threes played downhill over heather. The hole most likely to live long in the memory on the front half is the intriguing 6th. A little quirky for some maybe, as you need to drive well to the right or be faced with a blind approach over a huge sandy mound to a picturesque green. Other front nine highlights include the bending then narrowing short par four 7th which is great fun and the beautifully bunkered short 8th.
The back nine gets off to a fast start with a brilliant mid-length par four protected by a narrowing corridor of high sandy mounds and a cluster of bunkers. A stunning hole and the best on the property for many. The next four holes provide both visual charm and no shortage of challenge before we arrive at the excellent short 15th where an attractive raised green, protected by a large bunker and the ever present heather, kicks off an impressive run for home. The 16th and 17th are really solid par fours, both offering wonderful raised teeing areas and both requiring well struck approach shots to well defended greens.
Frank Pont's Infinite Variety company has had a positive impact on the course by renovating many of Colt's original bunkers and stripping back much of the encroaching vegetation, encouraging further heather regeneration. Unquestionably among the very best courses in Continental Europe.
The Dutch use their superlative "Gezellig" for describing many of the finer and intimate experiences in life. It doesn't translate that well (cosy?), but nevertheless applies perfectly to De Pan. It's lovely here.
The course has great variety, albeit a little on the short side for better players. It's quite like the Hilversumsche but has more movement in the land, rumpled fairways, and quirkiness. Assume the land used to be a coastline back in the past or some kind of river valley, as there is sand and dunes everywhere.
Some drives are wide, some are narrow, some appear narrow but are not and vice-versa. Buy a strokesaver because it's pretty strategic and you also can't use driver in every hole.
Many of the holes are favourites, but I would call out the 6th - nothing like the big grin on face moment for our 3-ball of aiming at a cross on a tree as you hit blind over a dune into the green - and the back to back par fours at 16 & 17. All the Par three's are great. The course flows beautifully around the property and in truth I can't think of any bad holes.
Royal Hague is probably the best course in Holland, but this is my favourite.
If you're ever in the neighbourhood, in a land where a €60 green fee can get you utter rubbish on a regular basis, I'd definitely advise shelling out the €120 to play here - a relative bargain.
It's possibly not a 6-ball course but it's more than a 5-ball so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Jim McCann also gave it 6 balls, so hopefully I'm on safe ground. BB
Utrecht de Pan is the Dutch first cousin of Swinley Forrest, which can only highlight the brilliance of the strategic routing, the magnificent short par 4s and the mouth-watering charm of the par 3s.
The course forms a perfect marriage with a vigorous amount of purple heath that traverses the property in exposed areas where it is healthy enough to grow. This course is the perfect veiled venue to enjoy a relaxing afternoon stroll and soak up the intellect of Mr. Colt.
It is relatively flat with insignificant changes in elevation and not a long course by any means. Unsurprisingly there are trees that should be cut down – for example, the large tree blocking the par 5 5th green, the large cluster of trees down the left of the par4 9th and a number of others surrounding the par 3 greens on the back-side. If nothing else, this tree removal will allow for the planting of more heath and expose natural undulations that are suffocated with vegetation. There are also a number of Hawtree greens (eg: the 6th) that have not settled correctly, or don’t quite fit appropriately with the Colt surroundings and philosophies.
Along with Morfontaine, this layout is the best “forest” layout I’ve seen on Continental Europe with an intelligent classic Colt routing that integrates wonderfully with the land. I’d actually love to watch professionals play match-play here to see how the short holes play with their minds down the stretch. In a few years’ time, I would be humbled to return to such a beautiful golf course – a real Dutch secret garden.
I remember looking at this course on the internet at least eight years ago when there was very little information about it on the club’s website (if they even had one back then) and wondering if one day I might get to play such a private, slightly mysterious, layout which appeared tightly packed into a 125-acre secluded woodland property. Well, that sunny day finally arrived last week and it was worth every day of the wait to play here.
There’s more than a whiff of the top English heathland courses here, with firm and fast fairways framed by heather and a beautiful collection of trees on every hole. The routing is just exquisite, with two returning nines somehow fitted into a site that, looking at an aerial map, you would never imagine could possibly support a full 18-hole layout. That’s not to say it feels restricted because it doesn’t, thanks to the deft design expertise of Harry Colt (or, more likely, his associate Hugh Alison) back in the late 1920s.
On the front nine, I gave top marks to holes 2 and 3, a slightly doglegged par four followed by a lovely, slightly downhill, par three. The par five 5th was a bit perplexing, veering sharply right near the green to the putting surface, and it was the only hole on the card that I didn’t like. Any misgivings about it were quickly dispelled, however, as soon as the next two holes had been played because they’re both top drawer material.
The par four 6th is a double-blind hole (which would never get built nowadays) and a stroke index 1 rating correctly reflects its degree of difficulty. The 7th is a short par four that bends 45 degrees to the right off the tee, requiring an intimidating tee shot to be played across 150 meters of heather from an elevated tee position. Combined, these two holes form the main highlight of the outward half.
The back nine begins with another marvellous short par four at the 10th, where the approach is played semi blind through a narrow gap to a green that slopes sharply away from front to back. The par three 15th then begins a brilliant closing sequence, its raised green sandwiched between a sand hill to the left and a large bunker on the right.
Holes 16 and 17 run almost parallel to one another, with both sets of tee boxes located in elevated positions looking down on the heather-fringed fairways below. Normally, I’d frown at the proximity of holes like this but, in this case, they seem to actually complement one another and neither of them detracts from the other.
The round then ends, as it starts, with a par five – only the closing hole is a bit longer and tougher than the opening hole. Still, there’s a good chance of finishing with a par to sign off your round in some style. Even if you’ve not scored particularly well over the eighteen holes, you’ll surely still feel happy to have played a classic old track that you can’t wait to return to again sometime.
De Pan has my vote as being the best members club of The Netherlands. In clarifying what I mean I would point towards the complete package it offers. The course has an excellent layout in a quiet forest setting, it’s compact and very easy to walk yet so many holes allow you a secluded feeling. The course is fair and relatively forgiving in comparison to other top courses in The Netherlands and “YES” this is a good thing for members. It allows for the highest level of pleasure and playability regardless of the hcp’s without losing 10 balls per round in doing so. That is not to say it’s not challenging for all levels just that it’s fair and playable for them. Even this summer which has been one of the wettest on record they have managed to keep the course playable and the rough out of the ball losing standards of the top links courses in NL. It is also notable that most of the holes at De Pan allow many choices of shots and strategies as well as proper usage of the ground game, which I highly enjoy.
Since there is so little to be critical of at De Pan I will start with a couple comments I’m intending to be lightly sarcastic but true to my personal experience… Click here to read the full De Pan review from our Benelux correspondent, David Davis.
As far as the holes, De Pan is a very well designed course that requires accuracy and positioning shots using the correct lines. The first four holes were solid holes. Hit the ball well and you can score and be offline and you will be penalized. Golf the way it was meant to be played. I enjoyed the dogleg right par five fifth that required a very accurate second shot to a sloping left to right fairway and avoiding the fairway bunkers on the second shot. The next 3 holes were all good tests and I encountered something on my tee shot on the ninth that have not experienced before. The tee shot had to be hit over the 8th green from the back tee. Luckily a group was not behind me at the time.
The 10th hole tee shot was my favorite on the course and the view was fabulous on both the tee shot and second shot. Accuracy is definitely a necessity. I thought the 11th was a relatively straightforward par five with the 12th a challenging par 3 playing in the rain at the time and against the wind. I thought the 13th was the most difficult par 4 on the course and measured 409 meters with well place bunkers. The 14th was my favorite as I made my only birdie of the day there by holing a 2 meter putt. The bunker and grass around the bunker on the left side of the green were manicured to perfection. The 161 meter par 3 15th was an excellent hole with a well placed bunker to the right of the green and a large undulation on the left front of the green that could lead to some interesting shots depending on the pin placement. The day I played the pin was in the back right of the green.
The 16th and 17th holes had a little different feel to them as trees did not line the entire fairways separating the holes. The trees only went part way down the holes, however, accuracy is still a key as the rough was very rough and difficult to get out of. The finishing par five 18th hole was another solid tree lined hole that required accurate shot-making to score well. Overall, an excellent golfing experience and a solid test of golf. Click here to see the You Tube photo slideshow video I’ve created of all 18 holes. Jim Brady