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.
Date: December 21, 2017