Frank Pennink set out the original 9-hole Wouwse Plantage woodland golf course at the end of the 1970s and it would take just over another decade before Paul Rolin added a further nine holes on adjacent agricultural land to complete the layout.
The modern day routing begins and ends with tight, tree-lined Pennink fairways played through tall Scots pine trees – epitomised by the arrow-straight par five 15th – whilst the Rolin holes occupy a more open landscape between the par four 6th and par five 14th.
Ken Moodie was engaged in 2006 to undertake a program of course improvements, when he altered a number of greenside and fairway bunkers and renovated many of the tee boxes around the layout.The course hosts the annual PGA Trophy, organised by PGA Holland, which is a three-day professional tournament with one of the days reserved for a pro-am competition.
Architect Ken Moodie kindly provided us with the following exclusive article:
“When woodland management consultant John Nicholson and I first visited Wouwse Plantage Golf Club to conduct a Course Review in 2003, the golf course consisted of two very different loops of nine holes; the original course designed by Frank Pennink in the 1970s and the newer nine by Paul Rolin in the late 1980s.
The challenge was to put together a course improvement programme which would provide greater harmony between each set of nine holes and improve its appeal for golfers of all abilities.
This was done by strategically re-bunkering the course in a similar style, extending some of the smaller Pennink greens to provide some more interesting pin positions, breaking up the long runway-like tees on the Rolin holes into three or four smaller teeing areas to offer different angles of play, and adding some back tees to challenge the top players.
In addition, the very narrow woodland holes on the Pennink nine were opened up by selective tree clearance to introduce more interesting playing strategies. Ornamental trees on the Rolin nine were removed to reveal pine trees in order to change its former parkland character to a more heathland one, in keeping with the original nine.”
Wouwse Plantage is an interesting course in the deep south of the Netherlands, consisting of the Plantage (the original Pennink 9) and Bleekloop (Rolin extension) loops, which do not play in a particular order. I started off at the Bleekloop though, so I’ll start from there. The first is a drive and pitch hole with an extreme new green at a 90 degree angle from the tee. An aggressive drive leads to short pitch, but is it worth the risk? There’s ample room on the left, but it leaves a difficult second. The course then gives you some room to grow into your round, although there are some difficult teeshots and lateral water hazards to be negotiated. The landscape is nice and open, the holes attractive and the green complexes nicely shaped. Most people however will prefer the Plantage loop, which is laid on an exhilarating, densely wooded heathland parcel. After a gentle start with a nicely bunkered reachable par 4, followed by an engaging long two-shotter requiring two quality shots and a long par 3 in open land, all within sight of the lovely classic clubhouse looking out over the fields of heather. The drive on the takes you into the forest for the first time with an uphill shot. The next couple of holes are carved through the forest. Especially the 5th would benefit from further tree clearance as it is the most claustrophobic hole on the course, while it does require a long straight drive, well positioned for the approach to a crowned green with runoffs and the corridor getting narrower towards the green. The vista towards the 6th and 9th green with its pretty water hazard is nicely done.
The 6th and 7th are my favorite holes on the entire course. The 6th is a long treelined par 5 with an impressive, layered and raised green complex. The highlight of the round comes at the par 37th, which has enjoyed a transformation by restoring the natural blowout landscape one needs to carry in order to reach the green, nestled and sunken into a dune. It looks amazing and could be a standout hole anywhere.
The 8th is a quirky, blind teeshot par 4 fading gently to the right and the finish is a proper two shotter, to – unfortunately – an over the top shaped green sharp against the edge of an typical Steensels (american style?) water hazard. It looks too modern, too unnatural to fit the rest of the course.
That is my main negative takeaway from Wouwse. In general, I do like the renovation. There are a lot of postives such as the tree clearance program, the wonderful 7th of the Plantage and the tasteful bunker renovations. The Steensels style fits well on the Bleekloop loop. The renovation has clearly taken the course to a higher level. On the flip side, Steensels imo has tried too hard to press his mark on the course by incorporating extreme, over the top greens (Plantage 18, Bleekloop 1, hazards and illfitting styling of hazards, bunkers perching the edges of the water hazards. This has likely cost a lot of money and could likely have been spent more wisely. I’m sure many will marvel and enjoy the looks of it though. It just doesnt fit the classic feel of the course and I don’t love the style personally.
If you remember anything from this review, don’t let it bet be my mixed feelings on the renovation though. Wouwse Plantage is a really good and pretty course, its presentation is excellent and in my opinion its worthy of a top 15 spot in the Netherlands.