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De Rosendaelsche Golf Club

15 December, 2011

De Rosendaelsche Golf Club

Our intrepid Benelux correspondent continues his journey around Holland's greatest golf courses

December 2011
All photographs courtesy of de Rosendaelsche Golf Club (except where stated)
When I arranged to play a round at De Rosendaelsche Golf Club, I was surprised to find that the club is not located at Roosendaal as I had always expected. Sure it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the spelling is slightly different, however in my defense we are in the Netherlands and Dutch spelling doesn’t always follow expected rules. It turned out that De Rosendaelsche Golf Club is in Arnhem near the village of Rozendaal. Luckily, the distance from Amsterdam was about the same, but an hour’s drive southeast. On arrival at the club I noticed two things. First of all the freeway literally exits right onto the front doorstep of the club and secondly, as I’d been warned, they are in the process of renovating everything, which is not always a good thing.

I was informed immediately that De Rosendaelsche has the oldest golf course in The Netherlands, dating back to 1908 (the club itself dates back to 1895). This is an interesting fact because it naturally means the course predates the highway by many, many years. I’m developing an intense dislike of noise pollution from government highways that have failed to take golf courses into consideration in the Netherlands. Anyway, it’s not the club’s fault that this freeway is on its doorstep and while De Rosendaelsche is blessed with some of the most beautiful land in The Netherlands, the road noise is, sadly, unavoidable.

Unfortunately, De Rosendaelsche has garnered a reputation for being satisfied to be the oldest course and has traditionally followed a rather frugal development and maintenance policy. I would like to make one thing clear. This is no longer the case. De Rosendaelsche is implementing major improvements to bring this beautiful course up to the highest championship standard. Many of these improvements are already visible, for example Christoph Städler, a renowned German golf course architect, has reshaped all the bunkers on the course – he’s also responsible for the overall renovation programme. I have to say there is nothing better than a classic course that is renovated by someone who respects the original design and does a fantastic job of complementing the playability of the course and the aesthetics. The new bunkering at De Rosendaelsche is a real improvement, both functionally and aesthetically pleasing.

A round at the Rosendaelsche starts with a 366-meter par 4 with a blind tee shot over a high ridge of heather to a generous tree-lined fairway (incidentally all the fairways are tree-lined so that’s certainly not unusual here). The approach is played to a severe right to left sloping green that flattens out on the left side. This green will be lengthened to the left in the redesign, which will be an improvement.

The 2nd hole is a long par 4 of 388 meters with another blind tee shot over a small hill level with the ladies tees. A good drive will leave a mid to low iron to a very long green that is protected by a bunker front left. Nearly all the greens on the course are characterized by gentle borrows that make even short putts challenging.

The 3rd hole is another testing par 4 that doglegs left. A good drive will leave a blind approach shot over a hill to a green protected by a bunker on the left front and trees on the right. The green slopes from left to right and back to front. A new championship tee is being added to this hole to make sure the long hitting pros still have to deal with the blind shot into the green.

The 4th hole is a long, straight and rather boring par 4. Part of this hole is being turned into the new 300-meter driving range that will also have grass practice tees – a rarity in the Netherlands – and they could not have picked a better hole to replace. The 5th hole is a 470-meter par 5 with a sharp dogleg left confronting you from the tee box – notably this hole will also receive a new championship back tee. After the dogleg, the fairway rises all the way up to the green which is a two-tiered green protected by bunkers on the left and right.

The 6th is an excellent par 4 with a dogleg to the right requiring a precise shot to a right to left sloping fairway, which will set up an approach to a green protected by a bunker on the right side with a ridge running through the center.

The 7th is a long uphill par 3, which incidentally plays over the 4th fairway. This is quite a nice hole but it too will be sacrificed shortly for two new holes deep in the forest (a new par 3 6th and a new par 4 7th). The par 5 5th will become the new 4th hole and the par 4 6th the new 5th hole. These new improvements in my view will essentially eliminate the two weak holes on the course. It’s rare that such an inspired change can easily be made to fit perfectly within land already owned by the club and not compromise the routing.

The 8th hole is a 493-meter par 5 with a dogleg right and the undulating fairway heads to a large recently renovated green that will again be rebuilt. This is a fitting example that poor renovation decisions can destroy an otherwise excellent golf course, but I’m certain Mr. Städler will do justice to this hole when the green is finished. The 9th is an excellent little par 3 that is protected by bunkers on the left and front right and there’s a large fir tree that must be circumnavigated. This hole is short but plays into the prevailing wind and is a challenging finish to an excellent front nine.

The 10th heralds the start of the newer of the two nines and makes its way into rolling, forested hills. The par 4 doglegs to the right at about the 150-meter mark and the approach is played to a long flat green protected by a bunker front left. The par 4 11th is one of the most beautiful driving holes on the course. From the tee, the green is not visible due to a large hill covered with heather on the left side. Visually the hole looks extremely narrow and is rather intimidating, however there is far more room than you think and drives hit towards the hill make their way back down to the right. Drives ending on the right will have a view of the flag, but drives finishing left will have a blind approach over the hill to a green that is slightly raised and has run offs to the left and right. The 11th is one of my favorite holes on the course.

The 12th is a great uphill par 3 and at 169 meters into the wind it’s one of the most challenging holes on the course. The left to right, back to front sloping green is protected by a large bunker front right, which gives the hole a very narrow and visually challenging look. This is without doubt one of the most intimidating tee shots on the course and deserves its stroke index 4 rating. The 13th is an old-fashioned, drivable par 4 with a dogleg to the left. From the right side of the tee box the green is just visible but, in order to reach it, a solid, right to left tee shot will be required. It is also possible to play this hole down into the valley, leaving a short iron approach to a highly elevated green protected by a large bunker to the left, which is also significantly lower than the level of the green.

The 14th and 15th are arguably the two best holes on the course, both offer amazing tee box views of fairways that play into either side of a valley. The elevated tee shot of the monster par 4 14th plunges down into the valley inviting the shoulders to be opened, but even the long hitters will be left with a long uphill approach to a narrow back to front sloping green. The par 5 15th (also being lengthened with a new set of championship tees) has a bunker placed on the right side of the fairway, exactly where I like to hit my tee shots. At about 150 meters, the fairway doglegs around trees to a highly elevated two tiered green. This hole is reachable in two but requires an approach over relatively tall trees, which is supremely challenging.

The par 3 16th is an excellent short hole and is my favorite tee shot on the course playing from a highly elevated tee. There are two beautifully renovated bunkers to the left and right protecting a very narrow and longish green nestled between hills of heather.

The 17th and 18th are perfect finishing holes that are also routed through rolling hills. The par 5 17th (which will also receive a new set of championship tees) challenges the driver with a tee shot from an elevated tee into the wind leaving a blind second shot over a hill to a narrow fairway lightly doglegging to the right. The green is narrow and protected by bunkers on the left and right. The mid-length par 4 18th doglegs left requiring a drive to the right side of the fairway to avoid being blocked out by the trees to the left. The green is protected by a large bunker on the right side and lightly tilts back to front.

In retrospect, De Rosendaelsche really surprised me. I’d heard a lot about the course but I think it may be the most underrated layout in the Netherlands. It’s refreshing to see they have clearly stepped up the quality of course maintenance and are really tackling the renovations in a positive way. The result will be a much-improved course that is aesthetically pleasing, playable, great fun for the members but also a stern challenge for any field during championships. Rosendaelsche is very good, with the exception of two holes that are being removed and replaced and this course possibly has the strongest finishing stretch in the country, starting at the par 3 12th.

It will be really exciting to go back and play again next summer to see the renovation progress. Now, if they could only figure out how to move, or at least block out the sound from that darn highway, Rosendaelsche would make my personal NL Top 5 once the renovations are completed. On the other hand, I could always wear noise reduction headphones, playing a chill-out CD with forest sounds and bird song, which would fit the setting perfectly and make the experience as audibly pleasurable as it is visually and technically. David Davis


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