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There’s no “Going Dutch” at The Dutch

30 November, 2011

There’s no “Going Dutch” at The Dutch

Invited to play the most exclusive golfing facility in the Netherlands, our Benelux correspondent shares The Dutch experience

November 2011

A day at The Dutch is really a unique experience, which up until now has not been equaled in the Netherlands. It all starts when you drive up to the manned entrance house and gate. Here you are immediately met by a gentleman with a smile on his face and clipboard in hand, something that rarely happens in Holland unless there is a police officer issuing a speeding ticket or a utilities company meter reader knocking on your door to penalize you for excessive use of lighting during the dark winters. This gentleman welcomes you and checks you off the guest list. As you drive down the approach to the beautiful clubhouse, the very best practice facilities in the Netherlands appear to your right and you sense a great day is in store. Two young men meet you and welcome you, asking you to leave your clubs in the car and just take your clothes into the clubhouse. They inform you that when you are ready your clubs will be waiting at the practice facility. This is a rather unique level of service in golf and reminiscent of some very special places… Whistling Straits, Bandon Dunes, Shoreacres and Loch Lomond spring to mind.

As you make your way into the clubhouse it is evident that an enormous amount of attention has been paid to the fine details here at the Dutch. On top of that it’s clear that no expense has been spared with the furnishings from the quaint whisky and cigar room, equipped with private lockers for the members, to the cozy meeting rooms, Board Room and library. Various paintings, maps and old golf collectibles decorate the walls, many with the purpose of drawing as many parallels as possible between the Netherlands and Scotland – arguably the two homes of golf.

Of all the features the clubhouse has to offer, the men’s dressing room is unquestionably the most memorable as it’s one of only a few in the world that has a fully equipped bar taking your orders and offering drinks upon entrance. With lounging chairs all around and flat screen TV’s in abundance, a trip to the men’s room takes on new meaning here at the Dutch. It provides the perfect setting to tempt your opponent into a few pre-round drinks to establish that ever so important competitive edge.

The practice range is where I could easily spend my day. First of all, it’s one of the few in the Netherlands where you can practice from real turf instead of mats. The balls are stacked and waiting, both at the chipping and pitching range as well as the driving range. As always, a trip to the first tee is not complete without a stop at the putting green. At the Dutch, this is an absolute must and it will shock most golfers because the greens are incredibly fast and very undulating. In my opinion, The Dutch is the only course in the Netherlands with world-class green complexes and I was personally thrilled with them. I honestly didn’t think that any club in club in Holland would build greens as good as these – if anyone gets the chance to play this course, I’d highly recommend paying very close attention to their features. I think greens are an essential element that separates good and world-class courses. It’s also one reason why there are only a couple of courses in Continental Europe that ever make the World Top 100.

Completely ready for the start of my round and having mainly focused on the facilities to this point, which are phenomenal in every sense of the word, it’s important to also look at things with a critical eye. In doing so I’d like to quote my favorite and most respected architect, Alister MacKenzie, upon seeing the property at Cypress Point, California: "It would be difficult to over-estimate the great possibilities of a golf course at Cypress Point. I am fully acquainted with the world's greatest golf courses and have no hesitation in saying that in the beauty of its surrounding, the magnificence of its sand dunes, its spectacular sea views, its glorious Cypress trees - there is no better opportunity of making [a golf course] which should be superior to any other.” You may wonder what’s the point of that quote being placed here? My point is simple. The greatest golf courses with few exceptions find themselves in the greatest locations, full of natural beauty with magnificent landscapes. While it’s clear to me that no expense was spared in creating the Dutch – and they performed miracles with what they had – in the end, what they started with was arguably one of THE worst locations to build a top course. Apparently, the site was so bad that European Golf Design (after surveying the property) left, refusing to build the course. The ground was simply a large, perfectly flat and rather square parcel of land that I would call swamp. On top of this, the location is two well-hit drivers away from a freeway, which makes the club easily accessible, but constant road noise is the flipside.

Standing on the 1st tee, which is a short par 4, the main thing that caught my eye was the first green but, with the exception of the drive on the 2nd hole, which was a bit intimidating with water running down the right side, it was the only thing that left a significant impression on me until I reached the 8th hole. Commentators have previously stated that the Dutch really begins at the 8th. But to be fair, there is nothing wrong with the first seven holes. In fact, they are tremendous fun, they’re fair and playable for all levels of golfer but they are rather unspectacular, apart from the green complexes.

However, the 8th hole is a perfect little par 3 and my favourite hole on the course, which plays 169 meters from the tips. Bunkers left, right, front and back heavily protect the raised green complex. The various run offs combine to make one of the most beautifully shaped, heavily undulating greens I’ve ever seen. The 9th hole is a strong par 4 at 425 meters and a tough driving hole with fairway bunkers to the right and left. The green is often out of play for the second shot, or at least leaves a very testing long iron over water that lies short of another very undulating green.

Holes 10 and 11 pick up where the front nine ended in terms of challenge. 10 is a tough par 3 that normally plays into the prevailing wind. Water skirts along the right side all the way to the front of a slightly elevated green that is guarded by mounds of rough and bunkers to the left and right. 11 is a challenging and long par 4 that also plays into the prevailing wind. Long hitters will have to beware of the burn running through the fairway. The green is again slightly elevated and short approaches will feed right into the bunker protecting the right side of the green. This green is sloping left to right and front to back with tricky undulations throughout.

The 12th hole is a short and tricky par 4 with a sharp dogleg left. A good drive will leave a short iron approach to a long, narrow, back to front sloping green protected by water on the left and bunkers on the right. Literally danger waits on every corner of this lovely little hole, which is the toughest hole on the scorecard. The 13th is a long par 5 that certainly challenges you from tee through to green. The drive is narrow with water on the right and bunkers left. The second shot must again take the burn into consideration. Lay up short of the burn and you are left with a long iron or wood to a highly elevated and undulated green. In fact, this green is the highest point on the course, which probably rises to the dizzy height of three meters below sea level!

The 14th is another excellent par 3 with another undulated green surrounded by deep bunkers. The 15th is another very long and testing par 5 with water just short of the green and when this hole plays into the wind there will be absolutely no easy approach shots. Water again comes into play on the par 3 16th which at 158 meters (183m championship tees) is certainly no pushover as it’s all carry to the green over water and the further left you hit the longer the carry… as I found out the hard way.

The par 4 17th is in my opinion one of the hardest holes with the most danger. Its index rating is set at 13, but it presents a tough drive with hazards everywhere. With an approach to a small, undulated, two-level green, water short left, bunkers both sides and no option of hitting long, it’s one of the best and toughest holes on the course. The home hole is a mammoth par 5 where the second shot and the approach shot are challenged with water on the right side and bunkers to the left. The green is very large and again very undulated, sloping in places towards the water to catch slightly errant shots.

It was great to see that after a solid but unspectacular first 7 holes the Dutch really stepped up and produced a simply fantastic last 12 holes. Yes, I’m including the 19th, which is very special indeed and starts when you hit the men’s room where you are immediately treated to your first post match drinks, which can accompany you straight into the shower or sauna. A great way to round off a perfect day on the golf course!

In the end I’m really impressed with the experience created by Made in Scotland at the Dutch. Despite the location they have done sublimely well with an amazingly unspectacular piece of ground. The outstanding green complexes are the highlight of the course and they set a new world-class standard for the Netherlands. These greens alone are more than enough to make me want to play the course over and over again in various weather conditions. Unfortunately, the vast majority of golfing Holland and myself will not be able to watch The Dutch mature over the coming years. That luxury is reserved for the members and their very fortunate guests. David Davis


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