David J Whyte didn’t need any ‘Dutch Courage’ to spend a week filming in the Netherlands for Go-Golf TV. He discovered that golf is bigger than you’d think in the land of Van Gogh, windmills and shoes carved from wood…
What I like about the Dutch is you never hear them crowing about how ‘they’ invented the game of golf. They’re happy to let us Scots take the glory. But that’s the Dutch for you; kind-natured, even-keeled, happy to oblige.
Whether the game of golf, Kolf or Kolfen really did come across to the Fife Coast from Holland (and I suspect by the above etymology it probably did) is largely immaterial.
What matters most is the game is now thriving in The Netherlands and it’s a destination well worth considering for your next golf holiday.
In a country the size of Southeast England, there are some first-rate golf courses. Of those we recently visited no two were the same.
There were coastal links, woodland parks and cute little waterland courses you could only describe as ‘Delightfully Dutch’.
Golf Holidays in Holland are moderately priced
There are moderately priced clubs mixed with well-to-do members’ clubs.
With the help of our tour operator, ‘Golf in Holland’, we were able to access them all and I must add, it’s a hugely friendly atmosphere you’ll find even at the most exclusive venue.
We wasted no time in getting to our first tee. The International is a steady drive and straight 7-iron from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a brand new facility designed by eight times Ryder Cup player and Masters champion Ian Woosnam OBE.
It’s well worth scheduling your first day’s travel to allow you to play The International. It’s a big course from the pint-sized power-monger, a modern example of rolling parkland, magically made manifest from rubble from the upgrading of Schiphol Airport. You would never in a million swings know it.
Curvaceous, silky smooth and punctiliously put together, the fairways meander between ponds and rippling hummocks.
In spite of its fledgling status, it has a nice, crisp feel off the fairways and super-smooth greens. As you can probably tell, we were most impressed.
The only issue might be its location so near to the airport and motorway system.
It isn’t the most tranquil of golf escapes but its convenience and contemporary style make it a ‘must play’ for your first day.
Zaanse Golf Club
Zaanse Schanze is a small village on the banks of the River Zaan just north of Amsterdam and a popular tourist attraction.
Being so flat and mostly below sea level, The Netherlands had a major interest in windmill technology.
There’s a fair amount of water involved with Zaanse Golf Club. It consists of two loops, an older tree-lined section blended with a more open, modern expanse.
The combination works extremely well and the many small canals and lakes that skirt or divide the holes add to its delightful character.
Eindhoven is in the south, close to the Belgian border yet only an hour and a half’s drive from Amsterdam. Near there, Burggolf Gendersteijn was our next stop, another course of native flavour with a similar background to Zaanse.
It started as a short, wooded nine-holer and expanded into a magnificent 27-hole complex that is clearly popular with locals.
Although we didn’t play it, the original (Green) section, appeared short, tight and testing while the more modern Red & Blue 9’s were open to the air with plenty room off the tee.
This is a great combination for visitors taking golf holidays in Holland. It’s not a tough course but it’s worth including for a steady, enjoyable round.
Royal Palace of Het Loo
At the beginning of June the Dutch celebrate a harvest of the sea with the tastiest, green, ‘new’ herring.
This year, the catch was rather small due to the long winter and lack of plankton to fatten up the herring – but that wasn’t going to stop a good party.
We were invited to the Royal Palace of Het Loo near Apeldoorn to join in the celebrations.
‘Paleis Het Loo’ is a 300-year-old former residence of the Royal Family that has been open to the public since 1984.
The decorations on the inside of the palace alone are worth a visit as are the extensive gardens.
Amsterdam and its quirky culture
Cultural ‘asides’ go hand in hand with a trip to The Netherlands.
Amsterdam is a leading cultural centre and one of the finest cities in Europe. Part of its appeal is the blend of influences from different parts of the world stretching back to its spice trading days.
Holland has welcomed cultural diversity throughout its long history and you appreciate this in the amazing range of restaurants from Indonesia, Argentina and The Far East.
Besides culinary variety, Amsterdam remains a leading centre for the arts. The Old Dutch Masters can be encountered at Museumplein.
Located at the Museumplein are three major museums – the recently refurbished Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum as well as the concert hall Concertgebouw.
If your taste is for something more temporal, take a tour of the ‘Heineken Experience’, based within the Old Heineken Brewery and one of the more entertaining brewery tours we’ve encountered.
You’ll also find a thriving hodgepodge of cafes and canals. But one of the most enjoyable pastimes is to simply stand and watch the city’s population pass by on bikes.
They say there are 600,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. You see many of them at Centraal Station, tied up and glinting in the sun.
The only thing I wondered was how on earth their owners reclaimed their mounts at the end of the working day.
Western Coastal Links
Along The Netherlands western coast are some of the greatest links courses in Europe. At Zandvoort you find Kennemer Golf Club, a links encounter in the midst of rolling dunes, a superb union of 27 holes part of which regularly hosts the KLM Open.
Noordwijkse also regularly hosts the event. Just north of Rotterdam, Koninklijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club is yet another surprising links layout.
These Dutch links courses are almost a mirror reflection of those you find along the Kent Coast such as Royal Cinque Ports or Royal St Georges.
Utrecht de Pan is more like a classic English heathland course – so I’m told. We didn’t get the chance to play all of these but we will next time. It’s always good to leave a few ‘must-plays’ for future trips.
Golfsociëteit De Lage Vuursche also near Utrecht was my favourite round of the entire trip. It has a modern, American flavour but with some classic holes playing through tall firs for the front 9 then out onto wide, lakeside levels that sometimes leave a water carry onto the green.
The condition of the tees, fairways and greens was befitting one of wealthier private clubs in the country. The tour operator, Golf in Holland will get you on and this is one you must play, a class act from beginning to end.
Final Say on golf holidays in Holland
There are around 280 golf courses in Holland, quite a collection for a population of 17 million.
The quality and diversity is remarkable and as yet a largely untapped resource for travelling golfers who are looking for something different.
Good golf is equally matched with fascinating culture and plenty so see-and-do in a city such as Amsterdam.
Prices are most reasonable and you are made most welcome in all of the clubs we visited. I think it’s about time for everyone to discover ‘Golf in Holland’.
David J Whyte is the director and producer of Go-Golf TV – the home of golf travel video on the web.
His 30-minute magazine style golf travel show Golf Passport is aired on globetrotting commercial airlines and on a rapidly growing network of golf websites.
Watch Golf Passport: Golf in Holland here