Noordwijk is a bracing North Sea seaside town and golf has been played amongst these Dutch sand dunes since 1915 when the Noordwijkse Golf Club was formed. A housing estate now occupies the original layout and in 1972, Frank Pennink was drafted in to design a new 18-hole course, once again amongst the dunes.
Undoubtedly, Pennink has crafted a classic course on this undulating linksland with each hole winding its way through the dunes and, in a Formby-like style, through pine woods at holes 4 to 7 then 11 and 12. The Dutch Open has been held here nine times and winners include Seve Ballesteros (1986), Bernhard Langer (1992 and 2001) and Colin Montgomerie (1993). Noordwijkse is a supreme pure links test, which stretches to 6,317 metres from the back tees.
To read a detailed essay on De Noordwijkse Golf Club, written by our International Correspondent, click here.
Without doubt Noordwijk has the most natural piece of land of all the courses I played in Holland. It has an uninterrupted relationship with nature, where the only distraction is the beauty of the rolling sand dunes. It quite rightly has a reputation as the toughest course in Holland, and with any element of wind, this status comes to the forefront.
The journey across the property brings you to wonderful vistas and hugely emphasizes the ground game from 100 yards and in. There are visual disappointments from the first and last tee boxes where the practice ground and a car park respectively get into your line of sight. This highlighted some weaknesses with the routing in places. The variety of holes brings golfers from exposed links sand dunes to a handful of tree-lined fairways at the back-end of the property, which added a welcome sense of charm – but these trees must be pruned to ensure the charm doesn’t evolve into suffocation.
Prepare your golf game to be put on trial as the course asks dozens of very tough questions as you traverse a property oozing with great potential. Let’s hope in the coming years that appropriate modifications to the routing are supported by the club and local government so that the architectural merits can be realised like never before.
Noordwijkse was the first of eight courses that I played last week on a short visit to the Netherlands and it established a very high standard for the trip. I can understand why it’s been dubbed a “dunes course” (as opposed to a links course) because many of the holes weave in and around the towering sand hills that proliferate along that particular stretch of the coastline. Fairways played firm and fast, with plenty of opportunities to bump and run around the greens, even for those that were raised.
The opening tee shot from a high, exposed teebox next to the clubhouse sets the tone for the round right from the off, though playing your first shot towards the practice area doesn’t offer the best of visual targets. Then, just as you’re getting into the rhythm of the round on the links terrain, the routing suddenly veers into the woods at the 5th, where the tree-lined hole doglegs right and down to the green.
This short interlude away from the main links action at the most easterly portion of the property ends at the short par four 8th when you emerge from the pine trees at the short par four 8th, playing left and down to a green that sits in a lovely little dell, surrounded by bunkers. One hole later and you’re back at the clubhouse, where the 9th green tilts significantly from back to front.
The back nine is solid, with probably the best hole appearing early on at the uphill 11th, where the fairway rises gradually to a raised green that’s framed by sand hills and pine trees. The toughest hole for me (though its degree of difficulty is not reflecting in a benign stroke index of 14) was the right doglegged 15th, played totally blind off the tee across a group of intimidating sand hills.
If I’m being ultra-critical, some of the bushes and small trees close to the fairways on the more open holes could be removed, affording the course more of a proper links aspect, but this objection to extraneous vegetation could equally apply to the other two top rated coastal courses that I played in the days following so it’s not just Noordwijkse that could maybe benefit with a bit of an agronomic tidy up in that regard.
There’s a very relaxed vibe in the clubhouse, where it’s plain to see that members are proud of their club and their course – as they should be – but they’re not hung up on keeping the place entirely to themselves, even though it is a private establishment. It’s always nice to be made welcome as a guest and to feel like you’re accepted on the same level as those who play here all the time.
One oddity at Noordwijkse was the location of the driving range which had to walk down the first fairway to get to the range. David showed me where the first hole is going to be relocated and it looks like the new location in the sand dunes will make the new hole one of the top opening holes anywhere. The range is also going to be relocated which will remove this oddity. The current first hole is a solid 353 meter downhill par 4 that is a slight dogleg to the left with the green guarded by bunkers on the right front and left of the green. The second is a strong three shot 547 meter par 5 that requires accurate shots to reach the green in regulation. The third is a 152 meter par 3 that has a two-tiered green. I thought the 423 meter par 4 fourth was the most difficult on the links as long and accurate shots are required on this hole. The 377 meter par 4 fifth was a dogleg right that requires a drive down the left side of the fairway to see the green on the second shot. The downhill 171 meter par 3 sixth was a nice hole with a relatively smaller green. At this point there were some pine trees that seemed to be out of place in the dunes. David explained that the Germans planted a long line of pine trees in this area to keep the sand from blowing on the farmlands. The seventh was a short slightly dogleg left 331 meter par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot with two bunkers guarding the right front side of the green. The eighth is a 369 meter dogleg left par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot and unless the drive reaches the top of the hill will have a blind second shot. The ninth is a strong 509 meter par 5 that played into a strong wind on the day we played and was a solid three shot hole.
The tenth was a strong 400 meter par 4 with the drive seemingly an optical illusion to me where to go. Looking out from the tee it looked like should keep the drive right but in reality the line was more left to hit the fairway. The eleventh hole is a 457 meter par 5 that is probably the easiest on the links as long as the drive is accurate. The green slopes broadly from back to front on this green with potentially big breaking putts depending on the pin placement. The twelfth is a downhill short 134 meter par 3 guarded by a bunker on the left. The thirteenth was a short 338 meter par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot with the line the grass bunker in the middle of the fairway. The green has an interesting oblique design and is guarded by a left front bunker. The fourteenth is a solid 514 meter par 5. The fifteenth is an interesting relatively short 340 meter par 4 with a blind tee shot. The correct line is the left center of the large sand dune with the green protected by bunkers on the left and right. The sixteenth is a 358 meter par 4 that requires a drive down the left side as the fairway slopes broadly to the right. The seventeenth is a scenic 186 meter par 3 that requires the tee shot to carry on the green. In front of this green is a very steep slope. The eighteenth is a 358 meter par 4 with bunkers on the right side and a bunker on the right front of the green. Overall an excellent links. Click here to see the You Tube photo slideshow video I’ve created. Jim Brady
The moment you turn off the coastal highway and onto the entrance driveway proceeding through the wooded coastal pine forest you realise you might be in for something special and unique. Upon breaking out of the pine forest and entering through the entrance gate the landscape opens up to the purest of links land. That to which any jolly Scot or Irishman would be incredibly proud. Upon arrival in the clubhouse you experience the “wow” factor I’m talking about. It’s a view I can only compare to that of Cruden Bay or even Chambers Bay where you look out from the highly perched clubhouses and first see what lies in wait before you. The view allows you to look out over much of the course and the rugged, undulated dunes land. It’s tough to hold back the excitement from this point.
At De Noordwijkse it’s clear that everything revolves around one thing and one thing only, that my friends is golf. Everything else is understated, the clubhouse is very nice and cozy, a great place to sit inside before and after your round. However, it’s incredibly understated and from the outside looks like something you might see in the dunes in Scotland or Ireland. The facilities are nice and cozy but the only real luxury is the view, that is, until you’re standing on the first tee. Review by David Davis (Top 100 Benelux correspondent – click here to read the full story.