noordwijkSe GOLF CLUB - 16 points
Sometimes you just get a good vibe from a golf club from the off. When we arrived at Noordwijkse, on the Dutch coast, we had a warm greeting and great service in the friendly bar. It put us in the right frame of mind for a game of golf on this great bit of links land.
And great land it is. It is widely stated that this is the best links in the Netherlands and it's hard to argue with that. There are fantastic dunes which the course winds through and, rather unusually for a links course, some holes through the trees. You will hear many experts say those trees need to go as they detract from the traditional links nature of the course, but they are only there for 4 holes and really weren't as offensive as I had been led to expect.
The course was far less polished than the others we played on the trip, in fact parts of it were pretty shabby. The view from the first tee isn't helped by a scrappy driving range alongside it, nor the view at the 18th where you play alongside the car park, but in some ways that helped make the course and club feel more authentically about the golf. Ballybunion has a caravan park along the first few holes but does that make it a lesser course? Maybe, but it also feels real and linked to the world around it.
The condition wasn't quite as good as nearby Kennemer - the ground didn't run anywhere near as firm and fast and the rough was more gnarly and less well-kept. There were a few too many random bushes and clumps of rubbish in the rough which they could do well to strip out.
I had read that the greens here were just too punishing. "Small" and "raised" were themes. While I agree they could do with a little more acreage and the opportunity to run the ball up more often, I wouldn't say this was an overwhelming concern. I'd argue that the greens at Royal Hague are more frustrating and punishing.
I would agree that this feels like a course which has huge potential. The dunes setting is phenomenal and the course doesn't quite deliver against the setting as you would hope. But I don't think that makes this a bad course. It was an enjoyable round and we definitely left with a smile on our faces. However, a few weeks later I really struggle to remember any holes and, given the land they have here, that feels a little bit of a shame. I would absolutely recommend putting this on your itinerary for a visit to the area, just make sure expectations are set - this is a warm-up act for some of the real Dutch masterpieces to come.
BOOKING THE COURSE
As with all private Dutch clubs, play is possible but takes a little bit of planning. You won't get a round on weekends or holidays but there are times available outside of 'core hours' on weekdays. You'll find all the details here. You'll need to send an email to the secretary to get it all sorted but we found them to be very responsive and it was easy to sort out.
Noordwikse is just south of Zandvoort which is a good place to stay. It's got a fairly lively nightlife and the course of Kennemer which should definitely be on your list. In terms of golf courses to play, Royal Hague and Utrecht are the other two in the top 4 in the country and well worth your time.
It's pretty easy to get around here - although driving in the town requires plenty of your attention - and the golf is great value. To read all the details of how to plan a trip and some tips for doing so have a look at my blog here.