Royal Hague

Royal Hague

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Course Information

Harry Colt is revered among course architecture aficionados in Great Britain and Ireland, but his status in these islands is low key compared to his reputation in the Netherlands. The Dutch regard anything touched by Colt as inevitably and indisputably excellent, which to be fair is routinely the case with his work. Royal Hague is one of the courses in the Netherlands under the Colt umbrella, although it was actually his long-time associates John Morrison and principally Charles Alison who deserve the credit for one of the continent’s most robust and demanding seaside courses.

By the late 1930s Colt’s deteriorating health prevented him from travelling widely so he left the 10th and last Dutch design by his firm to Morrison and Alison.

It was actually the second course to belong to the Koninklijke Haagsche club, which was founded in 1893 but had its original course destroyed in World War II so moved to a new site two miles from the sea in the 1940s.

An existing course had been built by a wealthy businessman on the land in 1938 but it was transformed by Colt’s firm and quickly gained international acclaim.

Byron Nelson even played Gerard de Wit in a 1963 episode of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, which watching it now on YouTube shows how the early days of Royal Hague saw it draped over open linksland with barely a tree in sight.

While Alison’s tendency was to create more adventurous green complexes, the usual deceptively flat-looking but difficult greens are in evidence here.

These days, a variety of trees are part of the Royal Hague experience, in a manner you do not see on British links. This dune landscape, as well as the influence of Morrison and Alison, sets it apart from other Colt courses in the country.

The most southerly of the three seaside courses – The Kennemer and Noordwijkse are the others – that sit between the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, here the bunkering is larger, deeper and bolder yet only 19 were used, including one fairway bunker.

But while Alison’s tendency was to create more adventurous green complexes, the usual deceptively flat-looking but difficult greens are in evidence here, as are prominent humps and hollows around them. Those greens were rebuilt under the guidance of Colt specialist Frank Pont after the clay bed on which they were founded became impenetrable.

“Royal Hague was built by carting in fertile clayish soil on to the areas of the greens, tees and fairways,” explains Pont.

“This worked fine in the first decades and allowed for golf to be played in this barren dunes landscape, but became a problem in that in the winter the fairways are softer than one would like for a true links type course.

“Also, the old clay layer, after 70 years of topdressing on the greens, had sunk so deep it had become an impenetrable layer that could not be broken anymore.

The surfaces are now pristine, firm… and quick, making them one of the aspects of Royal Hague that make it a stringent examination.

“My brief was to design 17 greens, green bunkers and green surrounds. These had to be as close as possible to the originals in case of the greens that were still original, and for the greens and bunkers that were not original anymore I was asked to redesign them if necessary.

“I used the earliest pictures I had of the course – originally pictures from 1954, later even from 1946 – and the only changes I allowed were to correct drainage issues.”

The work has certainly reaped rewards, for the surfaces are now pristine, firm… and quick, making them one of the aspects of Royal Hague – given its prefix by Queen Beatrix in 1993 to celebrate the club’s centenary – that make it a stringent examination.

They are often crowned in nature, putting a premium on well-struck and accurate approach shots, and there is minimal assistance if you have erred, with false fronts and run-offs surrounding them.

The necessity for solid approach shots in turn puts a premium on good driving, and here Royal Hague is indubitably demanding, asking you to nudge your ball down relatively narrow fairways that roll over significantly undulating land that incorporates mounds, hollows and ravines.

Slightly wayward drives will end up hindered by bushes, trees or marram and, because the raunchy terrain itself can often obstruct clear views of the green, the stronger player is rewarded for astute placement of their tee shots.

That may all sound like laborious work, off its 6,800 yards, and there is no doubt Royal Hague will appeal greatly to the low-handicap player. Indeed it is sufficiently strong enough to have hosted three Dutch Opens – in 1972 (Jack Newton), ‘73 (Doug McClelland), and ’81 (Harold Henning beating Nick Price and Ray Floyd).

Trees frame the view down the 18th from an elevated tee that shows the distinctive red parasols of the grand clubhouse.

However its greatest strength is in the uncommon variety to the holes. It begins with a gentle par 5 that is principally notable for the uninhibited views it offers of the expansive landscape and is followed by two stiff, stellar two-shotters and then a fine downhill par 3 whose tee offers the course’s only view of the sea.

The pace is maintained by the long par-4 6th and the sporty two-shot 7th, complete with a blind tee shot over a dune-top marker post.

The 10th starts the back nine strong, a wonderful pine-lined three-shot hole but soon the links opens up, with the excellent short 12th to a domed green and the 14th beginning an appropriately high-calibre closing run that concludes with the most enclosed hole on the course.

Trees frame the view down the 18th from an elevated tee that shows the distinctive red parasols of the grand clubhouse.

It’s not a grand old clubhouse though, the original having burnt down in 2002 (the previous year, the same fate had befallen its English twin Royal Mid-Surrey, who returned the letter of sympathy they had received 12 months previously, with a handwritten ‘Same to you’), but it oozes old-world pedigree from every sumptuous leather chair, every ornate fireplace and every handsome painting.

The Golf & Country Club suffix to its name betrays the fact this a retreat for the lawyers and politicians of The Hague and Amsterdam, who enjoy the association with one of the continent’s most distinguished clubs and courses.

 

Information

Harry Colt / JSF Morrison & Frank Pont

+31 70 517 9607

Groot Haesebroekseweg 22 , EC Wassenaar , Netherlands , 2243