Utrecht de Pan

Utrecht de Pan

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Course Information

If Swinley Forest was Harry Colt’s “least bad course” by his own judgment then Utrecht de Pan can not have been far behind. It is a course that would fit comfortably into a GB&I top 25, yet few golfers have even heard of it. The character is pure heathland – bouncy fairways, springy heather, firm greens. The name of the opening two holes give accurate and enticing hints of what to expect: the 1st is ‘Zandverstuiving’, which translates to English as sand drift; and the 2nd is ‘Pijpestrootje’ – which means purple moor grass, or to us, heather. At the 13th comes ‘Grove Den’, or Scots Pine.

Sand, heather and pines – plus ice age residues that formed a sandy ridge – and the nous of Colt unsurprisingly add up to a course we rank as the second best in Continental Europe.

HS Colt did not routinely lay out modest courses, and he was prolific in the 1920s in the Netherlands, a collection known in the country as ‘The Old Nine’. They are: Utrecht de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumsche, Kennemer, Royal Hague, Noordwijkse, Broekpolder, Rosendaelsche and Toxandria – with the first five on the list all Colt’s work.

He initially laid out nine holes here but so well received were they, routed so masterfully among the woodland, that a second nine was soon added.

De Pan asks an abundance of strategic questions. Imperfect shots are always running out of fairway, towards bunkers and heather. Poor decision-making is fatal.

Guy Campbell, designer of West Sussex, Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s, was one of those to play the first nine. This is his educated verdict: “All the players whose interest in the game extends beyond an unending and unequal contest with ‘par’ have at one time or another conjured a vision of their ideal inland course.

“A course that shall incorporate all the fine features of a links, but with the light and shade, the aromatic scents, and vistas and backgrounds of red-boled, green-headed pines.

“A course where the fairways are spacious, where an erring short will not be lost… De Pan had every one of these rare qualities; indeed, as a dream course, it fills the bill.”

De Pan asks an abundance of strategic questions. Imperfect shots are always running out of fairway, towards bunkers and heather. Poor decision-making is fatal.

It’s also visually breathtaking, right from the moment of arrival at a quaint thatched-roofed cottage that looks like something out of a fairy tale. There is something other-worldly about De Pan. It’s a golfing playground, where the holes are beautifully balanced, with tough par fours mixed in with playful par fives and, as you would expect, stand-out short holes.

Utrecht de Pan

Colt, famously, used to stake out his par threes first when routing a new course and then work out the rest. How it shows. There is not a poor hole here and barely an average one. For a couple of highlights that illustrate De Pan’s charms, consider the 5th, 10th and 15th, a par five, a par four and a par three respectively.

The first of these has actually been amended by Martin Hawtree, and is a dogleg par five with a sting in its tail. The second shot is a real conundrum because the hole turns sharply right around 125 yards from the green and there is a large heathery mound pretty much where you might like to lay up. It’s impossibly pretty, requires much thought and no little skill.

It is almost unfair to pick out one of the par threes but the 15th is everything you would expect from a Colt short hole.

If the 5th is an acquired taste, the 10th is universally loved. It’s a short par four where the tee shot is a lay up to an uneven fairway followed by a short iron to a green that is either completely or partially hidden, according to the quality of your effort from the tee – and the mood of the greenkeeper setting out the pins.

It is almost unfair to pick out one of the par threes but the 15th is everything you would expect from a Colt short hole – played over heather to a slightly elevated green that blends into its surroundings while being well protected by sand and some subtle run-offs.

Elsewhere there are some outrageous blind shots, elevated drives, birdie chances and sharp doglegs. The interest levels never dip and nor does the sense of wonder at how Colt fitted all this into what is a compact site but somehow never feels like one.

The trees may be mature, but there is never an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia, and that despite its 125-acre site, one of the benefits of which means the walk from green to tee is always a matter of seconds.

De Pan mimics the ‘smaller’ heathlands of Woking or Swinley Forest for the most part but on the 16th and 17th it resembles the more expansive Walton Heath as a blanket of heather connects these par 4s. They both have elevated tees to improve the view and a pair of better holes you will struggle to find on the continent.

Chris Bertram

 

Information

Harry Colt

+31 30 696 9120

Amersfoortseweg 1 , Bosch en Duin , Netherlands , 3735 LJ