Frank Pont of Infinite Variety Golf Design has completed a restoration project at Amsterdam Old Course in the Netherlands, designed in 1935 by the firm of Colt, Alison & Morrison.
Hugh Alison was principal architect when the course was first designed on flat ‘polder’ land surrounding the city. At the time of opening, Dutch magazine Golf wrote: “Without any natural help in this flat terrain, Alison’s creation is to be admired.”
Originally an 18-hole course and home to Amsterdamse Golf Club (AGC), the layout was reduced to ten holes in 1990, when AGC built a new course between Amsterdam and the nearby city of Haarlem. Further changes took place in 2005 when the Dutch Railway, owners of the land, built a new railway line through the property.
The site’s peat soils have over the years caused fairways and greens to sink, and during the months of October to March, most holes were unplayable.
A restoration was made possible after the club found a partner who was willing to remove the peat soil and replace it, on a barter basis, with more suitable material excavated from building projects around Amsterdam.
Pont – who had remodelled two holes at the time of the railway line construction – agreed to waive his usual fee for design and building oversight work, explained: “I found the project too important not to happen.”
With five of the original Alison holes surviving, the restoration project began in 2012 with Pont remodelling of some of the newer holes in the same style as the Alison holes.
Each year since, one or two holes have been reconstructed and lifted, a three-metre layer of peat being replaced with a four-and-a-half metre layer of sand and soil. The project included new tees, new fairways, new green complexes and new bunkers that match the original style.
“In 1935, the course was open and wide,” said Pont. “Thanks to elevated fairways and greens, it was playing fast and firm. We tried to bring back these characteristics.
“After World War II, the club planted a lot of trees and it turned into a tree-lined course. Because of the excavation work, we had to clear a lot of trees and plant new ones elsewhere. The result now is an open course with islands of trees, like in the old days.”
Pont explained that greens were previously small and slightly undulating, but difficult because they were elevated. “The new greens are not exact copies of the old ones, that was impossible. There are no drawings and only few old pictures. Some of the old elevated greens had completely sunk and old photos did not make clear what they were like in the past. The elevated greens that had not sunk are rebuilt in a way that matches the original style.”
Greens are now playing firm and fast again, and the greenkeeping team is working on firming up the approaches and surrounds through topdressing.
According to Pont, four holes – the first, second, eighth and ninth – are now very similar to how they were in the past. To gain space for another hole, the remaining Alison hole – the par-five fifth – has been changed, but the green has been restored and is now used on a new par-three hole.
The nine-hole course can be played from separate tees on a second loop, enabling golfers to play a full 18-hole par-72 round.
“Amsterdam Old Course is compact and charming,” says Pont. “The first tee starts right next to the clubhouse terrace, alongside the second and ninth greens.
“The soil deal made it possible to bring back some undulations and the result is a fine classic course in an urban setting – the Ajax football stadium towers above the 1934 clubhouse – that is fully playable all year.”