Adam Lawrence reports on a visit to the Stippelberg course in the southern Netherlands.
The new De Stippelberg golf course in the south of the Netherlands has made a remarkable debut, with over 1,200 members signed up only three months on from its June opening.
Built on former farmland near the village of Bakel, 20km east of Eindhoven, Stippelberg was designed by Michiel van der Vaart and Philip Spogárd with the assistance of veteran Dutch architect Gerard Jol. The site, pure sand under a shallow layer of rich topsoil, is part of an enormous sand quarry. A very large lake, part of which is used as an aqua range, is testimony to the scale of the quarry, but this is only the first stage of excavations; over the next decade, another huge area of water will be created.
Architect Michiel van der Vaart says the knowledge that much of the land adjoining the golf course would eventually be replaced by water was a major influence on his design thinking. With such a large body of water next door, the impact of the wind on the golf course is certain to grow.
The design theme at Stippelberg is the reinstatement of the native heath that would have dominated the site before it was converted to agricultural land a century or more ago. Contractor Heijmans Sport en Groen, which also provides maintenance services for the course, provided shaping services that have created undulating, but not severe contours on and between the golf holes. Surrounded as the property is by water, farmland and native forest, this is a good decision – the course blends gently into its environment as a result.
Stippelberg’s bunkering is its most dramatic feature. The bunkers are mostly large and complex in shape. Tall fescue has been used on out of play edges to soften the look, and the grass is already achieving the kind of waving, browned off appearance that gives a pleasing sense of naturalness. Heather has also been planted in large quantities; the plants are beginning to grow, but it will take time for the intended purple carpet to come to fruition.
The greens, mostly designed by Spogárd, are significantly but not extravagantly contoured, and generally large. Many are set on diagonals to the line of play, providing very tough pin positions when the flag is tucked behind the bunkers. Though the green contours are not outrageous, there is plenty of short game interest, and a number of small ledges give devilish flag locations on some holes.
Stippelberg also includes a nine hole executive course, which is already getting plenty of play from more novice golfers. The final hole on the course is a 100m par three over a pond: the club will do good business in lake balls!