Golf course architect Alan Rijks

Leadingcourses.com is all about golf courses. And who knows a golf course better than the architect? In this monthly blogpost we will give several renowned golf course architects the chance to tell you a bit more about themselves, their work, where they get their inspiration and so on. In this first episode we talk to Dutch golf course architect Alan Rijks.

Personal

Golf course architect Alan RijksName: Alan Rijks
Website: www.alanrijks.com
Nationality: Dutch
Years in the business: 30
Number of courses designed: 60+
Favorite golf course to play: The Noordwijkse Golfclub and Utrechtse Golfclub ‘De Pan’

Alan Rijks (1959) was born and raised in Hattem, at the outskirts of the Veluwe, and started playing golf at a young age. The fact that he became golf course architect was strongly driven by his affection for playing golf it self. He dedicated the past 30 years of his life to the designing of golf courses. It gives him great pleasure to be able to shape landscapes into golf courses while natural elements available come out right. Alan is a senior member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA).

Part 1: Being a golf course architect

What made you want to become a golf course architect?

‘During my study as a landscape architect I already was quite an experienced golf player. While looking at golf projects with an architect’s eye I started realising that many courses could be designed in a better way and more attractive to the player. The natural value of the area and the contours of the landscape could often be brought out more to their full extent. It felt very natural to me that I started combining my favourite sport and work by becoming golf course architect. Furthermore I had a dream that one day I would design my own course and that I would finally win from my brother on that course.’

Which of your course designs are you most proud of?

‘I have designed and restructured over 60 golf courses, from 9-hole courses to big resorts and championship courses at various places in the world and under various conditions.
Each design is different though.

Amongst my designs are for example a links course on the island of Texel in the Netherlands, a golf resort including houses, apartments and a hotel in China or my most recent very distinguished business golf course The Duke in the Netherlands. All of them are so different from each other. I’m proud of all of them. And don’t forget: at the end of the day it’s a real team effort. A great golf course starts with great initiators who are willing to put great time and effort in realising the project together with me as the architect.

Golfbaan de Texelse is a links golf course we’ve created on a site that used to be a flat piece of farmland. During the process of designing and building the course, the original flat landscape was shaped into a real dune landscape. Many people who are playing this course can’t believe it used to be a meadow. The course is surrounded by the sea and dunes. It feels very natural.

Golfbaan de Texelse, designed by golf course architect Alan Rijks
The new nine holes of Golfbaan de Texelse used to be flat. This links style part of the course was designed by Alan Rijks.

What is the favourite hole you have designed?

One of my favourite holes is hole 16 at Texel. A par-3 of 170 meters and the wind is normally from the right side (prevailing wind S-W). The difficulty is that there is no background on the green and the feeling for distance is becoming rather difficult from this high level tee. The view from this tee and the green is great into the natural dune landscape where sheep and cows maintain the nature area behind this hole.

Another favourite is hole number 7 at The Duke – a very distinguished business golf course in the Netherlands. It’s an island hole of only 110 meters: the green is an island in the lake. When you enter this high level tee you will be amazed by the challenge that awaits you. Several levels in the green make some pin positions attractive to get your ball close to it. From different tees this hole is a challenge for players of all levels.

The Duke, desigend by golf course architect Alan Rijks
The par-3 seventh of The Duke. When the sun gets a bit lower at the end of the afternoon and you play this hole, you will not forget the view.

Is there a certain characteristic which you can recognise in your design?

‘People say “that is a typical Alan Rijks design“. I like to bring challenge in the design, people have to take some time and think about how to approach this hole or green from the tee or with a shot from the fairway.

It makes a design stronger when the design fits in a new property and gives it a special touch. What I do like is trying to be innovative. Years ago I realised the first golf course with a green label in Europe (Golfclub Gaasterland). I also designed a course with a par-6 in Europe. And I like to bring in surprising elements, using natural hazards or other natural elements.

In part 2 of this interview Alan gives us some insights in where he gets his inspiration: Part 2 of Golf Course Architects’ vision: Alan Rijks

6 COMMENTS

  1. The island green on The Duke is a copy of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, Florida, USA. Not sure if being a copy cat is a sign of good golf course architecture.

    Besides that, island greens are an example of extreme penal design. There’s just one playing option and no room for recovery what so ever. Spectacular, maybe, but in my view above all very uninspiring architecture.

    • Dear Martin, you have the right to you opinion, but calling someone a copy cat is a pretty harsh allegation. Besides, that would mean an architect could never design a feature that was used before anymore…

      Although personally I enjoy Island greens very much myself, I understand your comment about the penal design. I wonder what architects have to say about that.

  2. It’s good to see that the blogpost is well read and that it opens up discussion. A golfer playing on challenging courses throughout the world will be confronted with an “island” green or water in front of the green every once in a while. It is the variation in water design that will surprise the golfer. At the par-3 of The Duke for example a golf player can experience that. For every player – also depending on the skill set – it will feel different and it will influence his or her approach to the green. Take a look at the finishing hole of the next Ryder Cup course, Le Golf National in France, that green is also surrounded by a lot of water. I find it quite spectacular when you hit your ball on those kind of greens as a player. We will see how the players will like it in 2018!

  3. I haven’t played the Duke, and I don’t which other Rijks design I may have been at, but I sure have been at Texel.
    Having played the Castle Course at St. Andrews, the Texel course provides pretty much the same experience. Impressive! In fact, I’d keep the money to fly to Scotland in my pocket, and spend it all in Texel.

    Re. plagiarism: there’s only a limited list of tricks you can pull to protect the green. Trees, water, sand, shrubs, whatever, it’s all been done a million times. Architects get inspired by all of them, and create a sequence of hurdles throughout the course. Some may be boring, but you sure as hell lose balls even there. At least, I do… 🙂

  4. As a president of a small 9 holes golfcourse in Enschede the Netherlands. I had the pleasure to meet Alan Rijks in person. I started playing golf some 12 years ago after having practiced many different sports. I finally was convinced by my wife to also try golf. Although I was intrigued from the first moment I have to admit, I never reached the level/handicap I was expecting. Our club is run by volunteers which creates a very different atmosphere then the big clubs, but therefore also has it charmes. We share the area with a hockeyclub and co-use one hockey field as a driving range. Our constant discussions about space made me ask advice from the NGF (Dutch Golf Association)if it was a good idea to give up a hole for the hockeyclub and built a new hole on some property adjacent to our course. They told me we needed a golfarchitect to have a look at our situation. Last week I got a call from a mister Alan Rijks which to be honest was unknown to me with the remark we were somewhere in his notebook because of a problem with a hockeyclub and he was in the neighborhood.
    It maybe clear that I’m in no way an expert on golfcourses, but you recognize an expert immediately and I enjoyed every second of his visit and learned a lot from the time he spend with us. The weather and the terrain we wanted to show him was wet, wet, wet, but he walked on his sport shoes with us, not minding to get his feet wet. We enjoyed the effort he took, his enthusiasm and I learned more about how to look at a golfcourse in 1/1/2 hours spend with him than in the time I play golf. This summer I’ll visit the Texelse for sure. Thanks for the visit Alan.

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