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.
Name: Alan Rijks
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.
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.
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