Built across a large agricultural property northeast of Eindhoven, Golfbaan Stippelberg is an interesting establishment created by European designers Michiel van der Vaart and Philip Christian Spogard. The site used for golf was once sandy and undulating but had been flattened for farming in the decades prior and was essentially featureless when the project began. Central to the design of the golf component was the creation of an industrial size quarry lake, which provided the material used to create the small dunes and ripples that now dot the landscape.
There are 27 holes in total here, but the Championship Course is the focal point with the outward holes set mostly across a somewhat bleak pasture and the back nine incorporating a series of water hazards connected to the main quarry lake. Both sides are kept deliberately scruffy, with areas of exposed sand and a mix of heathland grasses and rugged bunkering providing a traditional feel to much of the golf. The shaping of small to medium sized dunes and fairway undulations further adds to the aesthetic appeal, as does the contrast provided by the golfing grasses, fescues, bents and heather in particular.
Less effective is the design itself, which may look traditional but is very modern from a strategic sense. There isn’t quite the space needed here to match the designers ambition, and as a result many of the fairways are uncomfortably narrow and penal on golfers unable to hit pinpoint shots to slithers of prepared turf. Bunkers tend to be very tight to the opposing edge of fairway, so your decision is generally either to try blast over the traps or, more often than not, to lay up short. You rarely find those nice shades of grey here, where a decision needs to be made to actually flirt with trouble down one side. The back tees are especially problematic in places.
Aside from lacking a little space off the tee, the scale of the shaping in other areas is a little off as well. The contours are well constructed, but some of the design concepts don’t work as well as they would with more room. The anorexic par five 8th is a classic example, as a ridge on the right edge of the fairway is so close to the bunker on the left that it almost kicks you into it. Like others, the hole looks nice but the incentive to take risks is diminished by the simple lack of reasonable width. It’s not just the sculpted shapes that are an issue either, some of the mowing lines are crazy skinny and turn reasonable holes into prescriptive bores.
These issues aside, Stippelberg is a commendable golf course that does have a great environmental story to tell and a number of good individual holes. The par threes all work well, especially the longish 7th. The bunkers are attractively built and maintained, and several greens are set within soft dunes and shaped with interesting side wings and run off areas. These two designers are clearly capable of producing good-looking golf shapes, and with a little more experience and strategic thought perhaps might have been able to elevate this from good golf into something great.