The Dutch RTA was founded in 1986, after a group of six (lawn) tennis players of the Oranje Tennis Club in The Hague, had been invited to Seacourt Tennis Club in Hayling Island to get acquainted with real tennis.
Present membership: 70.
Real tennis just took a big step toward returning to Holland. In February, Real Tennis Club Huis ter Kleef received a letter from the City of Haarlem agreeing with the Club's proposal to restore the real tennis court at Huis ter Kleef. The court is, among covered courts, the world's oldest and is now used by the city primarily as a canteen.
The Club's challenge now is raising approximately €1,000,000 for the substantial rebuilding required. The court, complete with a proud little tower, was built about 1560 by Hendrik van Brederode next to his castle and tennis was played there likely until the early 1600s. Hendrik was a close friend and ally of William of Orange and in the turbulent year 1566 was the leader of the rebellion against the Spanish. The castle was largely destroyed by Don Federico during the siege of Haarlem of 1573, but Hendrik's kaatsbaan was spared, not for Federico's love of the game, but to be used as a prison. An eyewitness reported that many prisoners died on the tennis court because "Federico had promised them their lives but not their food".
Restoring this registered national monument will be a major project. The work needs to be done with a great degree of authenticity, following mid-sixteenth century practice. The original walls of the kaatsbaan (a real tennis court, in Dutch) still exist, but the interior structure requires substantial architectural change. The roof is in a dilapidated state and needs to be restored. Upper windows need to be installed and the features of a tennis court incorporated, including a flagstone floor and lighting.
Plans include creating a bar/lounge, meeting room and changing facilities, and a tennis museum will be created, with displays under the penthouses and elsewhere. The exhibits will guide the visitor through 500 years of tennis history, starting with a game on the kaatsbaan, of which there were in Holland at least 150 in the seventeenth century.
The Club is planning to submit financing requests to public and private institutional funds focused on restoring historic buildings in The Netherlands and Europe this spring. This process will take some time but we are confident that these funds will reduce our financing need substantially. At the same time we will be setting up a private membership and fundraising effort across the tennis world.
To generate interest in the public in Holland, a promotion campaign will be launched in the local and national press. By the summer of 2006, RTC Huis ter Kleef intends to have established a tax-exempt foundation, named RTC Huis ter Kleef, and that entity will acquire ownership of the court.
In November 2001, 70 members of the Dutch Real Tennis Association made deposits for membership toward establishing a court in the Netherlands. We are confident that many of them support our initiative in Haarlem and will become RTC Huis ter Kleef members. The wealthy Haarlem area offers great potential for recruiting new members. The club is centrally located, within easy reach of Haarlem's railway station, major motorways and Schiphol Airport. For further information, contact the Dutch RTA/RTC Huis ter Kleef.