Golf In Belgium

Organised golf in Belgium dates back to 1888, when Royal Antwerp Golf Club was founded. Only 3 clubs in Continental Europe (Pau, Dinard and Biarritz in France) pre-date the formation of Belgium’s oldest club, though Royal Antwerp’s wooded heathland course isn’t quite as old, having been established in 1912, when the club moved to its present location.

King Leopold II was an important supporter of golf in Belgium and he encouraged the game to flourish around the nation during the latter part of a 40-year reign which ended in 1909. Another royal promoter, King Leopold III, was a very keen golfer, skilled enough to represent his country at international level before he succeeded to the throne in 1934, following the death of his father, King Albert I.

Nowadays, Belgian clubs don’t officially require a monarch’s seal of approval before the “Royal” prefix is added to their name as this happens automatically after 50 years of operation – logically, by the middle of this century, almost all Belgian clubs will have this honour bestowed on them due to their longevity.

WHERE TO PLAY IN BELGIUM

Where to play in Belgium

There are around 60,000 people currently registered with the Royal Belgian Golf Federation, which can trace its roots back to 1912, and those golfers are attached to at least one of the 80 or so clubs that are affiliated to the national governing body.

With such a respectable number of clubs operating within the country, there’s a wide selection of courses worth visiting, whether it be a Golden Age classic designed by Willie Park Jnr or Tom Simpson, or one of the many modern golf complexes that have appeared in the last few years.

The 27-hole facility at Millennium Golf is a great example of a new design, where architect Bruno Steensels has used both water and sand hazards to stunning effect. The 18-hole Langeleedcourse and 9-hole Hazebeekcourse at Koksijde Golf ter Hille also opened in 2014 to much critical acclaim.

Great things are expected in the near future from the Martin Hawtree-designed 18-hole layout at Naxhelet, near Liege, and many believe this new development will make a big impact on the Belgian golf scene when it’s fully up and running.

Our friends at www.top100golfcourses.co.uk​ have recommended us a number of brilliant courses situated within easy reach of the ferry ports. Of these, 2 occupy sandy soiled sites close to the shores of the North Sea, while the other 4 are located further inland, less than a 90-minute drive from the centre of Brussels.

Royal Zoute (Championship)

ROYAL ZOUTE (Championship)

Royal Zoute Golf Club lies on the North Sea coastline, close to the ferry port at Zeebrugge, within the prosperous seaside resort of Knokke-Heist. 

A course was first established here in 1899 but Harry Colt was called in to redesign the layout 8 years later, when he was still secretary at Sunningdale.

Unfortunately, occupying forces during World War I damaged the course and a replacement was built nearby.

This too was devastated during World War II so an English Lieutenant Colonel Allen was tasked with producing the par 72 Championship course and the par 64 Executive course that are in play today.

Laid out as 2 returning loops of 9 holes, the Championship course is routed over a flattish landscape and its mildly undulating fairways weave their way across the sandy soiled terrain in a very pleasant manner. 

Trees also flank a number of holes, which helps to keep the coastal winds at bay.

The Championship course measures 6,008 metres, playing to a par of 72.

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Limburg

LIMBURG

The course at Limburg Golf & Country Club lies within the enormous Campine nature reserve, to the east of Liege, where the fairways are laid out on free-draining heathland that’s remarkably reminiscent of the great golfing grounds around Berkshire and Surrey.

Fred Hawtree designed the layout in the mid-1960s and it’s a timeless classic, routed as 2 returning 9-hole courses, with fairways flanked by pine and birch trees and massive clusters of heather that are beautiful to behold when in full bloom. Half the holes on the card are doglegged, and these ensure that the thinking golfer will prosper as they plot their way around the course. The fine old-fashioned design feature of the short par 4 also adds interest around the turn at the 8th and 10th holes.

According to the Top 100 Golf Courses website, Limburg is not the number 1 ranked course in Belgium (that honour belongs to Royal Zoute) but the course did make an impressive leap up the website’s Continental Europe Top 100 chart when it was recently published, climbing 23 places to number 37.

The Limburg course measures 6,072 metres, playing to a par of 72.

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Royal Waterloo (La Marache)

ROYAL WATERLOO (La Marache)

Royal Waterloo Golf Club was formed in 1923, when founding members played at Rhode-Saint-Genèse. ​In 1960, the club moved to its current site at Lasne – where much of the historic Battle of Waterloo took place – and Fred Hawtree was engaged to design a new 36-hole golf facility.

During the 1980s, the old A and B courseswere renamed as the 18-hole La Marache course, a new nine was added to the D courseto form the new 18-hole “Le Lion” course, and the old C coursebecame the 9-hole “Le Bois Héroes” layout.

Martin Hawtree has since refurbished all the bunkers and redesigned all 27 greens on “La Marache” and “Le Bois Héroes“ during a three-year period that began in 2003.

Today, “La Marache” has developed into a wonderful woodland track, where tree-lined fairways play to relatively small, firm greens which are protected by subtle run off areas around the putting surfaces. ​It’s a challenging course that requires golfers to have their short game in good order.

La Marache measures 6,296 metres, playing to a par of 73.

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Royal Ostend

ROYAL OSTEND

Royal Ostend Golf Club was founded in 1903 when Seymour Dunn – a relation of the famous Dunn golfing family from Musselburgh – set out a course on a narrow strip of linksland close to the shores of the North Sea, near De Haan.

The layout was extensively damaged during both World Wars, resulting in its eventual reconstruction, with a grand reopening taking place on 7 July 1948. King Leopold III, who was a keen golfer, became a frequent visitor to the links. Martin Hawtree upgraded the layout in the 1990s and 5 greens were replaced in 2006 as part of an ongoing renovation project. A railway line and a main road cut through the course but such interference from the outside world does little to detract from the enjoyment of playing here.

Royal Ostend is a relatively short track, playing to 5,506 metres from the back tees, with 6 par 3 holes on the card. Expect to find firm and fast conditioning when playing the course and, more importantly, be prepared for the wind to exert a strong influence on a rather exposed seaside property.

The course measures 5,506 metres, playing to a par of 70.

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Royal Antwerp (Tom Simpson)

ROYAL ANTWERP (Tom Simpson)

Although Royal Antwerp was formed in 1888, its course is 24 years younger, dating back to when the club moved to Kapellen in 1912. 

Willie Park Jnr laid out the club’s 18-hole course and Tom Simpson subsequently redesigned it in 1930 when he added 10 additional holes to the middle of the course and fashioned a shorter “Dormy House” 9-hole layout, which includes some of Park’s original work.

The “Tom Simpson” course, as it’s now called, winds its way through stands of pine and sliver birch trees with many of the fairways doglegging left or right from the teebox. 

The course is characterised by largely flat terrain, an economy of bunkering, and a number of long, demanding par 4 holes that require a succession of long irons or fairway woods into the smallish greens.

It’s a course that’s easy to walk but not so easy on which to compile a score, requiring both length and precision from tee to green on most holes.

The Tom Simpson course measures 6,200 metres, playing to a par of 73.

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Royal Fagnes

ROYAL FAGNES

Spa has long been associated with healing springs and mineral water production. It’s also famous for hosting the Belgian Grand Prix, which has been held most years at the Spa-Francorchamps racing circuit since 1925.

Golf has also been played in the town for more than 100 years but the Royal Golf Club des Fagnes, or Spa as it’s commonly known, was inaugurated in 1930 when Tom Simpson was asked to remodel an old layout, adding 9 woodland holes to the 9that were already routed across a sandy heath. A professional tournament was held to mark the opening of the new course, which Henry Cotton won. The new layout attracted plenty of favourable comments, with many professionals likening the course to some of the wonderful heathland tracks that lie to the west of London.

Nowadays, trees bounding the fairways might encroach a little too far occasionally, stifling the growth of heather, but much of Simpson’s genius is still apparent. It certainly wouldn’t take much to restore this lovely old track to its once-held status as “Belgium’s Sunningdale”.The Royal Fagnes course measures 5,928 metres, playing to a par of 72.

Course information & facilities

Recommended accommodation​

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