The Tom Simpson layout at Royal Antwerp dates back more than a hundred years to when Willie Park Jnr first set out a course for the club after it moved to its present location. Tom Simpson then worked here in the 1930s and the course that is in play today is both credited to him and named after him – though the very long walk from the 5th green to the 6th tee, bypassing other holes on the secondary 9-hole course, made me wonder if the original hole sequence had been changed.
I could see that a lot has gone on recently regarding bunker refurbishment, the planting of heather around tees (especially on holes 3, 7 and 15), the clearance of vegetation around greensites (most noticeably between the 11th and 12th holes) and I suspected a good number of trees had been cut down (which has since been confirmed, along with an indication that even more will be removed this winter).
The only weak hole on the card is the slightly uphill par three 2nd (I’ve also since been told it’s not an original hole) but at least this slight blemish is got out of the way early in the round, leaving you to savour the remaining holes, especially on the back nine, which reaches a climax on the par four 17th, played over a centreline revetted bunker to a brilliant front to back sloping green.
It really is relentless on the inward half; one really strong hole after another, particularly with the par threes at holes 12 and 16 and the back-to-back par fives at holes 14 and 15. The landscape might be largely flat and easy to walk but there are a sufficient number of subtle shifts in contour to retain your interest throughout the round.
Local designer Dimitri Van Hauwaert of Diamond Golf Architects is overseeing the current course improvements and I think he’s doing a terrific job, though I think mowing lines could be a little better in places, with golf ball gobbling thick rough cut back to offer a bit more fairway width. I hope to return to Belgium on another trip next summer and I’d love to replay the Tom Simpson course to see how things continue to shape up on this old masterpiece.
Date: June 05, 2018