The course at Bercuit was originally intended to be the centrepiece of a mid-1960s real estate development, based on the American private golf model, so it was only natural that the person tasked with its design should be the doyen of US-based architects, Robert Trent Jones Snr.
Laid out in two returning circuits of nine, the fairways effortlessly hug the contours of a surprisingly hilly property, with lots of elevation change to negotiate from the first to last hole. And as the wooded terrain rarely permits sight of anything other than the hole being played, the challenges of the following hole are only revealed upon arrival at the next tee box.
The very short par three 5th is the undoubted highlight hole on the front nine, playing more than 100 feet downhill to a green surrounded on three sides by a marshy wetland area. Tee shots that are long, short or right are lost forever so golfers unable to find the putting surface must bail out to the left.
The back nine roller coaster ride continues in unrelenting fashion, with terrific doglegged holes encountered at 12 and 15. The 369-metre 16th is rightly regarded as the most difficult on the inward half as not too many golfers will be able to hit and hold a raised green that repels all but the most precise approach shot.Sadly, the Belgian Open – a former European Tour event – dropped off the professional golf circuit in 2000 but the competition still holds fond memories for José María Olazábal, who won the tournament here in 1988. Bercuit also hosted the European Ladies Masters from 1989 to 1994. Happily, the club reached 50 years of age in 2016 and so (as is customary in Belgium) the club automatically became a royal, heralding the start of a new regal era for Royal Bercuit Golf Club.,
This was THE find of a recent short trip to play golf courses on the east side of Brussels, where I pitched up at places like Keerbergen, Millennium and Winge. I knew in advance it should be a decent track because it made the Belgian Top 20 in the last published Peugeot Golf Guide for 2008/9 but, as my only previous experience of playing an RTJ course had been gained on Ballybunion’s Cashen course five years ago, when it proved to be something of an unmitigated disaster, I was more than a little worried that I might be similarly underwhelmed by the great man’s design.
I needn’t have worried, as Bercuit’s a very classy, well-maintained course that flows beautifully from start to finish on a rather hilly site. Holes 5 to 7 form a formidable loop on the front nine whilst the par fours at 15 and 16 are really tough to tackle so late in the round. If I’m honest, the final two holes - a long, uphill par five and a pretty bland par three - are a slight disappointment after what has gone before but that’s the full extent of the negative aspects of the course in my opinion.
Bercuit’s highly recommended, especially for acolytes of the old master architect.