Royal Fagnes - Belgium

Royal Golf Club des Fagnes,
Avenue de l'Hippodrome 1,
4900 Spa,
Belgium


  • +32 (0) 87 79 30 30

  • Corrine Konnincks

  • Tom Simpson

  • Agathe Fransolet-Verlegh

Spa is naturally the spa town of Belgium, home to the famous hot healing mineral springs which are considered healing waters. The town today is more famous for the mineral water producer of the same name and Spa is also home to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which hosts the annual Formula One Belgian Grand Prix.

There has been a golf course at Spa for at least 100 years but the course we play today at Royal Golf Club des Fagnes was laid out at great expense and it was designed by the flamboyant English architect, Tom Simpson. In 1930 the new course was ready for play with nine holes routed across the sandy heath which was the site of the original Spa course and the other nine was carved through the adjoining pine forest.

The opening of the new course at Spa was marked by a professional tournament which attracted some top names. Many of the competing pros likened the new course at Spa to the wonderful heathland courses to the west of London and so Fagnes became known as “a Belgian Sunningdale”. Henry Cotton won the inaugural event and remarked “I think the golf course at Spa is one of the best I have seen in Europe… it will be the finest on the continent in a year or two.”

Each hole at Royal Fagnes has its own character and the two nines, although contrasting – front nine in the woods and the back nine in the heather – make up one of the most beautiful 18-holers in Belgium.

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Reviews for Royal Fagnes

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Description: Royal Golf Club des Fagnes was laid out at great expense and it was designed by the flamboyant English architect, Tom Simpson, amongst heather and pine. Rating: 4.8 out of 6 Reviews: 6

So we dropped off our friend at the Spa just down the road (when in Rome, he said) and 10 minutes later we were on the first tee. It was an incredibly hot day and we hoped we wouldn’t regret the decision to play Golf.

The course begins with a downhill right to left dogleg short par 5. You don’t see too much, except a lot of trees. Enough space though so you can lash away. It might play better as a long 4 - my playing partner (handicap 15) had a 25 foot eagle putt after hitting 2 irons. The third hole had more interest as a short 5.

On the second you’re faced with a Royal Fagnes Golf Course - Photo by reviewer well protected short par 3 and despite it being a pretty hole, you soon see a bit of an issue at this course - trees are encroaching - particularly with shots into greens. Later on there were also a couple of holes where fairway bunkers were half obscured by trees. Despite being a part-time environmentalist, I would dust off the chainsaw in this part of Belgium.

That’s really the only negative though. This is an engaging and picturesque course, with plenty of variety and a nice tumbling routing over the land. It seems to pull off a neat trick of having more downhill shots than uphill, despite not having lots of walking up to raised tees.

I preferred the more defined holes of the front 9 rather than the more spacious back 9. They did feel a bit different from each other, so it depends what you like.

I particularly enjoyed holes 5-7 on the front 9 and also enjoyed the 9th - lay up left of the heather or take the racing line towards the green? In his part of the Royal Fagnes Golf Course - Photo by reviewer world you may be tempted with the latter. Conditions were firm and fast so you could often use the contours of the ground when executing shots. And as we all know, that’s fun. The only hole that fell short for me was the 10th. As you cross the road to start the back 9, this 90 degree short par 4 dogleg right felt like one of those holes you shoe-horn onto a lesser property. Perhaps they could add interest by removing some trees on the inside to allow for a tempting view of the green.

Of the 3 Tom Simpson forest courses I’ve played, Royal Golf Club des Fagnes has perhaps a bit more interest than Royal Antwerp, but didn’t feel quite as regal as Hardelot Les Pins. I’d say it floats between a 4 & 5 ball rating. In the UK it might be a 4, but in Benelux a 5. Perhaps that’s the Sterling - Euro Golfing exchange rate for you.

Thanks to a flat car battery (members were very helpful), when we eventually picked up our pervert friend after the round he was quite wrinkled. With the benefit of his hindsight, if the Spa down the road was not in Spa, we may have chosen an alternative option for our day’s entertainment. But as it was we certainly didn’t regret our decision to play Golf

5 / 6
Royal Fagnes
August 10, 2018


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Played Fagnes mid-april. Cold air but blue sky: wonderful conditions to play this beautiful undulating woodland course. I agree with a previous review that reversing the course order (1-9 becoming 10-18 and vice versa) would indeed be an excellent idea. The beauty of the course is revealed by the first nine holes. The last nine are more demanding from a golf perspective (except for hole n°5 – stroke index 2, a real challenge requiring length, precision and finesse) but miss a bit the look. Most greens in very good condition although a bit slow (beginning of the season?).

Royal Fagnes is a very private club but that didn’t prevent the visitor to enjoy a warm welcome and to have some nice local beers at hole 19 with very sympathetic local members who are proud of their club. Highly recommended. A true gem at 1h15 drive from Brussels.

4 / 6
Royal Fagnes
April 19, 2016


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The prototypical faded classic. I am talking about the town, as well as the thermal springs and the golf course. So in that sense there is harmony: what used to be great a couple of decades ago, is just "quite good" today. And it's not a question of substance, but more one of ongoing investment and care. So who has put this beauty to sleep? In the case of Royal Fagnes it is tree encroachment. Our arboreal friends have adversely affected Royal Fagnes Golf Course - Photo by reviewerthe turf and closed down playing angles. Bunkers were filled in and the heather is all but gone. Much of Tom Simpson's genius is still recognisable, but unfortunately not fully operational anymore. Compare this to Hardelot Les Pins, which is not without tree issues either, but they have continually been working on restoring what used to be great and preserving what still is. If I were a doctor, I'd prescribe the full Frank Pont treatment here. The supplied picture is of the short par 3 2nd hole and shows the full extent of the problem. Considering that I snapped it at high noon in summer, then you'll have to concede that relevant parts of the turf will never see the sun and the wind has no chance to dry it out. Also, half of the putting surface is not pinnable and it has shrunk accordingly - the bunkers still give you half an idea how large the green complex used to be. Make no mistake, it still is a neat track to play, there is some variety and the trees do at least make for a peaceful and serene experience. Some of the more open holes may at least in spirit be relatively close to the original design. It doesn't play firm and fast, though, and is bound to get soggy in inclement weather. The routing is also a bit less inspired than I would expect from the eccentric Simpson. (UM)
4 / 6
Royal Fagnes
March 10, 2014


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We went on a short weekendtrip to the area of Liege and found ourselves playing Spa on Friday, Mergelhof on Saturday and Millennium Golf on sunday. Spa obviously standed out from this trio, as it is the oldest and most prestigious of them. I played really bad but still enjoyed every minute of my round. Tom Simpson had some great land to work with and has created a masterpiece of a golfcourse. The starting stretch allows for some early scoring, given the 2 reachable par 5s and the short downhill par 3 2nd. Each of them are great holes. Tom Simpson is known for his magnificent design and placement of bunkers and Spa is no exception. The fairwaybunkers are not in the corners of the fairway, but right down the middle and a really cool feature is the heather that marks and "betrays" that a bunker is in play. What I don't get is why the club hasn't turned around the front and back nine, because I think the front nine is better than the back nine and the par 5 9th is a brilliant par 5 playing towards the majestic clubhouse. The greens were true and pretty quick considering all the rain of the last weeks, and boy did they bite! There is not a single weak hole to be found. The course is fairly short but some of the toughest holes are the short par 4s. For 55 euros midweek Royal Fagnes is a steal to play! MO
5 / 6
Royal Fagnes
September 26, 2013


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If I had to be a member at only one club in Belgium it would be Fagnes. Spa is a wonderful town and this is a wonderful course perhaps not quite as stellar as Zoute but not far off. Fagnes is from the top drawer.
6 / 6
Royal Fagnes
October 27, 2011


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I did play this course in 2007 with a couple of friends. One of the best courses I have ever played on the European continent. Nice environment, good facilities, and a good atmosphere.
5 / 6
Royal Fagnes
January 01, 2011


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