British architect Tom Simpson is credited with several Belgian designs – including the Royal trio of Antwerp, Fagnes and Sart Tilman – during a prolific period in the 1930s and Charles Warren, the first professional at Royal Zoute, assisted Simpson when he laid out the original 18-hole course at Royal Golf Club du Hainaut in 1933.
“Les Bruyères” and “Le Quesnoy” nines comprise a charming collection of holes laid out on the edge of the Bois de Ghlin forest. The wooded heathland setting places a premium on accurate play as the stands of pine trees and swathes of heather that line the rolling fairways are formidable natural obstacles.
Outstanding holes here include the 415-yard 3rd hole on Les Bruyères, a tough two-shotter that doglegs slightly right from tee to green, and the 340-yard 7th on Le Quesnoy, a short par four where the fairway veers almost at right angles from the original line of play to the hole.Martin Hawtree added a third circuit named “Les Etangs” in 1990 to create a very fine 27-hole complex at Royal Hainaut Golf Club.
Hainaut is in a tranquil place south of Brussels, in a very old forest. We played the classic lay-out Quesnoy and Bruyeres. The course is short by modern standards, but it still is an interesting design. Although most fairways are tree lined, fairways are very wide and missing it does not have to be fatal. The green complexes are of high quality and very naturally blended in and contoured. Greenside bunkers are sometimes elevated on one side, which also influences the shape and slopes of the greens. Fairways were very patchy unfortunately, and not in a ‘firm and fast’way. Favourite holes were probably the par 4 3rd, which is one of the longer par 4s. The drive is hit to a narrowing corner. It leaves a mid-iron approach to a green that slopes tot he back and tot he left, with a bunker in the left front. I also liked the par 5s that featured some exciting punchbowl greens and some nice risk-reward dogleg right par 4s on the back nine (15 and 16) played to beautiful raised greens. Club selection and agression of your line off the tee can result in a variety of second shots.
The course reminded me of Club du Lys a bit. Both courses are not the most well known layouts by Tom Simpson, but they do show similarities in the design, historic feel, little bit beyond its prime-grandeur. Both have feature some really good holes and some straight forward holes but in places they show their delicacy and lasting quality and I can imagine you will not soon grow tired to play this course. If you’re in the area, I recommend paying it a visit if you are into classic golf courses. MO