Laid out over uneven terrain on the southern fringes of Liège, the classic old 18-hole layout at Royal Sart Tilman – the club gained its Royal status in 1962 – is an authentic Tom Simpson design that first opened for play in 1939, just months before the start of World War II.
It was a rather inauspicious start for the course as many of the fairways were ploughed over for potato production by the occupying army and it wasn’t until 1946 (thanks to the efforts of U.S. military personnel and a number of prisoners of war) that the course was brought back into regular use.
Today, the tree-lined holes at Royal Sart Tilman weave through a forest of pine, beech and birch trees, with fairways leading to what has been described as “fast, undulating and evil greens that are among the most formidable in Belgium”.
Holes of particular note include the par fours at the 5th and 11th (rated the two toughest on the scorecard) and the 497-metre par five 14th, where the green is guarded by sand and three water hazards. There are also a fine handful of short holes that vary in length from 130 to 189 metres.
Tom Doak made a point of playing Royal Sart-Tilman in 2017 and awarded the course a rating of six out of ten. He commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“Simpson was a true minimalist designer, and this rambunctious piece of ground must have given him great excitement. The stretch of holes from the 3rd through the 8th is a wild ride, with some strong topography cut up by several sharp drainage swales, and greens full of natural tilt that make it very difficult to get a short approach shot close. The parallel two-shotters at the start of the back nine are also gorgeous: the 11th has a rolling fairway and a strongly tilted green, while on the 12th the tilt is in the fairway and the putting surface is terraced from back to front. The last five holes are not up to the prelude, and the club really needs to work on tree management if these contours are going to shine, but any golfer with a spirit of adventure will love this course.”
Looking for a fantastic experience? Play Sart Tilman. An apparently gentle par 4 and par 3 provide you the idea you are off for a nice walk into the woods... Then suddenly hole #3 and 4 (both par 4) require length, precision and careful green reading. The real Sart Tilman spirit with its ondulating fast greens and superb fairway lay-out reveals itself. That golf should be in the belgian top 5. Every hole has its own character. No concessions: they all require precision shots. Don't leave the fairways since it is highly likely that you loose your ball. Modern recent clubshouse with perfect accommodation. Only the practice range is a bit sub-standard.