Royal Waterloo Golf Club was founded in 1923 when golf was played at Rhode-Saint-Genèse. In 1960, the club moved to Lasne, its present location at the epicentre of the historic battlefield of Waterloo, and has never looked back.
La Marache is the premier layout at Royal Waterloo and Fred W. Hawtree was the architect that originally designed the course in 1960. He also laid out two separate 9-hole courses, which were formerly known as C & D (La Marache originally comprised the A & B nines).
The club continued to develop and improve over the years and today can boast forty-five golf holes, the 18-hole La Marache, the 18-hole Le Lion and the 9-hole Le Bois-Héros.
According to the Hawtree website: “The third course at Royal Waterloo is the short 9-hole 'Le Bois-Héros' which was one of Martin Hawtree’s first endeavours into golf course architecture when he visited the site with his father [Fred] as a child. Martin redesigned all nine greens in 2003 and this par 33 is a real challenge for both beginners and experts.”
If you only have enough time while visiting Royal Waterloo to play eighteen holes, the course to choose is La Marache, which underwent extensive greens redevelopment in 2007 by none other than… yes, you guessed it, Martin Hawtree.
La Marache doesn't get sufficient recognition. It is one of Hawtree's finest designs and is set in a delightfully undulating but rather tricky woodland environment. And, located a mere 25 minutes drive by car from the centre of Brussels, Royal Waterloo is not only very accessible, but also an excellent golfing test.
Host to the Belgian Open on several occasions between 1979 and 1991, La Marache has seen plenty of professional action with Per-Ulrik Johansson, Gordon J. Brand and Eamonn Darcy among the winners at Royal Waterloo Golf Club.
Royal Waterloo is a hundred years old next year but the club moved to its present location in the early 1960s. Fred Hawtree laid out the original holes then over the years both he and his son Martin expanded the golf offering into the 45-hole set-up that’s currently in operation. Holes fan out from the centrally located clubhouse across a rolling landscape next to where Napoleon came a cropper against the armies of the seventh coalition in 1815.
La Marache is routed as two returning nines, each of which concludes with uphill holes back to the clubhouse. Interestingly, the last three holes on the card are all par fives played parallel to one another: #16 being the shortest of the three holes at 430 metres but still a formidable test (despite a stroke index of 18) as it plays uphill, just like #18.
Holes #8 and #9 were closed due to bunker renovation work being carried out across the entire layout – though, now that I think about it, I don’t remember the club offering a green fee discount for not playing these two holes!
The downhill par five 3rd was my favourite hole on the front nine, playing downhill to the left then turning right as the fairway flattens out towards a raised green that’s well protected by bunkers to the front right and left of the putting surface. On the back nine, the par three 12th was a lovely downhill short hole, framed by bushes behind a large, false-fronted green which was also well defended by two bunkers to the left and one to the right.
It might be possible to return sometime to see the bunker work when it’s finished but, to be honest, I’m probably “one and done” with La Marache. It’s a beautiful, well-managed layout with trees properly maintained in the interior of the property, fairways that are immaculately groomed, and greens that roll nice and true but for me it’s a box that has now been ticked – I never felt any real connection when I played here, though I’m still glad I visited.
Very nice course, well maintained. Some wet areas in winter, but a nice experience in summer. The atmosphere of the club is not very friendly to green fee players, which is a pity.
La Marache is, quite simply, superb. In fabulous condition and the most wonderful design set amongst mature woodlands. Although it opens quietly with two fairly routine par four holes, the third is a triumphant example of what is yet to come. A wonderful, sweeping par five dog-leg down into a valley turning right hand up to a raised green.
The tree-lined fairways are lush and scrupulously maintained with not an unrepaired divot mark to be seen and the greens are small, firm and fast with some treacherous run-offs. On a number of occasions I hit what I thought were some fine shots in only to find my ball nestling in the short but remarkably thick stuff that surrounds each hole. There really is not a weak hole on the course and each has its own test and character.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was a privilege to play such a wonderful course. Belgium boasts a number of world class courses, sadly underplayed by British visitors who traditionally head for France, Spain and now, as often as not Turkey. But for me this comes comfortably in the best 10 courses that I have played in any of those countries. It is no place for the novice but a tremendous challenge for any serious golfer looking for a sensational new venue.
I have only one small quibble and that is that the bar staff are not the most welcoming to visitors but that may well be because they are only used to seeing locals who should be justifiably proud of being able to play such a terrific course as La Marache.