There’s a lot of good golf to be found in Belgium
Jim McCann samples some of Belgium’s lesser-known courses
Belgium is not exactly renowned as a European golfing hotspot. Nonetheless it offers the more discerning golfer a wide range of courses – from world ranked championship “Royals” such as Royal Zoute on the North Sea coast to more modest 18-hole holiday golf layouts further inland.
We’ve featured the very best courses in the country for some time now – here’s the current list of the top Belgian tracks – so, when an invitation was extended from the European Golf & Travel Media Association to expand our coverage of golf in the Low Countries, it just had to be accepted.
Sponsored by Martin’s Hotels, the trip allowed EGTMA delegates the chance to play a number of lesser-known courses affiliated with the Martin’s Golf Pass scheme to the east and south of Brussels. The number of participating Golf Pass clubs has recently been expanded to nineteen, with the likes of Keerbergen, Millennium and Winge joining Bercuit (and ten other courses) from the Brabant Wallon region.
The Frank Pennink-designed Keerbergen course is a somewhat understated layout with fairways set out on rather flat terrain next to Lake Keerbergen. Featuring no fewer than six par threes, this is a gentle parkland course that golfers can walk with ease.
The Millennium (Championship) course also occupies a largely level site but it’s a more modern track that brings water, in the form of Lake Paalse, into proceedings at several of the holes. Now well bedded in after more than a decade of play, this Bruno Steensels design is surely destined for ranking status in the future.
Compare and contrast these two courses with the hilly layout at Winge. The Sint Joris Winge track starts and ends beside a lovely lake but holes from the 2nd to the 17th clamber up and over a hilly landscape that rarely offers an even stance.
Similarly, the Robert Trent Jones Snr-designed Bercuit course at Grez-Doiceauis is laid out on a very undulating landscape, with fairways carved through dense woodland. It’s a very stylish and elegant 18-hole layout.
Martin’s 4-star hotels in Mechelen, Leuven and Waterloo are ideally situated close to all of these courses, affording golfers minimal travel time between rounds. They’re obviously part of a small hotel group but there’s no generic, corporate sameness here as each hotel retains its own unique, historical character. For example, the 79 bedrooms in Martin’s Patershof in Mechelen are situated within a wonderful old neo-Gothic Franciscan Church.
Continuing the ecclesiastical theme, a new 64-bed extension to the Martin’s Klooster hotel in Leuven has just been sympathetically added to the 39-bed main hotel building, itself a 17th century former Augustinian convent. By comparison, the historical background of Martin’s Grand Hotel in Waterloo appears rather bland as its 79 bedrooms occupy the site of an old sugar refinery which dates back to 1836.
No trip to this area of Belgium would be complete without exploring the small town of Mechelen in between games of golf. By all means visit St Rumbold’s Cathedral, the impressive UNESCO World Heritage site, but make sure you also leave enough time for a look round the Het Anker brewery, home of the famous Gouden Carolus range of beers. If you’re not too sure of its location, the wonderful aromas from the beer making process will soon lead you to it so just follow your nose.
20 August 2013 Respond to this article