Top 20 Golf Courses of Belgium 2016
We extend our coverage of golf in Belgium by adding another five courses
We’ve been ranking Belgian courses biennially since 2008 and have gradually increased our coverage, adding five extra courses in both the last edition of our chart and this one, so we now feature a total of twenty courses for Belgium.
Over the years we’ve worked closely with Belgian golf journalist Xavier Champagne who organises a biennial poll across nearly 300 correspondents throughout Belgium. We have never replicated Xavier’s rankings, but applaud Xavier’s thorough process and his passion to identify the best golf courses in his homeland.
Our 2016 Belgian numbers almost identically mirror Xavier’s rankings, with one significant difference. We have a contrasting Belgian No.1, due entirely to the fact that we defined our latest Continental European Top 100 independently. I’ve already explained the challenges associated with assembling the European rankings, so I won’t repeat myself here.
Apart from the fact that we have Royal Zoute at No.1 and Xavier has Limburg Golf Houthalen leading the way, we’re completely lined up. I must make it clear that Xavier does not agree with Royal Zoute being placed at the head of our Belgian rankings. However, we’ve placed Zoute in front of Limburg in our European Top 100, so that’s how the positions must remain for the next two years – then all bets are off.
Xavier has kindly written the following article and he produced a Belgian Top 20 exclusively for Top 100 Golf Courses. Please note that the Belgian rankings that follow reflect the changes in our own ranking table (2014 versus 2016) and are not the “Backspin Best of Belgium” rankings.
To see our latest Top 20 Golf Courses of Belgium 2016 click the link.
Limburg Golf Houthalen leads the Belgian Top 10 by Xavier Champagne
13 January 2016
Belgian Golf is a very royal and bizarre story. At the end of the 19th century King Leopold II was a visionary. He realised that golf courses could attract foreign businessmen to his country. Firstly came the Royal Golf Club du Château Royal d’Ardenne and later Royal Ostend and the Royal Golf Club of Belgium, better known as Ravenstein.
The Belgian Golf Federation was founded some twenty years later. From 1912 until now the number of golf courses increased from 8 to 84.
With only 60,867 affiliated EGA members, Belgium is a dwarf on the European golf stage. The Netherlands counts 387,429 members – more then six times as many. There is an explanation for the discrepancy. In contrast to other golfing countries, there are no “club free” golfers in Belgium. Every Belgian who wants to play golf, must take a membership with an affiliated club before he or she can get a federation card. It is impossible to get that handicap card from anywhere else.
So, which are the best golf courses in Belgium? Well, Limburg Golf Houthalen, an inland heather and woodland course, was chosen as No.1 in Belgium following a biennial poll organised by myself, Belgian Golf Editor Xavier Champagne.
Nearly 300 correspondents sent their top ten of golf courses to me, which resulted in a very objective ranking and once again Limburg Golf Houthalen was crowned as “Backspin Best of Belgium”. Runners up, Royal Zoute and Royal Golf Club of Belgium, aka Ravenstein, ended in that order on the podium.
The difference between the winner Limburg Golf Houthalen and both other courses was larger than in the previous poll. The course conditions in Ravenstein and Royal Zoute were not so optimal throughout the last year.
Royal Waterloo finished again in the fourth spot of the “Backspin Best of Belgium” ranking. La Marache is a real championship course and always in good shape. Royal Ostend, the only real links course in Belgium, took fifth place, also their position in the 2014 ranking. In other words, the “Backspin Best of Belgium” ranking for 2016 is a copy of the 2014 ranking. It’s steady business on the top of the Belgian golf scene.
Now, in the places from six to ten: Royal Antwerp, the second oldest golf course in Continental Europe, climbed one spot to number 6. The recent changes on the course shifted Royal Antwerp one place higher. Royal Golf Club des Fagnes, better know as Spa, is a strong number 7 – the course underwent a tiny, but successful facelift. Millennium Paal jumped over Royal Sart Tilman and advanced one spot in the new ranking. Millennium is number 8, Sart Tilman number 9. Hulencourt, near Brussels, has the honour to close the “Backspin Best of Belgium Top 10”. This proves that more modern courses, like Millennium, have finally conquered the Belgian Top 10.
There is also a new kid on the Belgian golf block. Koksijde Golf ter Hille was the shooting star in the list. This newcomer jumped straight in at number 11 in the wake of the Belgian Top 10.
Best of the rest
Two Royals (Belgian clubs that are older than a half century automatically receive the Royal prefix) finished just outside the top ten. Royal Hainaut took 12th place and Royal Latem 13th – a set back because some years ago both where in the top ten.
La Tournette made a jump forward with their USA Course (in the past their English Course was higher rated). The small but beautiful Royal Golf Club du Château Royal d’Ardenne (twice Royal!) completes the top fifteen.
Ternesse Golf near Antwerp completed a successful upgrade and became the prototype of the ideal parkland course. Bercuit, the only Robert Trent Jones-course in Belgium, is our number 17. Rinkven is currently undertaking a full renovation – not only to both courses but also the whole infrastructure. Their 18th place is expected to be temporary.
L’Empereur is by the relative remote location of the club something like a hidden gem. Their marketing line is “a golf course at the end of the world”. The name of the club refers to Emperor Napoleon who camped in the region before his last battle not far from there. Right, Waterloo.
Our number 20 is Cleydael. The club organised the Belgian round of the Challenge Tour in 2014 and will be the host of the 2016 edition.
It’s important to mention that relating to this Belgian Top 20, positions 1 to 11 are the result of feedback from our correspondents. From there on an objective ranking is more difficult because there’s a greater level of subjectivity due to reduced votes. Therefore we always limit our “Backspin Best of Belgium” to a Top 10. However, for Top 100 Golf Courses of the World, we’ve made an exception and have presented a representative Top 20.
My final remark is that there’s a new Belgian course called Naxhelet, which is coming along well. It’s a Martin Hawtree design with superb infrastructure and it will be a possible contender for the next “Backspin Best of Belgium Top 10” in 2018.Xavier Champagne
15 January 2016 Respond to this article