In golf as in so much else, Wallonia and the UK have a long-standing, shared history.
In the 1930s, the famous English course architect Tom Simpson was invited to Wallonia to design four of the region’s five ‘Royal’ courses, all of which have stood the test of time – even though improved equipment has transformed the game. One of Simpson’s gems, the Royal Golf Club des Fagnes, is still rated as one of the finest courses in Europe, and the best in Belgium. The course threads its way through contrasting landscapes of sandy heathland and pine forest.
If he were around today, Simpson would be dismissive of the big hitters who are forcing today’s designers to lengthen their courses. He was more interested in setting the 'touch' player a series of subtle tests: “The vital thing,” he said, “is that a hole should be more difficult than it looks, or look more difficult than it is. It must never be what it looks.” Who said golf was a simple game?
Another well-known English designer, Fred Hawtree, created 80 courses over four continents in his long career, and remodelled 400 more. Among his redesigns in Wallonia are two of the three courses at Royal Waterloo Golf Club, and when some of the greens needed to be upgraded in 2007, the club kept it in the family by awarding the contract to Fred’s son Martin, who also designed all 30 holes at Le Naxhelet Golf Club near Liège.