Southern’s Belgium’s Royal Treatment for golfers

Five of Wallonia’s courses have ‘Royal’ in their title – an honour they attain on their 50th anniversary.

The oldest course, established in 1895, is the most regal of all, lying in the grounds of a 19th century castle built by King Leopold II between Dinant and the French border. The Royal Golf Club du Château Royal d’Ardenne is one of the hilliest courses in Wallonia, but the reward for some arduous treks between tee and green are superb views across the southern Ardennes – none finer than the prospect from the Leopold Tower, which contains the clubhouse.

Founded in 1923, the Royal Waterloo Golf Club moved to its present location near the battlefield and within sight of the iconic Lion Mound in 1960. This parkland complex consists of two 18-hole courses – La Marache and Le Lion – and the 9-hole Le Bois Héros. Wooded, undulating La Marache was redesigned ten years ago, and is ranked among Europe’s top 200 courses.

Wallonia’s most celebrated course lies in sandy heathland overlooking Spa. Royal Golf Club des Fagnes has staged many Belgian Opens since it opened in 1930.  It’s a tale of two halves: the first nine holes are narrow, tricky and trap-laden; the second nine are generally longer, open to the elements and trickier still. The course is rated the best in Belgium.

Nearby, just south of Liège, the Royal Golf Club du Sart-Tilman is a real wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, dating from 1938. The first two holes are straightforward, but as the terrain starts to undulate, banks of trees line the narrow fairways, the sand-traps multiply, and the sharply sloping greens are a handful.

In western Wallonia, nearest to the Channel ports, the Royal Golf Club du Hainaut lies next to the Erbisoeul forest near Mons. Two of its three 9-hole circuits were designed in 1933, threading a path between tall stands of trees. A third 9-hole course was added in 1990 to accommodate the bigger hitters of modern times. You can choose any combination of the three circuits, and the charming, thatched clubhouse is an added delight.