Belgium, a country in Western Europe known for medieval towns, Renaissance architecture and as headquarters of the European Union and NATO.
This year we had the opportunity through EGTMA [European Golf Travel and Media Assoc.] to visit Belgium and to play some of the wonderful Flanders golf courses we had heard so much about.
“Golf In Flanders” is a new initiative that was developed between The Flemish Golf Federation and the Flemish Tourist Board to promote the region as one of Europe’s top golfing destinations.
There are over 50 golf courses in the region all with in easy reach of each other and the many visitor attractions including the historic memorials of The Great War.
Our journey began in Brussels were we stayed at the Martin’s Brussels EU hotel, a trendy up market hotel located just a few minutes from the EU building.
We decided to go a few days early to explore Belgium’s bi-ligual capital city. The Grand Place or Grote Markt is situated in the heart of the city, it is surrounded by magnificent 17th century ornate buildings.
As well as museums, historical sites there are lots of shops, fabulous cafe bars and restaurants.
Belgium’s newest golf course, The National is a short drive from the capital. Unfortunately we did not have time to play the course but by all accounts it is already ranked as being up there with some of Belgium’s top Championship courses. The National is built on a former racecourse and is part of a large project which will eventually feature a hotel, a sports complex with a residential area.
The first of Flanders courses on the programme was Damme G&C.C. an hour and half drive from Brussels and a short distance from Bruges. Damme G & C.C. features an 18 hole Championship course, as well as “The President’s Nine” a very interesting, testing and most enjoyable nine holes. Then there is also what they call a compact course, a short course perfect for beginners and for prating the short game!
There are numerous natural water hazards through out the main course. The first hole is a par 4 and is somewhat daunting as the tee box is right in-front of quite a large pond. The ladies tee is a little different as the tee box is a bit further on and cuts off some of the length of the hazard.
Damme G&C.C. is is owned by two Flemish families, who bought the club in 1994. The clubhouse, including bar and restaurant is housed in the beautiful Stockmans Farm area of the complex.
From The Brussels EU Hotel to the four – star Marriott, in the university city of Ghent. The Marriott is situated in the heart of the city over looking the river and within walking distance of shops, restaurants and museums. This 18th century building has every modern amenity, wf-fi, meeting rooms and an excellent restaurant.
Ghent is a vibrant university town and cultural hub. It’s pedestrianised centre is well known for its
medieval architecture such as the 12th century Gravensteen castle and Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside Leie river harbour.
A boat trip on the canal is a also great and fun way of seeing the city.
Cleydael Golf & Country Club. Cleydael is located in a wooded area around the stunning medieval 14th century Cleydael Castle in the south of Antwerp. The unique parkland course was designed by Paul Rolin in the early eighties. The course is laid out through a forest of magnificent trees.
One of thee most spectacular holes in golf has to be the 18th at Cleydael, the fairytale moated castle majestically stands overlooking the green. One could be forgiven for thinking you were in Disney World. Paul Rolin created a magical course in a magical setting that is both challenging and exciting. What ever your handicap you can be assured of a fabulous golf experience.
On the road again and to Mechelen, a small historic Flemish city located between the seaport of Antwerp and the Capital, Brussels. The city is a centre famous for its art, architecture and love of beer. Mechelen made a name for itself with the elite back in the 16th century. Charles the V was said to enjoy a tipple of the golden liquid. In his own words was to have said “The daughter of the grain is superior to the blood of the grape”. I am sure one could have a great debate over the grape and the grain. There are plenty of fabulous restaurants and cosy bars in the famous town square “The Grote Markt”, serving seasonal Flemish specialities.
I have stayed in many amazing hotels but the Martin’s Patershof, Mechelen has to be the most unique and quirkiest of all.
Once a Friar Minor Church that dates back to the 1200s is now an amazing four- star boutique hotel.This unique building which is situated in the centre of the city has to be seen to be believed.
The high arched ceilings, imposing pillars and beautiful stained – glass windows, many with religious detail.
If you want luxury, combined with charm and uniqueness then Martin’s Patershof has all of that.
The Millennium Golf Club, as the name suggests opened in 2000 and was built in the late nineties. Beautifully situated around lake Paal, just an hours drive from Brussels and Antwerp. As well as the 18 hole Championship Course there is a nine hole plus a children’s course called the Bambini course. The small course features a putting and chipping course on artificial turf, a kids clubhouse and library. There is a great family – friendly atmosphere around the whole complex.
The landscape is flat so no need for buggy, a walk in the park. There are some beautiful oak, beech and rhododendron trees through out the course, and as you would expect with a large lake there are a lot of water hazards. At times when the breeze is blowing you do need to take into account that this wind turns the course into a real ‘inland links’ bringing with it the same challenges.
Spiegelven Golf Club, Genk. An 18 holes hole Championship course with an additional nine hole course.
The heath landscape is very picturesque, the fairways are laid out on rolling terrain with lots of trees and plenty of water hazards. The course is a interesting challenge for any golfer
but the lower handicapper can take risks with big bold drives and cutting corners.
After 18 holes walking this beautiful Flemish golf course you can be sure you will just want to sit back with a Belgian beer or two.
Winge Golf & Country Club which is located in the heart of Hageland. The golf and Country Club is set in beautiful undulating landscape in the charming village of Sint-Joris-Winge, near Leuven.
This region is not only known for its delicious white beer but also for producing wine, quite unique in Flanders.
Winge golf course is a typical parkland course designed by British golfer Pete Townsend in 1888.
Townsend made excellent use of all the beautiful and natural obstacles in the landscape such as the winding brook and hilly terrain. Also with the many mature trees and shrubs that come into play throughout the course make an extremely challenging and enjoyable round of golf.
Martin’s Klooster Hotel in the university city of Leuven was our next stop. The hotel is idyllically situated at the end of a an ancient cobbled street in the middle of Leuven’s historical centre. A two-minute walk from the hotel takes you right to the ‘Oude Markt’or the botanical garden.
Martin’s Klooster was originally build in 1531 to accommodate Charles V’s secretary, then it became an Augustinian monastery and later was converted in to this unique hotel.
The rooms are elegant, cosy and modern yet they maintain all the character of the original building. The Monastery bar and orangery are elegantly designed in keeping with character of this unique building.
For information on Flanders golf courses and unique hotels visit: golfinflanders.com
The “Martin’s Golf Pass” offers a golfer an excellent all-inclusive package for info. visit: www.martinsgolfpass.com
Photographs: Ger Bradley: Golf in Flanders: Martin’s Hotels.
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