For Episode 3, we're heading to Belgium ...
Would you Play or Pass the following courses and alternatives ?
Royal Antwerp GC - Tom Simpson Course - GF €85 Week, €95 W'End
The RAGC, founded in 1888 and the 2nd oldest golf club on the continent, moved to its present environment in 1912 when Tom Simpson laid out the 18 hole course. Some recent redevelopment has brought the quality of the course up to withstand modern day play while restoring some of the features of the time when the original courses was designed. This is golf history and built on heathland turf, the course remains playable even during the most adverse of weather. Dogleg holes require position rather than power of the tee and with greens featuring optical illusions on your approach, a tricky lay out altogether. The atmosphere is old school which you either loath or love but this is a 'tick the box' experience.
Would you Play or Pass ?
Alternative Next Door: Rinkven G&CC, €65 - €85
Rinkven was founded in the 60's and initially offered 27 holes designed by Belgian architect Paul Rolin (assoinfluenced by RTJ). More recently, the course has received an extensive upgrading and rerouting which brought it up to 36 holes and the building of a new clubhouse. Again, laid out on sandy soil, the courses are always in good condition. This courses is an oasis carved out from the pine forests North of Antwerp.
Royal Route Golf Club @ €110
Knokke started as a links course in 1899 and an offshoot of the Bruges Golf & Sport Club. The area and course suffered during the wars and after WWII Lt Col Allen drew up lans for two links courses, the current championship and executive course. The final designs were done by Harry Colt. Knokke has always been a high end club and hosted several Belgian Opens, the last one back in 2000 and won by Lee Westwood. Knokke has also produced its fair share of Belgian amateur and professional golfers. Although it started out as a links course and the course still has features that remind one of that, the current layouts are surrounded by houses and now play like a heathland course. Knokke always prides itself on the the conditioning although that can be hit and miss depending of the time of year. They always had the fastest greens in Belgium. It's definitely a course to play when you're in Belgium and the seaside resort of Knokke isn't too shabby neither. There is accommodation in the club house as well.
Alternative nearby: Damme G&CC @ €80
As golf grew in the 80's, people started building golf courses as there wasn't any room in the traditional clubs. Damme is a bit inland from Knokke and the historic town, a defence during the heydays of Bruges in the middle ages, is home to several excellent restaurants. The golf club designed by Paul Rolin is laid out on what was formerly agricultural land within the flat Flemish 'polders'. With a fair bit of water in play, this is not a push over course and combing Damme and Knokke makes for a great weekend away.
Which ones would you PLAY or PASS ?