Through my friends at Leadingcourses I recently got a very kind invitation to join a group of golfers and tour operators on a golfing tour through Flanders, organised by the Flanders Tourist Board and Golf in Flanders. Though my geography has always been very good I have to admit that I was not sure which part of Belgium exactly I was going to and which cities are a part of Flanders. I could associate the name of Flanders only with cycling and the famous “Ronde van Vlaanderen”.
So I asked my good friend Google, only to find out that Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent are all part of Flanders. And to spare you a few valuable seconds, Flanders is the northern (Dutch speaking) part of Belgium and has more than 50 golf courses. Still the best way to find out more about the golf courses in Flanders is to browse Leadingcourses.com or check their official site Golf in Flanders.
I am quite sure that a lot of you will share my thoughts when I admit that I never considered Belgium or let alone Flanders as my next golf destination. And this is the part where we are all mistaking. I can now honestly say that it is a great golf destination if you are looking for something more than just golf. Flanders will surprise you with very good golf courses, beautiful cities with rich history accompanied with delicious food (yes, beer too!) and great hospitality. Perfect combination.
Even though I am a super keen golfer and I have played in almost all European countries, I never really thought of Belgium as one of my next golf destinations so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. To my surprise it was much better than I expected…
Our meeting point was Brussels International Airport which is a very convenient starting point as you can probably get a direct flight from practically anywhere in Europe and actually nothing is really very far from Brussels. But if you have flights to Antwerp or Ghent it should also work very well.
Our first stop was Golf- & CountryClub Oudenaarde just over an hour drive west from Brussels. Upon arrival we where were all surprised by beautiful Petegem castle which serves as a clubhouse and what a clubhouse it is. After an excellent lunch in the clubhouse restaurant we headed out to play. Golf Club Oudenarde has two 18-hole courses, Kasteel (par 71) and Anker (par 72), unfortunately we only played the “Kasteel” or “Castle” course.This more or less flat layout is nice but quite challenging I would say and even thought the course is not long, there is not much room for errant tee shots. So choose your clubs wisely as many times your only option is penalty drop. The 4th hole is lovely par-3 as is the 14th. Holes 5, 12, 13 and 16 were the ones I liked the most while the “Captain’s Drive” opening Par-4 and the par-5 closing hole “Victory Lane” with an amazing view of the clubhouse are my favourite holes.
We spent the night in lovely Hotel Leopold Oudenaarde which is located in the Oudenaarde city center by the Scheldt river and just 2 minutes walk from beautiful main square which is definitely worth a visit if you are in town.
A historic round of golf
After the breakfast we headed towards the town of Ypres (Ieper) and Golf & Country Club De Palingbeek located less than an hour west from Oudenaarde. G&CC De Palingbeek is a very nice parkland golf course and both the region and the golf course are loaded with history. Especially from WWI as you actually play on the battlefield itself and in between the trenches of both fighting sites… While playing you pass other remnants of war, such as German bunkers, German mine shaft, remains of a tank and also a British observation post can be seen from the golf course. Out of respect for the countless victims here in both conflicts, the club has also placed information panels alongside the tees and published a brochure “The Historic Palingbeek” which explains more about the relevant historical sites. This natural parkland layout is very enjoyable and it is a real pleasure to play. What you see is what you get, no hidden surprises. The course will reward good shots and will still allow some minor mistakes. There are quite a few good risk and reward holes. Holes 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 is a very nice stretch, 15 is a nice par-5 and the 18th is great and technical finishing hole.
The clubhouse is quite bright with beautiful terrace overlooking the 9th and 18th green. And once again, after our round of golf we were not disappointed with the cuisine as the food in the golf club restaurant was excellent. All in all a day very well spent on golf, good food and history. We completed the day with a short city tour of lovely Ypres and the visit of The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing which is a war memorial dedicated to all the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient area during the WWI and whose graves are unknown. Ypres is a must see and it is only 10 minutes drive from the golf club.
An evening in Antwerp
Full of emotions we hit the road towards Antwerp. On our 130km long trip we passed Ghent which will have to wait until my next visit as I am sure it is as impressive as all other towns we visited this time. Our home for the night was Crowne Plaza Antwerp, located just a few minutes drive from amazing Antwerp city centre. It is a lovely business hotel which is conveniently located with a very nice pool and wellness area. A Nice walk in amazing Antwerp city centre was followed by another great gourmet experience at famous De Rooden Hoed restaurant located just around the corner of the astonishing cathedral of Our Lady.
Once again, Antwerp is just amazing. It has a beautiful city centre with a rich history and amazing architecture. It is also very convenient for golf as here you can find 14 golf courses within just 30 km from city centre. And if you love art you will enjoy it too as Antwerp is an epicentre of the Flemish Renaissance. The Rubenshuis is the place to visit if you like Rubens. And if you like sculptures than Middelheim Museum is a must. Here you can find several works of Rodin, Calders, Muñoz and many more.
Golf & Gastronomy
After the breakfast it only took us a few minutes by car to Cleydael Golf & Country Club which is one of those 14 golf clubs in Antwerp area and it is located just 9 kilometers from Antwerp’s city centre.
As we arrived to the property we were all amazed by beautiful Cleydael Castle which dates back all the way to the 13th century. Cleydael Golf & Country Club is a lovely parkland course which also hosted two European Challenge Tour events, the KPMG Trophy in 2014 and 2016. The layout is very interesting and diverse but there are a few tricky holes for a first time players. The very challenging par-4 18th hole playing towards the castle is one of the best finishing holes. We enjoyed the local beer and delicious snacks on the lovely back terrace overlooking the castle before our next stop which was Martin’s Rentmeesterij hotel in Bilzen, just about an hours drive from the golf course.
Martin’s Rentmeesterij is an amazing property on the grounds of Alden Biesen Castle founded in 1120 by the Order of the Teutonic Knightsand which was highly successful at the time and acquired several properties throughout Europe. Alden Biesen became the headquarters of the Biesen bailiwick. An excellent 4* hotel located just 10 minutes from Maastricht with beautiful gardens, lovely spa area, nice bar and great Akko restaurant where I am quite sure you will be delighted with the food. Definitely a very good choice for a nice dinner to finish another great day.
Millennium Golf is fairly new 18-hole Championship Course, on one hand quite open but than again full of water on the back nine where lake Paal comes in play. All in all very nice and enjoyable layout. The only hole I did not quite understand was the Par-5 12th but I guess 6-7 iron is the only proper club to use for your tee shot!? Some holes might be tricky for those playing here for the first time so make sure you play safe (and short) on holes 9, 16 and 18. Once again a great finishing set of holes by the lake. The course also has a 9-hole Compact Course which measures 719-metre and is great short game facility.
Millenium was our final golf round of the trip and we were left with one last short drive to our final overnight destination Leuven. Amazing university town of Leuven and the home of Stella Artois is located just 25 kilometres east of Brussels. We stayed at another beautiful 4* hotel Martin’s Klooster in Leuven city centre, only a few minutes walk from beautiful main square where you will find one of the most beautiful and fascinating town halls decorated with hundreds of statues of local figures, biblical characters and saints. Last but not least was the dinner at Julia & Elias which was yet another great foodie experience to end our too short Flanders trip.
So why Flanders?
A lot of diverse and quality golf courses make Flanders a great golf destination which every serious golfer should put on his list. And if golf itself is not enough you have beautiful cities, great hospitality, excellent cuisine and good accommodation, all with reasonable prices. To make things even easier, wherever in Flanders you are, everything is quite close. So there is not much driving to do to all those good golf courses. You also have several options to fly to Flanders. Brussels-Zaventem (or Brussels International Airport) is the busiest airport in Belgium, other airports are Brussels-Charleroi, Antwerp and Ostend-Bruges.
Visit. Play. Enjoy! is the slogan of Golf in Flanders. And if you do Visit Flanders and Play here, I am more than sure that you will Enjoy it too.
For useful information about Flanders please also visit the Golf in Flanders website where you can find all the golf courses in the area and also some offers golf deals and packages.