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Author: John Dean

Interrail Golf (8): the last leg, Belgium

09 December 2019
5 min. read
John Dean
John Dean has been one of the driving forces behind the very popular GolfPunk Magazine. Now he’s taking a break to do what he likes best: traveling and playing golf. John goes on an Interrail trip through 9 European countries, playing golf in every country he visits. This is his final leg!
Bruges in Belgium (Photo credits, Marcos Fernandes - Flickr)

I am now heading by train from Cheb in the Czech Republic through Germany, and then onto Belgium. Cheb lies close to the German border. I head to Nuremberg, before taking an express train to Frankfurt, right through the heart of Germany.

Germany is OB

I am not playing golf in Germany as I am under time pressure, and my month on the permanent way is approaching an end. According to the German Golf Association there are 727 golf courses in the country serving more than 640,000 affiliated golfers. However, being Germany you can’t normally play unless you have a Platzreife licence, and I don’t have one.

It costs about $300 for a five day course and includes a written test and a skills test. If you make six mistakes in the written course of 30 questions, you will fail. Oh, and the written test is in German only.

I was thinking of trying to blag my way on one of their top courses, like their number one rated course Hamburger Falkenstein, or the Green Eagle’s two courses which are highly rated by Leadingcourses.com’s readers, and hosted the Porsche German Open. But as I’m not carrying my handicap certificate, I decide not to chance my arm. Instead, I head for Belgium, which is a golfing nation on the up and up.

Golfing it up in Belgium

The links course at Royal Ostende (Photo credits, member hanssmellinckx)

There are 61,000 affiliated golfers, playing across 88 different courses, and you’ll be immediately struck by how many of them are Royal courses. But there is a simple reason behind this, as every course adopts this title when it reaches its 50th anniversary!

Belgium has also been enjoying the rise of its own golf stars, including Thomas Pieters, Thomas Detry, and Nicolas Colsaerts – who returned to winning ways with victory at the 2019 French Open.

Brussels is a great base for exploring golf in the country, as there are 25 courses within the immediate vicinity of the capital. There are also some great courses in the Ardennes and some links golf to be found on their North Sea at Royal Ostende.

Royal Zoute Golf Club

Royal Zoute at Knokke Heist is also a links course, although it is just slightly inland. It’s very much a classic Harry Colt layout, and has built a fine reputation over the years as host course for the Belgium Open, which has seen winners including (Sir, if you please) Nick Faldo, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. 

It has been described as a cross between Royal Sunningdale and Royal Lytham and St Anne’s which I kind of understand. Lytham too is an inland links course, and Royal Zoute has heather as part of its defences. 

Royal Zoute is just a half an hour drive from the wonderful city of Bruges, which would make for a great weekend away, and this is where I decide to tee it up for my final round of my European golfing odyssey.

Royal Zoute (Photo credits, member ZigaStajner)

Belgium: a very suitable golf destination

Their rating system indicates how suitable a destination is to play golf and factors in the average rating of golf clubs by destination. The density of above average golf courses and the natural surroundings of an area are also taken into account. With Belgium earning an 8.7, it shows what a strong golf destination the country has become.

Add in the incredible Belgian beers, and great gastronomy, and you’ve got your yourself a fantastic golf destination. I couldn’t resist the classic moules frites and the superb Duvel lager, which weighs in at a hefty 8.5% ABV.

End of the line

Bruxelles Central Station (photo credits, Alex Wong - Unsplash)

My time is running out, and it’s now time for my final train journey which will take me from Bruxelles to my home in Haywards Heath, and a homecoming pint in my local pub The Talbot.

I have travelled through nine different European countries, played over 15 rounds at 8 different courses, and covered just short of six thousand kilometres. And I have enjoyed every single moment of it. In three years time Interrail will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary. I am already planning ahead, as there’s so much more golf to be savoured on the permanent way. How about a bit of Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Greece for starters…..   

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