In Belgium’s German border region, the standout course in a cluster of top-notch facilities is the Royal Golf Club des Fagnes. Located in the beautiful town of Spa, the course is ranked among Europe’s finest and sits in a valley in the Ardennes mountains 28 miles southwest of Aachen. As the name suggests, the town of Spa won worldwide fame for its curative natural mineral springs — ensuring that anyone suffering with golf elbow can seek immediate, effective treatment in a therapeutic immersion bath. The course at the Royal Golf Club des Fagnes is laid out to offer players seclusion, peace and tranquillity — even on the busiest days the ambience is serene. The 18 demanding holes are what draws passionate golfers from all over the world to Spa. The layout has been carefully constructed to trace the natural undulations and clearings of the age-old pine forest with a course that meanders around trees, tricky bunkers and elevations. Since the club was founded in 1907, the course has earned a reputation as a must-play facility among discerning golfers. Players remain largely undisturbed, since the greens are so well protected.
Spread across grounds that glory in the design of Thomas Simpson in the late 1920s, the first nine holes reach out towards the famous Spa-Francorchamps Formula One race track in completely natural surroundings. As the venue for the Belgian Grand Prix and the Spa 24 Hours and 620 mile endurance races, the circuit is one of the world’s most challenging race tracks, due to its fast, hilly and twisty nature. Over the years, the circuit has been modified several times — most notably after the Second World War. Today, speeds in excess of 205mph can be reached — often in unpredictable weather. Many Formula One drivers feel that the course demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other race track in the world — the Eau Rouge and Blanchimont corners both need to be taken flat out to achieve a fast run onto the straights after them. After the frenzied, fast-paced fervour of a race, it’s not uncommon to find F1 drivers relaxing in the Royal Golf Club des Fagnes’ terrace bar, which overlooks the 9th green, enjoying the anonymity offered by the leafy trees and lush greenery: listening to the lullaby of songbirds, the rustling of hedgerows and the perfect whoosh of a golf swing.