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PRO-AM AT THE BELGACOM OPEN
ROYAL ZOUTE - KNOKKE-HEIST
Stuart Barber - Publisher, Golf Today

 

If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited to play in a Pro-Am before a European Tour event, don’t refuse.

In my case it was the Pro-Am preceding the Belgacom Open being held at Royal Zoute in Knokke-Heist.

The course was designed by Harry Colt and opened for play more than 100 years ago. The course does not look too tough, but it is a tremendous challenge for anyone. La Zoute never tries to hide any of its difficulties and it requires a well placed tee shot to give an easier approach shot to fast and well contoured greens that are cleverly and subtly defended. A classic course and one that all golfers should know sooner or later. Recommended by the Peugeot Golf Guide as one of the best links courses in Continental Europe.

The course was in immaculate condition for the Belgacom Open and our bonus was that the day was warm, sunny and calm and the 8.30 am start from the 10th tee hadn't attracted too much attention from the residents of Knokke.


Our Pro, Angel Cabrera, currently lying 14th in the European Tour Order of Merit, launched his first drive like an exorcist missile. My partners, Olivier Randegs, a four handicap member at Zoute and Jef Hellemans, a respected Belgium journalist and myself, followed as best we could. Surprisingly, Angel who has played the European Tour for 6 years has never won a European Tour event, although he has had plenty of top 10 places and filled the runner-up spot on a number of occasions. A charming man with a ready smile, Angel shepherded us around the
18 holes. A deft touch around the greens allowed to an ability to hit a 7.5 degree driver immense distants from the tee and off at the fairway, gave our team a solid base. With Olivier demonstrating why he was a 4 handicap player and Jef and I having the occasional spark of brilliance our team was pleased to finish with a score of 65. We were not the worst but were no way near the team of
Steen Tinning who won the morning Pro-Am with a net score of 58 equalled in the afternoon by Gary Orr and his team.

The finale to the Pro-Am was lunch in the clubhouse at Zoute. I was assured by the locals that this was the normal standard, if so it’s a very high one indeed.

I travelled by P&O Stena Line, Dover to Calais, but you can also travel Sea France or for those who don’t want the ambiance of a min-cruise in a state of the art ferry, you can whiz under the channel on ‘Le Shuttle’ in slightly less than half the time.

The beauty is that Knokke is less than 2 hours drive from Calais on excellent motorways.

Knokke-Heist is a lovely town with beautiful beaches, shops and restaurants. Avoid August because fashionable Belgians descend on Knokke as the place to visit.

If you want to experience a real gem of a golf course that makes you stop and think then definitely put Royal Zoute on your itinerary. If you’re in Belgium for a few days then travel the short distance to Royal Antwerp and play another great course carved amongst pine trees.

I stayed courtesy of the Tourist Board at the Approach Hotel in Knokke-Heist which I’d thoroughly recommend for its quality and the courtesy of the staff. Knokke has many hotels most of them close to the shops, the sea, the restaurant and the golf.

A competitive, but friendly game of golf played in lovely surroundings – that sums up my Pro-Am day – what more could you ask? Knokke-Heist and Royal Zoute, thank you, I’ll be back.