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Royal Oostende is the second of the Belgian links courses. Hmm. It does not actually sound good to call it "second". It is actually the first by many attributes. Driving South-West from Zoute, you'll find your way to Royal Oostende automatically. The course is located by the main road, right by the sea. If Royal Zoute is somewhere between links and heathland (see entry below), Oostende has a much more a links character, with most holes being clearly links holes, topped up with five holes cut through a woodland area. Royal Oostende has an interesting history, as King Leopold II himself was one of the key persons behind the course project, which was launched in order to promote Oostende for British tourists. The course was initially designed by Seymour Dunn and opened in 1903. Martin Hawtree has recently remodeled a number of the green complexes. The round starts with a great par-4 hole, which tempts the player to take the risk of cutting the corner on the left, going straight over the bunker. But going too much left will result in trouble. The second is a good straight par-5. After less linksy three and four we arrive to the sea shore and that's when the course gets seriously great. Holes five to ten are all by the sea, and this is a challeging stretch indeed. The section includes three long par-fours (holes 5, 9 and 10), one medium-length par-5 (7) and two brilliant one-shotters (6th pictured above and 8th) into well guarded greens. When the North Sea winds blow hard, this section can be really demanding. A touch more inland, the holes 11-14 retain their links character, offering undulating fairways and well-guarded greens. Hole 12 is a really intersting short par-4, with a fairway full of hills and hollows, leading towards a tricky elevated green. Holes 15-17 are cut through a little more swampy woodland, and he round finishes with a great par-5 hole back to the club house, starting with a blind drive. Comparing Zoute and Oostende is probably not fair or even necessary, as the courses are so different. But at least for me Oostende is a more memorable course, with several excellent holes and a convivial atmosphere. It is, after all, THE links course in Belgium, definitely worth playing. Belgian links golf (as Belgian golf in general) is perhaps not that well known, but Zoute and Oostende are well worth a nice short weekend trip, to see something a bit different. Both courses are of really good quality. - Juho Royal Oostende website: http://www.golfoostende.be/ , check out the picture gallery as well!
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