Leave the best of the "Royal Golf Courses" until last. This gem of a course, amid the woods and heather in the hills above Spa, is known as the “Belgian Sunningdale” because parts of it resemble the famous Berkshire course. Fagnes has staged many Belgian Opens over the years, although it began life in 1930 as a modest 9-holer on open, sandy heathland. Tom Simpson's masterstroke was to create a second nine in the adjacent pine forest, and it's the contrast between the two halves that make it special, along with the subtle undulations, narrow approaches and dog-legs, fiendish assortment of sand and water-traps, and the natural tranquility of its setting. You play through the woods first, before tackling the blasted heath which the club's professional describes as “un peu sauvage”. The signature hole is number 13: a par five, 452 metres long, with a curve to the right on a sloping fairway, and a deceptive, elevated green protected by copious quantities of sand. “The thirteenth is the most sauvage of all,” added the pro. You have been warned!
Around and about: Many golfers combine a round at Fagnes with a visit to the other Royal course in the vicinity, Sart-Tilman. Alternatively, the Henri-Chapelle Golf and Country Club, set in a valley near the German and Dutch borders, has something for everyone: from a six-hole pitch-and-putt for beginners to a tough, steep-sloped 18-holer for masochists. Compensation comes in its series of memorable views and a charming clubhouse that was once a farmstead. Once the clubs have been stowed away, the world's first health resort at Spa should not be missed. Henry VIII and Peter the Great are among those who have sampled its sparkling, faintly sulphurous waters. Spa also contains the world's oldest casino (1763), prides itself on its flavoursome local cheeses, and stages the Belgian F1 Grand Prix every summer. A fine collection of vintage Formula 1 cars is on show at nearby Stavelot Abbey. Spa has a wealth of four-star hotels, including two Radisson BLU properties and the Dorint Spa Balmoral, while the Manoir de Lébioles, hidden in the Ardennes forest, is an outstanding boutique hotel.