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Lombartzyde Golf Club. 

1910 - 1939

Around 1908, plans were made by the Crombez family to expand the Nieuwpoort baths attractions with a golf course. Land on the right hand bank of the Yser River on Lombardsijde territory was chosen, next to Villa Crombez, which was used as a clubhouse.

Nisbet’s Golf Guide from 1910 states that the club has been instituted 1910 and that it can be reached by electric tram Oostende or by tram from Nieuwpoort.

Col. H.C. Velch is Honorary Secretary and W Philpot the Professional.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. Layout of the course in 1910.

Layout of the course in 1910.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. The tenth and eighteenth greens.

Tenth and Eighteenth greens with Lighthouse and Clubhouse.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. The tenth and eleventh greens.

The tenth and eleventh greens. Above pictures from Golf Illustrated 5th August 1910.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. Postcard showing the course in 1915.

Postcard of the Golf Course in 1915.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. The Clubhouse.

The clubhouse. Above postcards from the Christoph Meister Archive.

 

“The course is on sandy soil, with fine seaside turf and large greens. The hazards are mostly high sand dunes covered with marram grass. There is a commodious club house; and arrangements are made for visitors to be brought to the club by steam tram until the electric trams begin to run on the 1st of July”

An interesting article about the newly opened golf course was published in Golf Illustrated dating August 5th 1910 titled “The Professionals at Lombartzyde – The Splendid New Golf Links on ten Belgian Coast”

“The latest course to be opened is that of the Lombartzyde Golf Club, on the coast not far from Ostend, which forms the subject of the present illustrated article. As it is the latest, so it is by far the best. In fact, a pretty intimate acquaintance with all the best golf courses on the Continent enables us to say without hesitation that the Lombartzyde golf course surpasses the best of them so greatly as to stand in a class entirely by itself.

So good is it in every golfing sense, that when the course has had time to settle down, it will be hard to name its superior anywhere within our own islands.

As one approaches the links from Nieuport Bains, the delightful seaside resort which lies immediately to the north, one is quickly reminded of Sandwich. There are some high sand dunes covered with bents, the same huge bunkers, and the same picturesque distances, with their low horizons broken here and there, by the quaint spire or tower of some church or town hall.

On the links itself the impression of familiarity deepens, and also broadens, because at various points of the course the character of the scene changes, so that for a few holes one be at Deal or Carnoustie, or at Princes’, Sandwich, while at the sixth hole the surroundings strongly suggest Hoylake.

Nor is the resemblance confined to the landscape. The golf provided at every hole is of the most testing description, and, hole for hole, is not surpassed at any of the courses named for variety and interest.

The first few holes make a charming opening to the round. After the first – a fine one-shot hole, about 200 yards in length, slightly down hill, where a perfectly straight drive is essential- there are three holes along a comparatively flat stretch of beautiful turf, which adjoins the estuary. These holes are all of fine length and well-guarded. But at Lombartzyde it is not merely necessary to avoid the actual hazards in order to arrive safely on the green. Each shot from the tee to green must be played to a given point, and even partial failure in this respect at any point almost invariably means the loss of a stroke. This is especially true of the approach shots. Any kind of miss-hit approach shot will never reach the green, as it often does on second-rate courses, either by running down a hill or cannoning off a convenient hillock.

A great many of the holes are on higher ground than the fairway, on plateau, and at others, only the narrowest channels give access to the greens, which are so placed that any errors of direction result in the ball braking off to the right or left of the green.

After the fourth hole the course turns at right angles and we get into a more undulating country. The fifth hole is a typical one. The green is on a plateau, which lies behind a high bend-covered hillock on the right. The tee shot has, therefore, to be played well to the left so as to give a more open approach. The approach to this hole is very like one of the incoming holes at Deal.

We now come into the Hoylake country and play one of the long holes, which measure over 500 yards, all of them narrow and well guarded, affording “thinking golf” at each stroke. And so on, in pleasing variety, with plenty of shorter holes to test our iron and cleek play, now with the wind aslant.

It is difficult in such short acquaintance to remember the exact sequence of the holes, but each one has the kind of individuality, which impresses itself in the memory, and we can honestly say that there is not a bad or dull hole from start to finish of the round. It’s a course were mere driving is not sufficient. Long driving is, of course, essential, but, as has been said, the putting greens are neither so large nor so open as to put any premium on mere long hitting. We know no course where absolute straightness of direction, especially in the second and approach shots, is so much required, except, perhaps, at St. Andrews itself.

This, at least, was the opinion of the Triumvirate, who with Herd, Ray, Willie Park (who planned and laid out the course), Jack Park and G.Charles, assembled at Lombartzyde on Thursday of last week to compete for handsome money prizes kindly offered by the Lombartzyde Golf Club and Mr. H. Crombez, on part of whose property the course is laid out. The professionals were all genuinely surprised at the excellence of the course, and declared that it far surpassed anything they had ever dreamed possible on the continent.”

The course was situated just north of Nieuwpoort Bains separated only by the Yser River. The clubhouse was very near the Nieuwpoort lighthouse, which is called by that name even to it stands on the opposite side of the river on Lombartzyde territory.

Famous British Golf writer Bernhard Darwin describes the situation at the Lombartzyde Golf Links in his “Foreign Letter” published in Golf Illustrated (US) in December 1914 as it follows:

“…This talk of a peaceful golf course reminds me that there is one very well known course that has been right in the thick of the bloodiest fighting in Belgium. 

This is Lombartzyde, which is close to Nieuwpoort. You will have read of the terrific fighting on the banks of the river Yser, how the Germans coming on to certain death with almost superhuman gallantry got across that river seven times, only seven times to be driven back by our men. 

The Yser is said to have run red with blood, though whether this is a literal fact or only a flight of ghastly fancy I do not know. At any, rate that river Yser, ordinarily the most placid of streams, runs alongside several holes of the Lombartzyde golf course.

For the second time after a long interval, it is playing its part in military history and the destinies of Europe, for it was one of the waterways that were of enormous importance to the Duke of Marlborough when he was fighting in the Low Countries some two hundred and ten years ago. 

Whether there has actually been fighting on the links of Lombartzyde themselves I do not know. The links being close to the sea and our British ships keeping up a destructive fire on the coast it may very well be that the Germans thought it wiser to go a little further inland. In that case, it is possible that the course has escaped. 

It is much to be hoped so for it is or was the best course on the continent—a really fine seaside course, real sea grass and real sand hills—as good in the main as our best British courses, though not quite so long as some of them. The question seems for the moment of purely academic interest. The idea of golf again in Belgium, the idea of anything quite as it used to be, is difficult to imagine just now.” 

Unfortunately Bernhard Darwin was right with his fears as both the Villa Crombez, which was used as clubhouse, and the golf course were completely destroyed during the Great War.”

The Course reopened (1929 – 1939)

After the World war, in 1923, Henri Crombez made plans to reopen the golf course again on the same land used before 1914. The new golf course was reopened in July 1929. According to the Plumon Guide the course reopened in 1930 playing over 5.360m with a scratch score of 72. Interestingly and irrespectively of what happened on the course during WWI the layout was not much different from pre-war times. The beginning hole no. 1 was lengthened to 427 yards and No. 2 was shortened in order to avoid beginning the round with a Par 3 hole. No. 16 was a new hole and No.17 played onto the same green (formerly green No 16) but from a different angle whereas the old hole 17 was now played as 18 though abolishing the old shortish 18th hole leading back to the Villa Crombez, which was now not there anymore. Also there was one change made to the routing, so that now hole No.9 ended near the (new) clubhouse.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. Layout of the course in 1930.

Course layout in 1930.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. Layout of the course in 1931.

Course layout in 1931.

 

Lombartzyde Golf Club. The Clubhouse in 1934.

The Clubhouse in 1934.

 

In 1939, following the growing threat of war, the golf course was closed and used by the Belgian Army. Plans were made to convert the land into an airport. Henri Crombez, who himself was a pilot, supported the plans and offered the golf course of Lombardsijde to be used for this purpose. The airport never materialized and the “new” clubhouse was used by the German occupation forces during WWII and was partially destroyed at the end of the war. There are no more traces left.

The small water tower, which is still inside today’s military barracks, dates back to that period. It was used as a water reservoir for the golf course. South of this area a street called “Golfstraat” is all that indicates this land was formerly used for a different purpose.

Christoph Meister

November 2017.

The Google Map below shows the lighthouse on the former course.