What we say
Prince’s had fallen from our list of the best golf courses but recent renovations place it firmly back in the top 100.
Prince’s Golf Club has staged an Open, been battered by two world wars and been a home to royalty and Prime Ministers.
But owners the McGuirk family, who have been in situ since the 1970s, realised its history as an Open venue was not enough to forever see it regarded as one of the leading venues in the country. Once a permanent fixture in our GB&I Top 100, Prince’s had fallen out of our ranking lists around the turn of the Millennium.
The McGuirk’s acted, first with an overhaul by European Golf Design and then, still not resting on their laurels, by a renovation shortly after by Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert.
There is an impressive consistency to the nines now; there are no disappointments at Prince’s these days, just hole after hole of first-rate links golf.
It may not reach the thrilling highs of St George’s – but then, in some observers’ eyes, Sandwich is the finest course in England – or quite have the quirkiness of Royal Cinque Ports, but this is unmistakably a stellar venue. It now sits very comfortably in our GB&I Top 100s.
It is hard to know which is the best combination now. Where once the Shore and Dunes nines were the premier combination, Martin Ebert’s work on the Himalayas has brought it up at least to their standard.
It is hard to know which two to play if you are visiting. It is hard, to know which two to rank in our Top 100 lists. Prince’s is now a 27-hole complex with rare consistency.
You certainly know you are playing somewhere ‘proper’ when you examine the challenge of the 1st on the Shore. At 454 yards off the tips, it requires a solid drive first up – avoiding the traps on either side of the fairway – and then an accurate approach to an undulating green.
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Escape with a par and you will eye up the 2nd – which begins next to the shore – with relish, just 536 yards and offering up an early birdie chance whether you attack it in two or lay up short of the bunkers 60 yards out and try to get up and down.
The first short hole is next, where a large and deep pot bunker attracts your attention on the left side and disguises the fact that anything missing right will leave a blind pitch to the elevated green.
Played into the prevailing wind, the tee shot on the 413-yard 4th is intimidating, but hit a good one and you will enjoy walking over the humps and hollows which develop during the course of the fairway. The deep pot front right gathers with evil intent and requires a positive stroke to escape it.
The 5th is another two-shotter, and this slight dog-leg plays towards the new Lodge accommodation which sits on the boundary with St George’s. Indeed, the clock on the side of the Lodge is not a bad line. Miss it right and you face a devilish chip up to another elevated green.
Now we turn round and, with the wind at our backs, feel we can attack the 423-yard 6th. Certainly, a drive down the right-centre will leave just 120 yards or so but the green is on an angle and tucked behind a ridge of the left with an acute run-off to the right. Only a sweet wedge shot will offer a birdie chance.
An even better driving hole is up next, where the bunkers appear from the elevated tee to be ringing the fairway but in fact the middle one is only reachable for the elite. With the wind behind, many will fancy reaching in two if they can thread their drive between the cross bunkers but this is a ribbon of a fairway and many will have to settle for a mid-iron and then a wedge onto a typically undulating green which appears clover shaped due to the mounding round the edges.
Turning round, the 8th plays more or less into the wind and needs as much as a hybrid to get up. In truth, it looks modest off the tee, but walk 185 yards forward and a funky green complex is revealed, with a dune back left creating the effect of a ‘snug’ in the corner of a pub… and some testing pin positions.
A semi-blind tee shot with the clubhouse in the distance completes the Shore loop, and it does so in some style; a crumpled fairway with two ridges running down almost its complete length giving it great character – with the best line down the right. If you can steer your tee shot into the ‘shute’ between the ridges you will be rewarded with a clear view of the pin. In all honesty, anyone who finds this tunnel has probably pushed their drive…
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The Dunes nine begins with one of the most exacting drives on the property; played into the wind you must try to swing a draw over the bunker on the left. Achieve that and a much more inviting approach awaits. Anything directed right will leave a long, long way in. It is a handsome dog-leg hole, with a fairway trap – which looks as if it is by the green but is in fact 50 yards short of it – framed by the Lodge in the background.
For the umpteenth time, there are acute run-offs round every point of the upturned saucer green, which puts even greater premium on a good drive to leave an approach which mere mortals may carry off.
The 2nd on the Dunes has improved markedly in recent years – but not down to the work of Johnston or McLean. The power station which used to lurk in the background has been demolished, leaving a pleasant, downwind short hole – albeit one which can be extremely difficult to hold a ball on in the summer.
The par-5 12th is 555 yards off the tips and, played into the wind with out of bounds as well as a stream down the right, you never quite feel in control. The fairway is awash with pimples, like the surface of the moon. Great fun, and whose terrain is documented revealingly by the rings on the Strokesaver.
The 4th on the Dunes is stroke one and a relatively new fairway awaits – back to where it was originally. The real test here is the semi-blind approach, which should be played with one more club to negate the rise in elevation to a green which appears from the fairway to be guarded by a string of staggered bunkers lined up like a row of Subutteo figures. Once again, swales wait to gather slightly wayward shots and require dextrous recovery shots.
The 14th is a fine two-shotter with the famous out of bounds at St George’s 10 yards past its long, narrow green, which has a bank on the left and which slopes away steeply to the right and at the front – rejecting anything short.
Some respite follows with a beautiful driving hole that affords expansive general views of the Sandwich linksland as well as a lovely look down a rippling fairway punctuated by a scattering of bunkers. Some grass bunkers appear off the fairway to the right, or at least they look like grass bunkers. Another inviting hole on first glance but even though it is just 373 yards and plays downwind, you can’t get to excited because the 16th requires an astutely played approach which draws in over the dune on the front of the severely-elevated green. Anything too straight or short will be summarily rejected by the slope at the front, and may find sand.
The best short hole on the two loops follows, a giant bunker protecting the front left and the White Cliffs clearly visible beyond a green to the right. A classic par 3.
We finish with an inviting drive to one of the widest fairways on the course. A tee shot down the left gives the best angle to a archetypically undulating green which is overlooked by the kind of lovely little thatched-roofed shelter for which St George’s is so famous.
No matter which loops you play, you are assured of Great Britain and Ireland Golf World Top 100 calibre. The answer, therefore, is to play all three.
- Costs -
- TG Rating
- Players Rating
- Address Princes Drive, Sandwich Bay, SANDWICH
- Tel 01304 611118
- Website www.princesgolfclub.co.uk
|Course Length||6,880 yards (6,291 metres)|
- Course has: Bar
- Course has: Buggy Hire
- Course has: Driving Range
- Course has: Practice Green
- Course has: Pro Shop
- Course has: Restaurant
- Course has: Trolley Hire
- Course does not have: Dress Code
- Course has: Club Hire
- Course has: Handicap