As publisher of World’s Best Golf Destinations, I am fortunate enough to play the world’s best courses on a daily basis. Having played almost all the great links courses the above statement is not a statement I make lightly but Princes just has the winning combo.
Before I get to the 27 spectacular holes of pristine links golf let’s talk location. I live in Florida, I don’t want to spend three days of a seven-day trip getting where I am going, driving on roads almost big enough for one car and dodging cows, sheep and tractors at every turn. Princes is conveniently located just outside the medieval town of Sandwich, in Kent and is located on a private estate on the beautiful Sandwich bay. The bay in which Julius Cesar, the Vikings, and St Augustine all choose as their landing point in the UK so you will be in good company. A point that is conveniently located just 90-minute from Gatwick or about 2 hours from Heathrow airport both of which have direct flights from almost anywhere. It’s even quite easy to get the to Sandwich by train with service to and from London every 20 minutes.
This part of England is the driest and warmest in the British Isles. This summer I saw only two days of rain in the six weeks I spent there over a four-month period, unheard of in most parts of the UK. I also enjoy its proximity to France, Dover is just 15 minutes away and the Channel Tunnel 40 meaning I can be in the charming French town of Le Toquet for dinner just as easily as London. The Le Toquet course is known as the Royal Birkdale of France and excellent, while near bye Wimoroux, Hardelot, and Belle Dunes are also spectacular.
Back in England, Princes has three magnificent nines each with their own unique character the Dunes, Shore and Himalayas. The recent re-imagining of the Himalayas nine by renowned architect Martin Ebert is truly spectacular. These changes are most visible on the 2nd hole, which has been combined with the 3rd hole to produce a sweeping par 5 around wetlands to the old par 3 green. The jewel in the crown is the new par 3 ‘Bloody Point’ located at the far end of the course, this short hole, set against the backdrop of the sea and the white cliffs of Ramsgate, requires an accurate tee shot to the raised and severely undulating green. The walk from the 5th green to the 6th tee alongside the beach gives the golfer a little respite before taking on the mammoth par 5. Another significant change is the 8th which is now a risk and reward drivable par 4 to the only double green on the course. The finishing hole is a brute, playing into the prevailing wind from an elevated tee the golfer will require an accurate approach shot to this long green which is protected by the infamous Sarazen bunker.
The dog-leg 1st hole is arguably the most difficult on the course with a narrow green which is tricky to hold even with the shortest of approach shots. The par 3 second offers only temporary respite before three very testing holes particularly the 4th and 5th both challenging par fours. The 6th tee affords excellent views across both golf courses and is the start of the excellent par 5 with hazards both left and right of the green for those choosing to go for the green after a good drive. The approach to the 7th can be difficult to judge and the par 3 eighth calls for a long and accurate tee shot. Two good shots are required to find the final green which was re-sited in 1985 when the central Clubhouse was built, the original green now being one of the practice greens.
The opening drive is straightforward, but a par 4 is still quite difficult to achieve. In contrast, the drive at the par 5 second requires the longest carry to the fairway of any hole at Prince’s. With its severely undulating fairway, the fourth is a daunting hole even for the best golfer. The 5th is the post war 18th playing to the same green where Gene Sarazen won the 1932 Open Championship. The 6th begins the return north to the new Clubhouse, an accurate tee shot must be followed by an even more exact second to find the elevated green which slopes steeply to the right. Club selection can be difficult at the par 3 eighth, and a par at the last is often hard to achieve. The clubhouse flagpole is an excellent aiming point for the drive which should best find the far right of the fairway to open up the approach to the green.
Unlike most UK courses Princes boasts a superb grass practice area, two huge putting greens, and a beautiful chipping area.
Steeped in History and Local Lore
In 1932 Gene Sarazen, led the Open Championship after every round to finish in a record low score of 283, five shots ahead of Macdonald Smith. During the event, he made excellent use of his new invention the Sand wedge for the first time and got up and down three times in a row from the deep bunker now on the 9th of the Himalayas, where a commemorative plaque provides a photo op for all.
Laddie Lucas, was born in the clubhouse of the Sandwich Bay course and his father, Percy Montague Lucas, was the co-founder of the club. Lucas was an excellent player (a 3-time Walker Cup captain) and the top amateur at the 1935 Open at Muirfield. He was considered one of the best left-handed players in the world and practiced as a youngster with the great Henry Cotton.
A sportswriter for the Sunday Express, he volunteered for the RAF when World War II broke out and became a Spitfire pilot!
Returning to RAF Manston after a raid over northern France, Lucas’ Spitfire was damaged by enemy fire, and smoke filled the cockpit as he made his escape back across the Channel. Losing altitude, and fearing he may need to ditch his craft in the water, Lucas spotted the outline of Sandwich Bay and the old Prince’s clubhouse.
Lucas sighting familiar ground force-landed his Spitfire on what is now the 3rd hole on Prince’s, Himalayas 9 coming to a rest just beyond the boundary line. A plaque near the spot states, that the day after his forced landing a telegram arrived from his friend — the noted golf writer Henry Longhurst. It read: “Driven out of bounds again Lucas.”
Evidence of their storied history can be found thought out the Clubhouse, Lodge and in their private museum all of which will delight any student of golf history.
Adjoining Princes is another famous Open venue Royals, St Georges, while Royal Cinque Ports, also known as Deal is just 2 miles down the coast. The Royal St. George’s Golf Club, host to The British Open Championship 14 times since it was founded and most recently in 2011 when Irishman Darren Clarke lifted The Claret Jug, is genuinely one of the world’s greatest courses and is the number 1 course in England. This excellent course will again host The Open in 2020.
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club has been the scene of many Championships, including two Open Championships in 1909 and 1920. The Club hosted the Amateur Championship in 2013 and is one of four Final Open Qualifying venues from 2014–2017, and is still regarded as one of the finest Links challenges in the country.
Having a 38 room Lodge on site just makes any golf trip more fun. No packing and unpacking, no constantly waiting in the lobby for a bus and never having to worry about your choice of beverage after the round. Just walk out the door and tee it up or work on your short game at their fantastic, undulating chipping and putting area. The Lodge looks directly over the spectacular bay on one side and the course on the other. There are several options including regular rooms, two large suites, and apartments.
English food has an un deserved reputation as poor, and perhaps in the 60’s and 70’s it was. Today the food scene in England is booming and nowhere more so than Kent. The Garden of England. At Prince’s Lodge you’ll enjoy fabulous food with fresh meat and produce sourced from local farms and prepared with fare by Head Chef Ricky.
The historic market town of Sandwich offers a wide range of food options with over 30 pubs and restaurants should you like to take the 2 mile walk along the river or a 10-minute cab ride.
Of course there a lots of great golf courses, lots of clubs offer a place to stay. Many offer quality food, but few places offer a relaxed, friendly atmosphere as I have found at Prince’s. Camaraderie is their greatest asset. Over 40-member events offer you a chance to meet, stay and play like a local. We are people friendly, cell friendly and dog-friendly. You can play in shorts with short socks! They may be a 100-year old club, but their attitude is firmly in the 21st century. When I first walked in and spoke to General Manager, Rob McGuirk, about the possibility of joining as an International member I was shocked by the price. It was so cheap!
“Do you want to think about it?” he asked?
“Think about are kidding!” I said, practically ran to the car to get my wallet. For about the price of a weeks’ green fees, you are full member, with full privileges. You get three nights free lodging and huge discounts on rooms after that. Plus, you can bring guests to play at 50% discount. A fantastic place and a spectacular deal.
For more information on the best International Membership in the UK, please visit https://www.princesgolfclub.co.uk