It was difficult to decide exactly where to rank Prince’s Golf Club because there are 27 holes in three loops of nine, named Himalayas, Dunes and Shore. We've since made our minds up and agree the Shore & Dunes loops form the best 18-hole combination, but only just. Recently we've added a new independent webpage for the Himalayas so we don't do any of the three circuits a disservice.
At the turn of the 19th century, it was decided that a new links should be built at Sandwich, next door to Royal St George's. The new Prince's Golf Club would welcome ladies, juniors and men. Charles Hutchings and Percy Lucas laid out the course on land donated by the Earl of Guildford. The 18-hole course, stretching out to almost 7,000 yards, opened for play in 1907.
The military commandeered the course during both World Wars; it was virtually obliterated during the Second World War. However, in 1932, Prince’s Golf Club proudly hosted its first and only Open Championship. “The Squire”, Gene Sarazen, was the eventual winner. Sarazen continued his winning streak, becoming the first player to win all four Majors.
Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison were commissioned to re-build Prince’s after the devastation of the Second World War and, incredibly, they were able to save 17 of the original greens and incorporate them into the new 27-hole layout. They have created a classic “links and a half”, with raised greens, rippled fairways, deep bunkers and, naturally, that famous links rough.
The Dunes and Shore loops make up the “championship” course. The Himalayas is shorter but nonetheless, an enjoyable nine holes. Above all, a warm welcome awaits everyone, much as it did it when Prince’s Golf Club first opened, over a hundred years ago.
Both the Shore and Dunes loops are similar in the fact that the opening sequences of holes both head out to the furthest point of the property. Out here the land backs directly onto Royal St. George's but the quality of golf at Prince's means you are not even slightly tempted to jump the fence and sneak a few holes at this prestigious Open Championship venue. (OK, well maybe a little bit, but you get the point).
If you start your round on the Shore course and face a head-wind it can feel like an eternity before you reach the second green. The first is a long par four and the second a three-shot par five. However, the exquisite short third, with a wonderful lone bunker protecting the green, provides a momentary breather before you face two more strong holes in the form of par fours with some exceptional bunkering at the former and a fascinating raised green at the latter.
Dunes also starts with a demanding hole that arches round to the left and is followed by yet another splendid par three, this time played to a smallish green and protected by three deep bunkers. Fairway bunkering at the long third is the main obstacle although out of bounds can come into play down the right, especially if a strong wind is blowing off the sea. The fourth is one of the hardest on the course whilst the fifth is a true highlight as you play between large bunkers, one of which is sleepered, to an elevated green that has the luxury of a back-drop if required.
The inward stretch commences with a brilliantly designed par five. Bunkers must be avoided along the way but it is the long, elevated green on top of a huge dune that makes this hole stand out. And it is followed by yet another majestic par three, possibly the best of the quartet, where the right half of the green should be favoured in order to avoid trouble on the left. The round closes with a 430 yard par four that demands both accuracy and length.
The beauty of Prince's is that it is one of very few links courses that has accommodation on site. There are plenty of inland resort courses with hotels but not many seaside courses can cater for a large group of players away from the course like Prince's can. Here you have it all; 27 holes of top-class links golf, luxury accommodation and award winning dining.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
There’s no doubt in my mind which is the best 18-hole configuration at Prince’s. I finally got round to playing all 27 holes last Sunday on a gloriously sunny shirt-sleeved day. Only Old Musselburgh now eludes me for the full set of Open Championship venues.
Prince’s was absolutely bursting at the seams with golfers last weekend – this is clearly one seriously popular club and quite rightly so. The golfing test on the main two 9-hole loops is brutal, especially in the 3-club southerly wind that we had to do battle with.
Unfortunately we played each of the three loops out of sequence. We tackled the Dunes first, followed by the Himalayas and then the Shore. The anti-clockwise Dunes loop was playing directly into the wind for the first five holes, and right from the off our scores reflected the difficulty. The opening hole is a killer par four that played like a par six into the wind. Not one of our group (including a pro) could salvage even a par on this hole. As we turned at #6 with Royal St George’s and the wind at our backs we started to score.
The Himalayas was a welcome letdown after the brutality of the Dunes, but this nine felt disconnected and rather awkward with more trees and vegetation flanking the holes. This loop was also a little unloved condition wise but the General Manager later told us that Mackenzie & Ebert has been commissioned to completely remodel the Himalayas. I just hope the Himalayas green complexes don’t change too much as I felt they were really good, a notch better in places than some greens on the Shore and Dunes.
My favourite of the three circuits was the Shore, which we played in the late afternoon/early evening. It may be that the shadows were lengthening and the wind had dropped a few notches. I loved this clockwise loop that follows the Channel going out and I really enjoyed the 5th with its green next to the lodge and virtually at the boundary of Royal St George’s. The bunkerless raised greensite is one the best on property and I didn’t realise until after the round that this is one of the original greens and it was the post-war 18th when Gene Sarazen won the Open.
6,600 yards from the yellow tees was more than enough yardage for me and I glanced back at the (7,300-yard) tips on numerous occasions thinking no way, not in this lifetime. It’s a stern test, even from the forward tees. Visit Prince’s to be examined but don’t expect too much drama, just anticipate tragedy, especially if you choose the wrong tees boxes.
Prince's is the third best course on this wonderful stretch of Kent coastline but that's purely down to the sheer quality of its two Royal neighbours.
This 150 yards average carry you described in your review, from which tee is that the case?
Very happy to report that all is good at Prince’s – it has been seven years since my last visit and the club continues to deliver on all fronts. The Links experience across all 27 holes here is a delight with the Shore/Dunes still the premier 18 holes and in places very, very tough. So many great holes, it would be easy to write about them all; my favourites include; the par-4 5th on Shore that has a very tricky green with subtle run-offs and also great views across to Royal St. George's – then the great par-3 2nd on Dunes, a small elevated green with very deep bunkering and depending on the wind, can range from a delicate 9-iron to a full bloodied long iron. The third nine holes must not be ignored, the Himalayas is still tough but for me is probably the most fun of the loops and the last hole is fantastic; a par-4 at 435 yards with only the right-side of the fairway in view from the tee – from here the left of the green is the line but whatever you do, do not visit the Sarazen bunker on this side, very deep indeed and the ‘up and down’ from here is, let’s just say rather difficult! My ideal day at Prince’s is … a hearty breakfast in the clubhouse, 18 holes across Shore/Dunes, then a clubhouse lunch, then 9 holes on Himalayas, followed by dinner and accommodation at the Lodge (the onsite accommodation) – difficult to fault if you ask me…