Royal St George's - Kent - England

Royal St George's Golf Club,
CT13 9PB,

  • +44 (0) 1304 613090

  • Tim Checketts

  • William Laidlaw Purves, Frank Pennink

  • Justen Fiddler

Royal St George’s was the first English course to host the Open Championship and is the fourth most used Open venue (host to 14 Opens) after St Andrews, Prestwick and Muirfield.

Date Winner Country
1894 John H.Taylor England
1899 Harry Vardon England
1904 Jack White Scotland
1911 Harry Vardon England
1922 Walter Hagen USA
1928 Walter Hagen USA
1934 Henry Cotton England
1938 Reg Whitcombe England
1949 Bobby Locke S Africa
1981 Bill Rogers USA
1985 Sandy Lyle Scotland
1993 Greg Norman Australia
2003 Ben Curtis USA
2011 Darren Clarke N Ireland
2020 TBC TBC

In 1885, Dr William Laidlaw Purves of Royal Wimbledon Golf Club, spotted from the vantage point of St Clement’s church a spectacular piece of undulating land with expansive sand dunes. Being a Scot and a keen scratch golfer, he decided that there was only one thing to do with this links land; create a golf course. In 1887, the course opened for play and was named 'St George’s' after the English patron saint.

"For a course that is still comparatively young," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "Sandwich has had more than its share of ups and downs. It was heralded with much blowing of trumpets and without undergoing any period of probation, burst full-fledged into fame."

After only seven years of play, in 1894, Sandwich hosted its first of fourteen Open Championships. This was the first Open to be played outside Scotland.

Royal patronage was granted in 1902 and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) became club captain. Many celebrated people have been affiliated with the club; the great golf writer Bernard Darwin was president of Royal St George’s between 1952 and 1961.

The course is not a traditional out and back layout. In a similar style to Muirfield, each nine is broadly circular, a loose figure of eight. There is nothing artificial about Royal St George’s; there is a natural look and feel to the course that blends beautifully into the surroundings, with wild flowers, dune grasses and the sweet song of the lark. Commanding views over Pegwell Bay and the white cliffs of Dover ensure an engaging experience.

All the holes are very different and memorable, a true sign of a great golf course. Royal St George’s also has some unique features; thatched roof shelters, the red cross of St George on the flags, and that bunker on the 4th hole cut into a huge dune, the UK’s tallest and deepest bunker. If you can carry that famous bunker on this 470-yard par four, then you can enjoy the peace of the fairway beyond, called the 'Elysian Fields'.

The par three 6th is called the 'Maiden'. We’ll let Bernard Darwin explain why: “There stands the ‘Maiden’ steep, sandy and terrible, with her face scarred and seamed with black timbers, but alas! we no longer have to drive over her crown: we hardly do more than skirt the fringe of her garment.” 'Suez Canal' is the 14th, so called according to Darwin because; “many a second shot has found a watery grave”. The 15th is considered architecturally to be one of the most impressive in golf because the fairway bunkers are virtually symmetrical.

Some hazards are not clearly visible from the tees, but in the past things were much worse. In the mid 1970s, blind shots were considered passé, so Frank Pennink was brought in to ring the changes. Three new holes were built and tee changes were made to two other holes. Many, except for the real traditionalists, believe that these changes have further improved the layout.

Royal St George’s represents one of the most difficult tests of golf, requiring courage, confidence and solid ball striking. Severely undulating fairways make good scoring very tough indeed. Often the tee shot will come to rest on an upslope or a down slope, then one needs to hit a long iron or fairway wood into the green from an uneven lie.

Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, was a member here at Royal St George’s. The golf scenes from the film Goldfinger were filmed at Stoke Park, but Fleming called the course “Royal St Marks” in the film, no doubt inspired by his home club.

Sandwich is a classic links course, summed up nicely by Bernard Darwin: “My idea of heaven as is to be attained on an earthly links”. Darwin went on to become president of the club between 1952 and 1961.

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Reviews for Royal St George's

Av. Reviewers Score:

We played here on the 21st March and were lucky to have a nice sunny day. That was only half of it though as we had 15 to 20 mph winds, but isn't that what links golf is all about.

The whole experience was great, we found the place to be friendly and welcoming and while they have areas at times with dress code and for members only I have no problem with that, just enjoyed the beer at the end.

Of course this place is all about the course and I loved it 2 through 9 was a great stretch with 8 standing out to me, this maybe because we played it into the 20 mph wind which made it really hard. On the back nine 15 and the par3 16th were my favourites again because on 16 we were playing into that wind that meant you just had to hit and keep your fingers crossed.

I cannot compare to Royal Birkdale (yet) but have played a number of links around the country and this is easily the best.

March 24, 2017

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The best course in England (although ive only played 45 of top 50). The first hole is the weakest (a shame as weak holes should be tucked away mid round) but there are some quite brilliant holes. Just above Birkdale for me which has 2 "ordinary" holes, perhaps

March 17, 2017

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I rate it overall as one of the best golf courses in England, and a better links course than both Royal Lytham and Royal Birkdale. I have never been a fan of the out and back layout and Sandwich is not one; it provides a superior routing of holes. There are no parallel holes and a constant change in hole direction, which is very important when the wind is up, which it often is.

The day I played at Royal St. George's, the wind was up. The temperature was roughly 50 degrees and the wind was blowing at a sustained 25 mph with higher gusts.

I found three holes at Royal St. George's to be particularly good. The par five 14th hole, "Suez Canal" has out of bounds down the entire right side and a burn/swale in play off the tee. You can't just wail at your second shot, since short of the green there are bunkers on the left side of the fairway and the fairway narrows to about 25 yards. Yet, if you can thread the needle and land in that area you will likely be rewarded with a birdie; otherwise you will pay the price. The fairway bunkers 80 yards short of the green will penalize you if you try to get the ball to the green. Even this close to the hole, you have to just get the ball out as your first priority. It is a hole you really have to use your head to play well.

The #1 handicap hole, the eighth, is a dogleg right and has a very interesting and challenging green complex that is artfully bunkered. Your second shot to the green plays downhill and usually downwind. Very tricky.

The fourth hole, Sahara, has an enormously large bunker on the right side of the hole. You hit from an elevated tee to a fairway that is wildly undulating and the green is even wilder. If you hit long past the green you are in the backyard of a local resident. Definitely a unique hole.

John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs

November 23, 2016

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It would be redundant for me to add a review of the course itself, given the illustrious history and pedigree of the club. Plenty of eloquent laudations out there. Bottom line is, within a couple hrs drive from Central London, it is the best golf to be had. Try and pick a windy day to play it for the full links experience, for links golf without wind is like a dish seasoned without salt.

For those who are reading the review and ratings to decide to play it, I would encourage everyone to try and play it more than once, or with a caddy the first time if they want to score. There are many blind tee shots, hidden bunkers, and green designs requiring approaches that have to be aimed at the correct portion. Impossible to achieve on the first occasion, and it gets frustrating as it's easy to lose even a well-struck tee shot that's a bit offline, and also easy to end up three-putting from the wrong part of the green. Links golf indeed, but knowing the lines and greens is key to scoring.

My only (strenuous) gripe about the course is the poor state of the greens on the two occasions I visited it (August of 2015 and Oct 2016), which compelled me write the review. On both trips, the greens had been scarified, and had deep grooves running along virtually all of them. Putting near-parallel to the channels threw the balls offline like gutters, and putting across the grooves slowed the roll considerably as they bumped across the ridges. They were simply not running true, so impossible to score properly. This disappointment was compounded when after the first visit I made it a point to ask about the state of the greens when I booked my second trip, and was only told that the greens had been "over-seeded two weeks ago" but were otherwise in good condition. Not so--I consider scarified greens to be inadequate for true play. Unless the scarified grooves are a permanent fixture of the greens, the lack of transparency by the booking office bordered on disingenuity, or ignorance at the very least. My home club warns all visitors when bookings if the greens have been hollow-tined or in less than optimal condition. A club of RSG's stature should do the same, and either offer a discount when the greens are in suboptimal condition, or risk turning away some business. Despite my frustration, I didn’t bother to complain to the club—given that they had not provided adequate forewarning, I didn't expect a positive response to my complaint. I suppose most visitors would be spell-bound by the setting and rest of the course features, and overlook that aspect of the course.

October 29, 2016

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Having grown up in Thanet and still never played it I finally made it - and it was even better than I hoped it would be.

LOVED the layout of the course, and the condition was superb.

The greens looked as if they had been painted green so vivid was the colour and they ran perfectly true and good speed.

I dont take all the moans I have heard over the years about the blind holes as this was mine and my playing partners first visit and we got round to handicap (cat 2) with only skycaddie and common sense.

Pro shop and starter very helpful and friendly.

Loved the day and the course and hope to return.

Unsure why - having already relieved us of a chunk of green fee - the Club was so reluctant to let us near a bar after though ???

September 18, 2016

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played here on 25-7-2016. I know when I have had the pleasure of playing a good course as I immediately want to go back out there. Royal St George's falls into that category. This place is special and is golf in the "raw", how it was meant to be played. You stand on several tees and wonder how someone dreamed up the hole from the land in front of you, thankfully they did and what a great job they made of it. In truth the greens were not in the greatest condition on the day we played but still ran true and nicely paced so all is forgiven. This is a thinkers course of the highest order and I have played some good ones before, but none better than this.

July 27, 2016

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I'm stunned, staggered and flabbergasted that this track is rated the best in England. I was totally underwhelmed by the experience and would never hurry back...there's much, much finer golf available on these shores. For my money, Royal Birkdale takes the a country mile over St George's and by 100 miles over Royal Liverpool. If you had to play just one course on the Open rota in England, get yourself to won't be sorry.
February 26, 2016

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John H
December 02, 2016

I can't imagine what it is that you expect that is better than RSG. I played here for the first time in early August 2016 with my 16year-old, 3 handicap daughter. We had the services of a very obliging young caddy and we pretty much had the course to ourselves. I was struck by the unstuffy nature of the staff at RSG. From the professional to the lady behind the counter in the gloriously modest Snack Bar: modest in name but not in its surroundings, patrons nor its proper hearty fare.

And I think this is an important point to make: the experience at such a fine club starts before setting foot on the course and in this respect RSG far exceeds all lofty expectations that one may arrive armed with.

The course was in tip-top condition; greens cut with a manicure scissors had I not known otherwise. The routing of the course is almost without rival. Muirfield twists and turns in much the same way and I'd go so far as to say that RSG and Muirfield stand head and shoulders above anywhere else in the UK.

My daughter and I both played from the gents' daily tees and she coped admirably with the c 6,500 yards distance on the day registering among other scores a fine birdie 3 on the famous Himalayas 4th hole. A wonderful day's golf and somewhere that will remain firmly on the 'bucket-list venues that must be revisited.' A genuine 6-star golf course with staff to match. John H

We played the course during the fist weekend of september and were not happy at all about the conditions of the course. We send twice an email and never received any feedback. Very strange way to handle your guests.....Dear madame, sir,Last Friday we thought to have the pleasure to play one of England’s finest golf links course but unfortunately the opposite proofed to be true…Every year we book 2 or 3 weekends to play some nice courses in the UK and in the past we played already St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoc, Castle Stuart, King Barns, Ballybunions,…The combination of playing these great courses was always a true delight for us. This weekend we selected to play your course, Prince’s and London golf Club the International.After receiving the information below we contacted the secretary by phone to have some more information regarding the quality of the greens at Royal St George’s. The person on the phone confirmed that the colour was not nice but the quality was more than ok and so no need to worry or postphone our visit (this was also rather difficult because we booked transport, hotel and golfcourses quiet in advance and impossible to change/cancel).We arrived on Friday and started with great sunshine and 2 nice caddies on hole 1. Our satisfaction/happiness disappeared quickly when we entered the first green and discovered its condition. Beside the colour also the quality was poor and did not meet at all our expectations for sure not if you refer to what is stated on the homepage of your website:Visitors are greeted with a warm, friendly welcome in the historic clubhouse. The undulating fairways and fast, true greens will prove a test to all amateur and professional golfers alike.Unfortunately the condition of the green of hole nr 1 was not an exception but during 18 holes the condition of all greens was “horrible”. At the end we enjoyed the day but this was more thanks to the sun and the flight than it was to the condition of the course.After our round we visited the secretary office and there the only feedback we received from a “gentleman” that the greens were puttable and no raison at all to complain or to discuss.We fully understand that you cannot control nature but at a certain level you need to take your responsibility if you want to claim being one of the greatest golfclubs in the UK and you ask a greenfee of 180£. Why are you, with such bad greens, not offering the winterconditions regarding the greenfee?The reputation of a golfclub is often indeed based on history and of that you have plenty but for us it is also how you treat a guest/visitor and there, in all modesty, we think you have a lot to learn….If this is the way how you treat visitors, we suggest that you turn into a 100% private golfclub and you will save the disappointment of future golfvisitors.
November 26, 2015

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Steve MacQuarrie
November 28, 2015
This is more of a rant than a review. It would have been helpful if it had indicated what made the greens "horrible" besides the colour. (It's England in the summer; I hope you weren't expecting green.)
I have been fortunate enough to play a number of the best courses in the UK and beyond including Portrush, Lytham, Sunningdale(s), Birkdale, Turnberry, Pebble Beach, Valderamma. This beats all of them - and beats them pretty easily. Seriously, seriously brilliant golf course. I cannot wait to play it again.
October 27, 2015

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There is very little to say about this course, other than it is simply the best! I would urge all serious golfers to play this course at least once, you will come away with memories that will last a lifetime.
September 07, 2015

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