Golf was first played at Kingsgate around the start of the last century on an area of rough agricultural land known as the “Tower Field.” At a meeting of founder members on 1st of May 1903, “North Foreland and Kingsgate Golf Club” was formed with £450 of capital and 120 members.
It was reported in 1911 that the original course had been extended from nine to thirteen holes but two years later, after the club leased some additional land, Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson were commissioned to redesign the layout as an 18-hole course.
Shortly after the Great War, Fowler and Simpson made a number of improvements to the course and, such was the scale of the project undertaken, a light railway was built from the seashore to transport thousands of tons of sand for bunker and mounding works.
The architects also designed a new 18-hole short course on fifteen acres of adjacent land and this miniature layout, unique to England at the time, was constructed with full-sized greens and protective bunkers by Messrs. Frank Harris Bros. of Guildford at a cost of £3,000.
James Braid, Harry Vardon, J. H. Taylor and Alex Herd were invited to play an exhibition match over the renovated main course just after the Easter weekend in 1920 to mark the course upgrade. Taylor shot a 75, Braid had a 77 and the other two professionals each scored 80.
During World War II, nine holes were commandeered by the Army and used for military purposes, with the installation of an ack-ack gun placement and an ammunition store. Five years after the war, John Morrison was called in to rebuild the damaged portion of the course.
Nothing much changed for the next half a century, apart from the order that the holes were played in, evidenced by the 455-yard 9th hole which is still called “Home”. Hawtree & Sons then produced a master plan which was implemented at the start of the new millennium.
In more recent times, a three-year bunker renovation programme was initiated in 2019, with in-house green keeping staff modifying the design of the round-edged sand hazards to give them a more natural, rough-edged look.
Today, the Main Course at North Foreland extends to 6,412 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 71, with broad fairways allowing a degree of latitude with tee shots but strategically placed bunkers lie in wait for errant approach play.
Feature holes include the left doglegging par four 8th (“Long ‘Un”) which has two large bunkers protecting the front right side of the green, and the 427-yard 13th (“Joss”) where two bunkers guard the left side of the fairway at driving distance, impeding progress towards the bunkerless green.
There's a wonderful sense of scale and grandeur to the 18 holes at North Foreland Golf Club that adorn the clifftops at Kingsgate in the North-East corner of Kent.
I'll say straight from the off that I am a huge admirer or North Foreland. It's not an easy course to classify. I've heard some say it is parkland in feel but I don't really see any characteristics to support this. Others say it is a bits linksy - firm and fast-running yes but it's definitely not a links. At times there are elements of a heathland persona to it, however, I think downland-clifftop is as close as you'll get, not that it really matters.
A complete restoration of the bunkers (all done in house) is now almost complete and I suspect this has breathed new life into a course that dates back to 1903. If you haven't played it for a few years I would suggest a return and if you've never been before then now would be a good time because it played exceptionally well in the summer of 2021. The condition was fantastic and the layout superbly presented.
My only gripe was that the long rough was too punitive. The fairways have a lovely width to them so you do have to hit a wayward one to find the thick stuff but if you do there is a good chance you'll lose your ball. Thankfully, the club are aware of this and will be doing their best to combat mother nature and thin it out.
Stood on each tee you have a fantastic feeling of space and width. The property is fairly undulating so you can work the landscape to your advantage by controlling your ball flight and I suspect the ball will run well here for 12 months of the year.
The bunkering is bold and whilst the frilly edges may not be to everybody's taste I think the staff have done a fabulous job in tying everything together with their surrounds to create a course that is very harmonious with itself. The position of the traps make you think when stood on the tee and there are some deep pits you most certainly want to avoid when playing into the greens.
However, the thing that pleased me most about the course was the wonderful shaping around the greens; the run-offs, swales and hollows did have more of a links feel than I had anticipated and the options you had for chip shots around the green was plentiful.
There are some outstanding holes, especially on the front nine.
The first and second make a very strong first impression whilst the two short par-threes that play out towards the sea both have exceptional green complexes. The star of the show may just be the eighth though; a slinging par-four with another brilliant green site that sits so naturally into the terrain.
The back-nine is certainly the weaker of the two halves but there is still some outstanding golf to be played. My favourite hole was the uphill 14th with what looks to be three cross bunkers facing you when stood on the tee but the visual deception means they are actually staggered some 50 yards apart so those driving up the left can hit further for a closer approach.
North Foreland, accredited to Herbert Fowler & Tom Simpson, is a course you should make the effort to visit, you will not be disappointed. Only a twenty minute drive from Sandwich it would be an excellent fourth course to add on to Royal St. George's, Deal and Prince's.
Another feather in North Foreland's cap is the 18-hole, par 3 "Northcliffe" course that sits alongside the main layout. I did not have the opportunity to play it on my visit but it looked very tempting and is a fantastic asset for the club.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
There is so much to love about the Kent coastal courses – the obvious big hitting courses around Sandwich Bay are classics but there are a few others that are at the next level down and are well worth a visit and North Foreland is certainly one of them. Like many courses on England’s coast, there is a delightful timeless feel as you play but in saying this, the club are forward thinking and this is already evident as the on-going bunker upgrading is well underway and the completed holes look fantastic.
The style of the course can be called a hybrid I think; links feel, parkland feel and a touch of that great heathland style too. In terms of stroke indexing, the course starts ‘friendly’ as the first two holes are SI16 and SI18, so there is pressure to start scoring well early. The 2nd is a reachable par-4 across the corner of a dip but so early in the round is a testing shot for most. Two short par-5’s are the next two holes and must be called obvious birdie chances – the 4th green complex is superb with the run-off/swale areas at the rear and the front right just perfect. The two-brilliant par-3’s at the 5th and 7th both play towards the sea and at 142 & 159 yards are playable for everyone. The 5th is called ‘Neptune’; named after the tower to the right of the green which has been there since 1760 and back in use most recently by the Royal Observer Corps as a look-out post during World War II. It is the 7th though, which is my favourite – the offset green and more of the decent run-offs that do it for me.
If the first two holes of the front nine are ‘easy’, then the last two are most definitely ‘hard’ with the 8th my choice of best hole on the course. This is a par-4 at 464 yards (called Long’ Un) with a right to left cambered fairway and brilliant fairway bunkering at 70 yards from the green. The 9th is long also, ten yards shorter than the 8th but plays longer being a little uphill.
As you complete the first half of the course and cross Convent Road back to the clubhouse side, have a good think about the previous nine holes and how much you have enjoyed them – absolutely first class.
The back-9 continues the strong theme – most have sea views across Joss Bay and although a par-35 versus par-36 on the front, it is actually 200 yards longer. The two par-3’s at the 11th and 18th complete the set of four short holes on the course and like the 5th and 7th are very good indeed and it is very likely that four different clubs are used for the tee shots.
Stroke index-1 comes at the 12th hole; 433 yards, four fairway bunkers, a very slim green and a fantastic bunker cut into the dune right of the green – this hole does not give out par’s often!
There is some strong work happening on the 427-yard 13th – a downhill par-4 that is being slightly re-shaped with the fairway being brought in from the left to create a slight dog-leg; a big improvement.
North Foreland’s longest hole is the 16th (514 yards) but is downhill and if you can avoid the fairway bunker that is 235 yards from the tee, then this stroke index 17 hole is not as tough as the length may indicate.
The penultimate hole is brutal – 451 yards and quite a bit uphill towards the green – an extra club on the approach is a must. Do take time to take in the views from behind the 17th, a very special place.
There is so much to enjoy at North Foreland and gets a strong recommendation from me – if you have time and there is availability, then the 18-hole par-3 course here called Northcliffe is kept at the same standard as the main course and is a joy.
As a closing note - I would much prefer to play here than at a few of the current higher ranked Kent courses for sure. Great fun and recommended.
Cannot disagree, I'd rather play North Foreland ahead of a few other higher ranked Kent parkland courses too. Is NF too low at #14?
I've played here a few times and while I agree with your comments, looking at the 13 courses ranked higher, they're pretty decent! Lucky to live in Kent. So many good courses to choose from
A pleasant, friendly course that makes for a lovely stroll. There are some good holes, especially when it gets near the cliffs on the back nine.
Very nice course perched atop the chalk cliffs which plays linksy (as only an inch or two of soil sit on a chalk base) but is very parkland in layout.
Some very good holes and a very nice clubhouse.
Still think they should fill in the fort and make it an elevated tee !?
Had my only hole in one here on the what was then 16th which I think is now the 7th that they have reversed the two nines.... not really sure why ?
Played in March with a £30 twilight deal, good value. On arrival there’s a very impressive clubhouse, large pro shop and nice halfway house if you want a quick meal. There are 2 putting greens, nets, plus a practice area.
The course starts inland amid rolling parkland and eases you in with a couple of short par 4s. After a few holes you get your first sea view, after that it’ll be visible most of the time. The signature hole is rightly the par 3 5th next to the Channel and old fort, whilst #7 is another short hole towards the water. After that though, pretty much every hole’s a test of length.
I like the course and it’s worth visiting if in the area, but every par 4 after that felt open and long. Every one is a driver hole. It became a bit of a slog, I’m not a short hitter but I had a lot of mid-long iron approaches. I guess I’d like a bit more variety and decision making. The condition though was good for mid-March, I enjoyed the pot bunkers (really!) and you have some gorse which makes it feel like a parkland, links and heathland hybrid.
Therefore I recommend the course but if you’re travelling a distance to play it, I’d combine it with another 18 elsewhere (Sandwich is just over 30 minutes away).
Enjoyable round, quite exposed but fairways reasonably wide so not too penalising. Some good long par fours with an excellent finish. Friendly atmosphere and a well stocked pro's shop. The only slight downside was that the greens were somewhat patchy, although true, but perhaps the time of year. Great location on top of the cliffs overlooking the Channel and both nines played differently, the front nine clearly designed to soften you up for the more exposed back nine. All in all a decent course and not expensive for visitors.
To reinforce the other review, this is a nice friendly place to play golf but if funds allow this course doesn't stand up to the star courses nearby.
We had a very slow round, and there were few truly stand out holes.