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The Earl of Guildford donated the land for Prince’s to Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley, who enlisted his friend Percy Montagu Lucas, honorary secretary at Cromer Golf Club, and 1902 Amateur Champion Charles Hutchings to set out the 18-hole course in 1904.
Lucas consulted three others during the construction of the links: Cecil Hutchinson and Mure Fergusson, both Scottish International players and Herbert Fowler, architect of the two excellent golfing layouts at Walton Heath.
The course was officially opened on 8th June 1907 by A. J. Balfour, the first Captain of the new club (who had been Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905) and he played the first shot in the inaugural Founder’s Gold Vase competition.
It wasn’t long before news of the new course spread throughout London, in the City and Parliament, and it was soon attracting societies such as the Bar Association, the Old Etonians’ Club and the Oxford and Cambridge University teams.
Unfortunately, the links was closed for the duration of World War I because it was used by a detachment of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a coastal defence area and training ground.
It didn’t take long for the links to recover after the Great War and the Ladies’ Open was held at Prince’s in 1922, followed a decade later by the Open, which Gene Sarazen won by the impressive margin of five strokes, having led after each of the four rounds.
The course was used by the military again during World War II and it took until the late 1940s before Sir Aynsley Bridgland financed the restoration of the property, commissioning Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison to redesign the layout.
When the links was finally re-opened in April of 1952, it was brought back into use as a 27-hole facility, featuring an 18-hole Championship Blue course and a Red 9-hole layout, with most of the original greens incorporated into the new design.
The modern day Himalayas holes 1 to 9 equate to holes 5 to 13 on the Blue. Compared to the course used for the Open in 1932, five of those original holes (7 to 11) played to greens on or close to today’s 1st, 8th, 3rd, 4th and 9th on the Himalayas.
Despite the high ranking of the Shore & Dunes, the Himalayas is a favourite circuit for many members because they can play a swift round on the shortest of the three nines, even though this loop contains the longest par five on the property at the 580-yard 6th, the hole lying closest to the coastline.
In a nod to old-fashioned course design, the 4th and 8th holes also share a double green. The final tee shot at the 9th is played towards a semi-blind fairway which leads to a home green that’s protected to the front left hand side by the famous Sarazen bunker.
In the summer of 2017, Prince’s announced the redevelopment of the Himalayas nine by architect Martin Ebert. The works included combining the current 2nd and 3rd holes to make a long par five, with a new 2nd tee located to the right of the existing 1st first fairway. A short par three 5th hole was then inserted, playing towards the sea after the existing 5th (new 4th) hole. The current 8th hole has become a short, drivable par four with permanent wetlands laid out on either side of the fairway. The the new holes opened in May 2018.
We played the revamped Himalayas 9 after completing the Shore and the Dunes 9s and thought that our dwindling energy levels might impact our thoughts on the course. How wrong we were.
The first opens with a big dogleg left to right and a fairway that looks like you couldn't miss. What it does have is a sneaky pot bunker right in the middle of the fairway which I just fell short of.
The second is a long par 5 doglegging from right to left with strategic fairway bunkers and a fairway which narrows as you approach the green. I found it to be a nice hole but a tough one. The bunkering on the course, coupled with natural waste areas are aplenty and make for a very aesthetically pleasing course.
The 3rd is a straight par 4, the 4th a longer straight par 4 and the 5th is the signature hole. A cracking little par 3 no more than a wedge to a green which has steep run offs and a pot bunker front left. We were all excited by the hole. The 6th is a very long, straight par 5 with bunkers cleverly placed. The 7th is fairly long par 3 that if the wind is up, will have you jangling a few clubs in your hand off the tee box.
The 8th hole is a very intelligent risk/reward par 4 hole which has bunkers, water and steep run offs as well as length as a defence to an eagle putt. On top of that, the lay up is no gimme either to an angled fairway. The green is also shared with the 3rd and is tiered and very big so there is lots to think about on this hole. We had a good chuckle whilst playing it.
The final hole is a brilliant finishing par 4. You tee off at an angle to the fairway which flows to the left and there's plenty of fairway-side bunkers to snaffle your ball. On the sides of the fairways there are some natural mounds which makes the fairway look like an amphitheatre, beckoning your ball on to the main show. Once you've navigated the tee shot, all you have to do is avoid the huge Sarazan bunker to the front left of the green. This is because if you go in it, not only do you have an intimidating shot, you'll also have you're playing partners film you for posterity (and a lifetime of ribbing). Avoiding the bunker and finding the green is an exhilarating end to a superb updated 9 holes.
Over the years, if I only had time for nine holes at Princes I would always choose the Himalayas loop. Lots of fun, pretty quick to get around and the par-3 7th being my favourite short-hole on any of the three loops of nine. Over the last year the Himalayas has had a facelift; lots of new bunkering, a couple of new holes and now much tougher, in fact the fun factor is still there but interest levels have gone through the roof. Add in a number of tees that have been raised to get a full view of the sea and this has already become a contender for the best nine at Princes.
The first new hole is the 2nd; a very clever idea to combine the old 2nd and 3rd holes to create a brilliant par-5 that can be played up to 622 yards and I think this hole will get many admirers. The next new hole is the par-3 5th – this plays a maximum of 140 yards, so the observation that Princes never had a really short par-3 has been well and truly answered; lots of gentle slopes on the green plus smart run-offs all around make this a really good hole. The changes to the 6th are impressive; now teeing off close to the beach this par-5 is a brute and will be normally play into the wind – the hole is framed by bunkers left and natural wetlands to the right. The 8th hole is now so much better – a much shorter par-4 than previously that is now drivable but plenty of risk if taking it on as the wetlands need to be carried from the offset tee. The final hole remains a favourite but now with some extra length this slightly dog-legging par-4 just got tougher – a par on the last hole will now require two very good shots to the green to give you the chance to finish on a high.
Very impressed with the updates – I look forward to the next round of changes on the Shore and Dunes nines.
This review is based on the as yet incomplete remodelling work on the Himalayas 9 - the new hole and development of the existing holes will definitely bring it up to the same calibre as the other 18 holes on the property. There is definitely a lot more quirkiness than the Shore/Dunes loops, with some wasteland bunkering, odd creeks or ponds and a tree-lined section at the start of the nine. The first has seen some extensive re-bunkering work and the new layout will definitely make people think about pulling driver - it now looks quite intimidating from the tee. The second was a definite head-scratcher as it was hard to tell what the line was (understandably, given the course guide looks very different to reality). When this is finished though it'll be another great hole. The stretch from 4-7 was definitely my favourite though, with the par 5 sixth hole being one of the best on the whole course in my mind and the bunkerless 7th hole is a great par three that really changes dependent on the wind. I found the 8th a bit curious, to be honest, and the two pools of water on the right just didn't seem to fit with the character of the course, but I'm sure this will make sense when all the work is finished. Finally, the closing hole is a classy finish, requiring two good shots to hit and hold the green. Again, it's a nice routing and you can see what they're doing - I look forward to playing it again when it's all finished!
Many people seem to miss out on the fact that Prince's is actually a great 27 hole facility and deserves time for all 3 loops.
The conventional wisdom is that Shore/Dunes is the combination to play, and they do fit better together in terms of flow and style, but I think that visitors are missing out by not including Himalayas.
Personally I feel that if more courses had a Princes or Rye style 18 + 9 rather than 2 * 18 then more golfers would make a day of it than play the "top" course and leave. Portrush and Portstewart spring to mind...
The strongest 18 holes at Prince’s in terms of test, length etc. is probably the Shore/Dunes combination but if I only have time for 9 holes, then I would probably opt for the Himalayas. The opener is under 400 yards and if you keep the tee shot slightly left, then the approach is straight forward – not too far left though as out of bounds is pretty close. The 2nd is a cracker, similar in length to the 1st but this turns left and has as good a green-site of any of the Prince’s 27 holes.
The shortest par-4 is at the 4th and should not cause too many problems; love the green here as it is a double, shared with the 8th hole – a great links feature that we all love. The 6th is my favourite par-5 across the three nines; it is very long and gets close to 600 yards from the back tee with fairway bunkering positioned perfectly all the way to the hole – key shot is the drive; left side must be favoured, from there you have a much better chance of scoring well – be aware that your approach shot will come in from the left of the green.
The 7th hole, a par-3 at mid-length to a plateau green is pure links quality – no bunkers on this hole either but the run-offs are brilliant. The final hole is another favourite of mine; the hole turns slightly left and the approach is the key shot – I would say line this up a little to the left but take enough club to carry the Gene Sarazen (Open Champion at Prince’s in 1932) bunker that is short and left as this will 9 times out of 10 cost you an shot extra shot. It is difficult to find fault about anything on and off the course at Prince’s…