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5 miles N of Dover
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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.
Following on from Martin Ebert’s successful Himalayas
upgrade, the Shore and Dunes nines have been similarly reworked, including re-bunkering, installation of new raised tees, new open natural sand scrape areas and a new sea-facing
short par three on the Shore loop. The work completed in early spring 2020.
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.
I need to start with a confession. This review should be a 6. Having reconsidered my rationale, I struggle to see why I have marked it down at all. The clubhouse was lovely, staff welcoming, price reasonable, course excellent, basically everything you could ask for.
Why mark it down then? Its nothing more than a nagging feeling that it was set-up for tourist golf. Hypocritical coming from a tourist,I know, but it just played a couple of shots too easy. I played it well, and shot under my handicap (unusual for any first time course) - however we had other good scores in our group from some pretty average golf.
However that shouldn't be a criticism, it was a great course in great condition, and I did notice the competition tees were frightening, I mean genuinely terrifying to imagine playing off them. I also imagine that its set-up is entirely deliberate for tourist season and I can well imagine that had it been set-up harder it would have been a less enjoyable experience for some of our group.
As it happened though, all 6 in our group agreed it was brilliant, and you cant get more of an endorsement than everyone having an enjoyable round.
Having played Princes more than once you see how much effort and detail has been put into the course. Playing for the first time I didn’t really take the time to stop and look I was to busy playing my own game and not stopping once to take it in, but the next time I played I did stop and I realised how cleverly designed Princes really is. The bunkers have been placed well so that the player has to think more about his next shot rather than pulling out whatever club he feels like hitting. The greens are very challenging as they have big slopes on the edges that can carry the ball in any direction. The sides of the greens slope down a lot so it is hard for your ball to stop on the edge. The ball usually gets carried by the slope to the fringe or rough. The new par 3 smugglers rest is stunning on the eye and although it is short the huge green complex means you could be hitting anything from a sand iron to a driver depending on the weather! Overall the Shore & Dunes are very well designed and very well treated making Princes a great place to stay and play golf!
Probably had the best weather ever to play a links course and still shot a terrible round but I cannot fault the course. Superb condition and great layout. The location is remote and peaceful. Stayed over night and have to say the accommodation is a little uninspiring but still worth a visit to enjoy a great links course.
It’s been the best part of a decade since I last played Prince’s for I’d previously always regarded it as the poor sibling of nearby world top 100 layouts at Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports, but there’s a lot that’s been happening at Prince’s in recent years to rectify that. Admittedly, the starkest changes have taken place on the Himalayas nine, so much so that there’s now a strong argument to be had as to which nine hole loops should comprise Prince’s best eighteen, but whilst the work on the Shore/Dunes eighteen has been more subtle, the impact has still been powerful.
Having the flattest terrain of the three neighbouring clubs, Prince’s will never be blessed with the extreme undulations that grace parts of Royal Cinque Ports or the high dunes that adorn sections of Royal St George’s, but it’s the details at Prince’s that stand out. Other than the Old Course at St Andrews, the run-offs that have been created around the greens are as good as I’ve seen. Closely mown shoulders and contours have been widely used to protect the greens, something I’m a big fan of and something I look for in a quality links course. The sides of the greens have been closely shaven meaning a slight miss can slide into a revetted bunker or a gnarly hollow. Such are the quality of some of the green surrounds that there are several holes where I can imagine myself as a junior golfer wanting to sneak onto the course to play crafty chip shots, flops and bump and runs with a bucket of balls around the greens. Raised tees and new teeing sites now also provide improved angles and visuals for the driving holes whilst the clean, flowing transitions from green to tee are sublime.
One critique that I’ve had for Prince’s previously is on a single visitor play, some of the holes had been difficult to distinguish from one another when trying to reminisce after playing the round, primarily due to that lack of land movement, but along with those new tees, newly built dunes have been created providing an enhanced sense of isolation to the holes. These dunes have the combined effect of providing framing to the greens as well as opening up a combination of open sandy wasteland as well as ecologically friendly wetland areas. These efforts have now delivered some of that previously needed identity. Furthermore, a new 5th hole has been constructed on the Shore nine, creating a much needed mid-round interval to break up the parallel holes and provide a short tester of a sea-facing par three.
Whilst my previous ramblings have all been about the superb changes to the layout, there are some elements and features that Prince’s has always been blessed with, but the cleaning up of the areas around the fairways and greens has now accentuated these characteristics. On the Dunes, the upturned green on the 1st hole and the crazily rumpled fairway on the 3rd, along with the crooked spine that goes through the fairway of the 9th of the Shore are examples of exactly what you want delivered from a links course. The tucked green that plays peak-a-boo on the 7th on the Shore nine that’s hidden behind a newly created bearded bunker is a lovely hole; whilst on the Dunes, still my favourite of the three nines, we have a gorgeous sandy wasteland area with a sleepered walkway in front of the delicate short 2nd. The consecutive holes on the Dunes at the raised green 5th with its beautiful entrance and contrasting bunkering, and the doglegging par five 6th that follows, with its elongated tiered green, also stand out.
Prince’s has now really gone up in my estimation due to the vision that the club’s management have shown in making some brave improvements, all of which have been a resounding success. As a consequence, it should no longer be considered the poor relation amongst this stretch of Kent seaside coast, for the gap to the big boys has started to close. Its contrasting style to the other two clubs also now means that it provides something architecturally different, worth seeking out even in isolation of a visit to its near neighbours.
There is no doubt Princes is superb. It is faultlessly maintained, a real challenge and a great day out, so why does it leave me slightly underwhelmed?
To my mind the greatest links courses boast changes in elevation, holes which hug the contours of the natural landscape, every hole representing a different challenge and vista. You must use guile, touch and imagination.
To my slight disappointment I found Prince's lacked such subtleties and differences in playing experience. Played in a fresh wind the challenge simply became one largely of length, with many of the holes having a degree of similarity, both in design, and in the experience of playing them.
Hit it hard off the tee, hit it hard again, try to avoid the punitive rough.
Yes, there are superb bunkers, the green side areas are challenging but looking back, I struggle to really differentiate one hole from another.
Now I am being harsh, it is a damn good course and should be played. Would I return? Doubtful.
Princes is good. I really like it, and they do some really good deals which attracts a lot of visitor play. However, if it wasn't for its 2 famous neighbours, I doubt it would be held in such high regard. 45th in England? 1 spot below Parkstone and 20+ spots above Perranporth? I'd personally place it nearer the 80s or 90s in england.
The course is a good, true links, wth enough land movement to make it interesting. There are lots of good holes, but not many great holes. Every hole runs in the same direction too, which makes it hard to remember them all.
A good place to host a society, but not close to the quality of Cinque Ports or St Georges
I played here for a college competition once and it's a fantastic place. Whilst always shadowed by the company of its prestigious neighbour, it does its best to show its own qualities with well laid out holes and wonderful greens.
We played it in what was 30 mph winds so whilst it wasn't a great scoring day, it was still an amazing experience to play. Sights next door of the England flag pins you see of Royal St George's may leave some disappointed but the two aren't as far apart as some people may think.
I think this course could be one of the harder courses I have played, maybe because it was such a bad day, but when the rough is up, any errant shot was difficult to find. Safe to say I was happy to be back in the clubhouse asap as far as the scorecard was concerned!
I've heard that Princes would like to hold another open championship in the future and as a result of this, they have been doing a lot of the work on the course which is still ongoing. I think the improvements have been massive and the layout at Princes is awesome and totally unique. The sand dunes make Princes a truly great experience and something you won't find at many other places in England. I think they still have plenty of work to be done if they want the prestigious claret jug being played for round there, however they're definitely heading in the right direction and the rise in the rankings show this.
For winter time, the course was in fantastic condition and we managed to hit some great weather with barely any wind. We started on the 1st hole of the shore and so finished on the better nine in my opinion. The course is relatively long and so I can imagine that on a windy day it would be very tricky, with some 430 yard par 4s playing like par 5s. The most noteworthy holes of the round would have to be the par 4 5th on the shore, hitting your approach shot towards the great Princes lodges into a fairly narrow green with plenty of run offs. The par 3 8th is also a great hole on the shore, a long par 3 with a large green side bunker to your left and the dunes around a lot of the green.
The dunes is a much better 9 holes in my opinion and starts off strong with by far my favourite hole on the course, the par 3 2nd. A hole playing about 160 yards going over all the natural sand/bunkering which looks fantastic. You then walk up to the green through the middle of the bunkers on a narrow pathway which is a very scenic route towards the green. The par 4 5th has a large sleeper bunker on the left side of the fairway, making it a very fun hole. The green has plenty of tricky run offs and borders the 14th at Royal St Georges.
Princes has really upped it's game and with all the work that they continue to do, I can only see them continuing to move their way up the rankings. The bunkers are tough as expected but fantastically designed, the greens were a touch slower than expected but true nonetheless and the run offs around the green were brilliant. Some great transitions from greens to the next tee making the appearance much stronger. A great golf course which I believe is yet to reach it's peak. I definitely plan on returning in the future.
Fortunate to play three rounds over the different 9's. It was my first visit to Princes and the area to play golf.
Overall, I enjoyed it immensely. The course was great fun to play with some great variety and a handful of outstanding holes.
We enjoyed all 3 9's but the Dunes was my favourite, holes 3 and 5 in particular were perfect links golf holes with a beautiful balance of strategy and reward for hitting a good shot.
The only hole which let the Dunes down was the first. 445yds into the prevailing wind with a very narrow table top green. Just seemed an unfair task.
Indeed, all 3 9's had some awesome holes but were let down by the odd hole which felt unrepresentative of great links golf.
We stayed in the Lodge which is a fantastic facility and made life much easier. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming.
Course was in good condition for the time of year. A few fairways were a bit beaten up but the greens were overall in great nick.
I got the chance to replay the Shore/Dunes combo the other day, exactly five years after my previous visit. I commented in my review then that there surely could not be 50+ English courses better than Prince’s and I fully stand by that earlier remark.
Indeed, in light of all the recent upgrade work carried out here, that assertion holds even truer now than it did then – and there’s even more to come this winter with more new tees and bunkers, separating dune ridges and sandy scrape areas, in addition to introducing a new par three hole on the Shore nine.
The owner must be commended for addressing the concerns expressed by quite a number of people with world-wide experience (as well as taking into account their suggestions) then doing his level best to remedy any perceived weakness and improve on what was already an outstanding layout.
Overseeing the whole operation has been Martin Ebert, the R&A’s go-to designer who now seems to have cornered the architectural market in this corner of Kent because he also consults at near neighbours Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports.
My main reason for revisiting Prince’s was to have a look at the remodelled Himalayas nine but I’m so glad I took the time to check out the Shore and Dunes again. In particular, the green surrounds on these two nines are absolutely sublime, transitioning fairway to putting surface seamlessly.
The (current) #5 on the Shore is a brilliant par four, played to what was the 18th green when the Open was played here next to the old clubhouse, and the reworked #2 on the Dunes, with its raised green sitting behind a newly developed sandy waste area, is a fabulous little par three hole.
In fairness, the Shore and Dunes are still something of a work in progress but once the new grass paths on the Himalayas are fully rolled out and the new low-lying dunes and wetland areas have been established on these two nines, it will more than likely cement their premier 18-hole status at Prince’s.