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5 miles N of Dover
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Prince’s hosted the Open Championship on one occasion. The winner, Gene Sarazen, only claimed one Open title, but “The Squire” was the first golfer to win all four Majors.
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.
A very good test of golf. If you're from out of the area, Prince's have some fantastic deals where you can stay in the dormy house (meals included) and play a couple of rounds of golf. If you combine it with playing R. St George's next door, you will be sure to have a terrific mini golfing break.
I've played here several times now over the last 10 years, and as a venue it is definitely moving in the right direction, both off course and on course. The work on the Himalayas has been fantastic, but now the Shore and Dunes are benefitting from the ongoing renovation programme. The new short par 3 5th hole on Shore was under construction when I last visited in 2019. This hole plays towards the sea and offers a bit of variety as the other holes on this loop all play parallel to the coast. It looks a significant upgrade on the old 8th, which was a cramped and featureless par 3 squeezed into a small piece of land. Our 2020 visit fell victim to COVID so I'm looking forward to getting back there in 2021 to play this new hole.
The Shore starts strongly, with two long holes along the coast, followed by three shorter holes on the inside. My favourite holes on this loop are at the far end bordering Royal St George's. The 6th used to be a dogleg right, but new tees have been built close to the beach which turn this into a dogleg left. The hogsback fairway is difficult to find, and the green has gentle run offs on both sides that carry your ball away but still give you a chance to get up and down. The 7th is a great driving hole to an angled fairway guarded by bunkers. The green is perched on the edge of a dune, with anything right falling away and anything left in deep rough.
The Dunes starts with a very long tough par 4 into the prevailing wind which doglegs to the left. Bunkers protect the inside of the dogleg and tempt you to cut off more than you should. The green is then a very narrow target - this really is a par five for most golfers. The 2nd is a very attractive short par 3, enhanced by the open sandy waste area between tee and green. There's then a tough stretch of holes into the prevailing wind, which culminates at the 5th green, elevated and well defended up in the dunes at the far end of the course. You then turn for home and there are chances to finish strongly on holes 6-9.
Overall, the undulating fairways, green complexes and pot bunkers offer a classic links challenge, and the conditioning has consistently been excellent. If I’m nit-picking, nearly all the holes run up and down, in comparison to say RSG or Muirfield where the holes are routed in a loop so you have more subtle changes in the wind direction. Maybe not quite Open rota calibre but it's up there with the best of the rest. Some of the back tees look really intimidating and I'd like to see the pros play here.
Played here in winter, and stayed at the Lodge overnight. And got to experience all 3 9’s. The main 18 comprising of the Dunes and the Shore 9’s are simplistic links golf at its finest. It was beautiful weather and the greens were very good for late December! And here at Princes you get great value for money and it is affordable for the every day golfer, which RCP and RSG definitely are not. Also, the Lodge accomodation is absolutely beautiful, the service was great, the food was nice, and it was just a general treat being here.
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!