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2 miles N of Deal
Contact in advance – Not Wed am or at weekend
Royal Cinque Ports, or Deal as it is more commonly known, was founded in February 1892. Henry Hunter, Deal’s first green keeper was appointed shortly afterwards and three months later, a nine-hole course was ready for play. A second nine was soon added.
The First and Second World Wars did their level best to obliterate the links, but James Braid restored the course and it reopened in 1919. Sir Guy Campbell later performed a similar role and once again, in 1946, the course reopened.
Deal is an absolute brute of a links course. Its back nine, or rather the last seven holes, are relentless, invariably playing directly into the teeth of the prevailing south westerly wind. The layout is stark and cheerless – only the sandhills and wild dune grasses provide this narrow out-and-back layout with any real definition. You can expect tight and hanging lies from the fairways, making stances awkward. Let’s make no bones about it – this is a tough course. Make your score on the front nine, otherwise Deal can make even the very best golfers look like weekend duffers.
In 1909, J. H. Taylor – one of the Great Triumvirate – proudly won the first Open ever played at Royal Cinque Ports. The Open returned to Deal in 1920 and made Walter Hagen look decidedly useless. In the lead-up to the Open, Hagen had boasted that he was unbeatable. He eventually ended up in 55th place! The real story behind the 1920 Open focused on two Brits, Abe Mitchell and George Duncan. It’s a story that is beautifully documented by Bernard Darwin in his book Golf Between Two Wars.
In those days, the Open was played over two days with 36 holes played each day. After the first day, Mitchell had a six shot lead over his closest pursuer; Duncan was even further adrift, a massive 13 strokes behind. The first round of the final day saw Duncan card a 71 while Mitchell could only manage an 84. Darwin wrote: “His lead had vanished like a puff of smoke”. In the final afternoon round, Duncan consolidated his 71 with a 72, Mitchell could only manage a 76. Darwin’s moral of this story is “that the man to back on the last day of a championship is he who gets his blow in first”.
1920 was the last Open to be held at Deal, despite the fact that it was planned to return in 1949, but sadly the sea breached its defences and flooded the course forcing the 1949 Open to be played at Royal St George's.
We’ll let Darwin close this passage: “Golf at Deal is very good indeed – fine, straight-ahead, long hitting golf wherein the fives are likely to be many and the fours few”.
Let’s fast-forward one hundred years… Golf at Deal is still very good indeed. In fact, the course is continuing to improve by dint of ongoing investment, hard work and Martin Ebert’s guidance. Even the critical golf course architecture cognoscenti agree.
In 2019, the par five 3rd hole was lengthened, with the tee moved from the right to the left side of the 2nd green and the fairway repositioned accordingly (grassed with cores taken from other holes)as it heads towards a fantastic punchbowl green complex.
Another improvement can be savoured at the much-improved 16th which is now a par five with a split fairway. As a par four it was hard for the single digit golfer to approach this green with a long iron, and almost impossible to hold the green. Played as a three-shot hole, #16 now offers some respite when heading home into the prevailing wind.
For the latest course and turfgrass updates, visit Royal Cinque Ports greenkeeping blog.
Typical links, you review it on paper and think you'll take it apart and then you turn up and get a understanding of what the wind is doing and you start to worry whether you will make a modest score at best! Its such a great course. We played it as part of a comp held by a well know club manufacture which made the day even more fun. The course was in fantastic condition. Its is approached via a funny little country lane and you start to wonder if you've taken a wrong turn until it appears in all its glory. The club house has a real sense of old school history which adds to its appeal. A must for anyone venturing to the Kent coast as often over looked for some travelling to play some of the neighboring favorites.
Although Deal has hosted two Opens, limelight is often focussed on nearby Royal St Georges, which continues to host Opens. After playing both, it is evident that Deal is a better judging purely by the course. Its back 9 is considered one of the hardest in the world and always tends to be fiercely into the wind. In attestation to that, my even par score front 9 quickly flopped to an 11 over round. This course particularly shines in the winter, where the dry sandy turf outcompetes muddy inland courses. It also means some par 4's require 4 shots just to reach the green! Numb hands makes the bacon butty at the halfway hut taste that much better.
An excellent course which was fun to play and will test your skills. The back 9 is brutal especially when you have to carry bunkers and keep it in play. What i liked the most is that you don't have to always be long but you have to be straight, which means that more golfers can enjoy this, especially older players.
Favourite holes were 1, 2, 4 ,15 and 16.
This is a true links course, fantastic greens, fairways and tee boxes.
Easier than Royal St Georges and Princes, but more fun.
Gets another point for a great clubhouse with excellent food and ales. It also has a great pro shop and a fantastic range, chipping and putting practice area.
Would return and would recommend to others.
Weariness set in this morning as we set out to play the ancient links at Deal (Royal Cinque Ports GC). Site of a couple of Open Championships a century ago, Deal was laid out in 1892 by Henry Hunter with some assistance from James Braid.
The field in front of us was extra slow through the first few holes, and when the rain came in, our tired bodies seem to cry out for relief- perhaps we should do some sightseeing instead?
But we warmed to our task, joined a lovely English couple playing behind us, and ventured forth to explore the links
I thought the course was good- but not as quirky as I had expected .
It was more like a Scottish links IMO, because it had little elevation change for most of the course, which was really defined by it's bunkering.
Deal is a stringent test of golf, and ideal for championships.
Each par is well earned, and the last 7 holes, often played into the prevailing wind are brutal.
Perhaps we should have played Cinque Ports before Sandwich- after the grand scale and drama of Royal St Georges the day before, Cinque Ports suffered a little in comparison...
The second time I played Deal I knew what was coming and really enjoyed the authenticity of the links.
I think it is an ideal warm up to Sandwich on the Open Rota Tour (rather than the other way around)
It's hard, but it is still a lovely links course - it's the REAL DEAL !
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Happy to admit to being a “homer” as I am a very proud member of “Deal”! The work done over the past few years have the course in world class condition. Mix the condition with the great layout and incredible green complexes and you get an insanely good experience.
“At half-way you will think you have the potential for a really good score. By the end, you may not be quite as pleased.”
The chap handing out the competition cards at Royal Cinque Ports didn’t need to be a clairvoyant – he had merely looked out of the window to see which way the wind was blowing.
This is a very traditional links and while the prevailing hoolie was going to be helpfully at our backs for much of the front nine, it was easy to predict it would cause havoc on the way home.
And so it proved. Rarely on our top 100 quest, have we bathed in three-pointers as much as we did early on. However, there were definitely no cigars and champagne by our round's end.
Royal Cinque Ports makes the very most of what appears to be a relatively small plot of land on the Kent coast. It provides links golf at its very best with its carpet-like fairways ascending and descending wildly.
We played there in a mixed open which was sensational value for money with a pre-game breakfast roll and two-course after-round lunch thrown in.
The welcome in its very traditional clubhouse was jocular - the locals telling us with a twinkle in their eyes of what they knew was ahead of us.
Their words of warning were still echoing when we took on the par-four first hole which runs alongside the road in front of the clubhouse.
This was against the wind and its perils were the out-of-bounds on the right and a stream directly in front of the green.
Fortunately, I hit a a decent opener and an approach with a fairway wood which skimmed over the water to 20 feet from the pin. It was the best shot I played all day.
Royal Cinque Ports has plenty of sand, tangly rough which devours wayward balls and green complexes which have mysterious borrows and fast run-offs.
It also has wonderfully quirky holes such as the par-five third alongside the sea barrier which was installed after easterly winds and high tides caused two Open championships to be moved at the last-minute to nearby Royal St. George's because of flooding.
Sadly, the Open has not returned since the last aborted championship in 1949, despite the course deserving its presence.
I digress. A tee-shot down the right-hand side of the third opens a gap between dunes through which I carved a three-wood, landing the ball only a yard from a dramatic bowl green.
I am a moderate hitter so the surprising length of my shots was partially down to the wind but also because of the terrific condition of the fairways which allowed the ball to run and run even at the end of October.
The par-threes are an exciting part of the course’s make-up but can also be a golfer's undoing. For example, the short fourth hole looks like a gimme but those who aim for the flag and don’t use the contours on the left of the green could well see their tee shots drift into swales.
No hole can be taken for granted at Royal Cinque Ports - even the short par-four sixth. Buoyed by success with the wind at my back I ignored my playing partner reading from his shot-saver that I should lay up down the left.
I took on a dune with my driver and suffice to say we counted Mrs W’s par on that hole.
We sat smugly over our delicious fruit cake at the halfway hut, our partners on 23 points and ourselves on 21, thinking that we would be arm-wrestling over the top prize during the homeward stretch.
Indeed, our opinion had not changed after the 10th which goes back out towards the sea and the 11th, a long par-four with a tee shot over sandy waste and a devilish second from the brow of the hill in between bunkers.
However, the course's razor teeth emerged on the 12th. At 433 yards off the yellow tees, straight into the breeze, possibly the most difficult stroke index 13 I have ever played.
As others lost balls, ballooned into the rough on the gusts, I kept on the fairway, I can and managed to record a five for the most hard-earned Stableford point in memory.
I said as much to the marshal who happened to be passing at that time and confirmed that I should be very pleased with my efforts.
Ditto, the 200-yard par-three 14th which was a stroke-index 15! I smashed a driver as hard as I could and was thrilled to have hit the putting surface.
However, these were mere preparations for the run-in which, in these conditions, must be one of the toughest in golf.
By statistics, the 15th is the hardest hole on the course with a fairway which gives an indication of the rollercoaster dunes to come. It demands the big-hitting which simply isn’t in my locker.
The 16th literally made me gasp. The club video describes it as “one of the great holes in British golf” and, having been lucky to have played many top courses, I have to agree.
The tee shot has a huge carry over rough and two bunkers which are adjacent to a Second World War defence shelter.
I thought I had reached the green of the par-five in regulation only to see my third shot roll down the steep bank in front of a fiendish raised green complex.
The 17th asked almost as many questions and is a stroke-index 17! The drive against the wind needs to be deadly accurate to avoid rough and, even for those lucky enough to find the fairway (I wasn’t), the second has to go over the deepest bunkers on the course to arrive at the green.
By now, the three-pointers were a distant memory and pencilling in ones or the occasional two was an achievement.
The 18th is a classic home hole. The ginormous bunker on the right shouldn’t come into play but has intimidation factor and rough on the left seems harmless off the tee but is a magnet for balls.
And then there is the decision about taking on the water in front of the green. By now I was in full chicken mode, laid up and was happy with a five.
Royal Cinque Ports doesn’t receive the praise associated with its illustrious Sandwich neighbour or the other Open courses, Royal Lytham and Royal Birkdale which I have played this summer.
But, in my opinion, its condition and the wonderful variety of holes means it should be considered in the same echelon.
Oh, and I haven’t even remarked that the views are as enchanting as any I have witnessed.
It is a course which we must play again.
This is one of the most fun and challenging golf courses I have played, very much top of the tree. RCP is a special place and is in super condition, this should be in equal position to the open venue next door. Do not dismiss.
We all struggled with the wind on the day we played it, but our spirits were and still are high after the event. We will be back soon!!!
Had the pleasure of playing Deal along with Princes and RSG over a few days. I loved the natural links feel, the undulations and layout are quite a test. A very strong course I feel doesn't get talked about enough. A very tough finish played the last stretch directly into the wind and was glad my short game was able to salvage a reasonable score.
I loved the long socks with shorts many members were wearing on the day, very traditional club that oozed class and a warm welcome
Regrettably I've only played Deal once, but it was an absolutely cracking course. The closing holes are brutal when played into the wind. The club itself is very friendly and I would love to go back for another round.
Royal cinque ports was my first links experience a truly class golf club. Condition was immaculate, the grass pathways between greens and tees was perfect.
The front 9 was the better looking 9 with maybe hole 1& 9 being average. Holes 2,3,4,6&7 are world class.
The back 9 is just brutal, 10 is Great then the next 5 all kind of blend into one and there all facing the same way long par 4s into wind. The 16th is possibly the best hole on the course 17 is also very quirky.
I can’t compare it to royal at George’s but Iv played princes and royal cinque is certainly the better golf course