The ground upon which Royal Cinque Ports covers appears to be relatively uninteresting at first view. It’s pretty flat, featureless and scrubby, and apart from the 4th through to the 7th, the sea is out of view due to the large sea wall that scales the length of the beach. But don’t let that fool you, the individual holes here all have character and the greens are the most impressive that I’ve played to date.
For what is a straight forward opener and not really indicative of the rest of the course, the crazy rollercoaster of a green gives you a sign of what’s to come. Honourable mentions also go to the green complexes on the 3rd and 12th, the latter with its wonderful valley green, like a skateboarder’s half-pipe.
Whilst the greens are superb, it’s the crumpled, lumpy duneland between 3 and 7 and back from 15 to 17 that provide most of the course’s charm. The fairways through this stretch of land roll like waves. Don’t expect an even bounce as your ball will ricochet back and forth through these holes like a pinball machine.
Whilst there are 7 or 8 first class holes on the course, two in particular stand out for me. The par 5 third is a great hole that’s split into three sections. The landing area for your drive is relatively flat with a dune crossing the fairway and a natural bunker set into one of those dunes protecting the hole from being overwhelmed by a long drive. The second section is the most pronounced of all of those lumpy sections across the whole course, in this section your ball will finish wherever the fairway topography decides it should go. The final section is a blind punchbowl of a green complex within which sits a wavy two-tiered green.
The other main highlight is the 16th. This is a long par 4 where you drive to the left of the concrete pillbox over two nostril bunkers towards another bumpy fairway. The green then sits perched above the surrounding land and you’ll need to carry over some intimidating swales and slopes to reach the putting surface.
You won’t go wrong with a day out at Deal, this is links golf at its most natural. And whilst there are going to be obvious comparisons with Royal St. George's (it doesn’t provide the same aura or prime duneland as its more famous neighbour), Royal Cinque Ports offers the perfect complement to Kent's main attraction for any visitor wishing to play golf in this area of the world.
Date: July 26, 2017