I appreciate that there are courses like Shinnecock and Pebble Beach that most probably garner a 6-ball rating, but I haven’t played those courses, I have played many of the Open courses here in UK and rate RCP accordingly.
Obviously a great course is required to gain 6-balls but I also feel that a great Club needs to have that atmosphere where you feel butterflies in your stomach as you turn off the main road and down the drive, in RCP’s case, driving through the village of Sandwich thinking just over the next street is a vast expanse of land with crumpled fairways and some incredible green complexes. When driving down the gates of any Open course I get butterflies because of the history there and walking in the footsteps of Pro’s past and present, at Royal Cinque Ports, I feel proud! Yes, I am a member so this MIGHT be biased but I am mature enough to give credit where its due and the opposite.
Standing on the first tee, you are looking at not an overly undulated piece of land, but it is in the details that you really realise that this course does not need the hills of some courses in the US. Take Hoylake for an example; on a flat piece of land yet you rarely have a flat stance for your approach shots. At RCP, it is really around and on the greens where the course comes into its own. I could not think of another place that I have played where I could spend more time hitting shot after shot at greens and marveling at joy of watching the ball take the slopes and undulations to work out the best way to get close to the hole.
The 12th hole is a perfect example of that; a ‘U’ shaped green where the direction of play is along the bottom of the ‘U’. From the middle of the fairway you can play straight at the flag which is fine, but if you are ever so slightly off centre with your tee shot you have to contend with these perfectly manicured banks either side of the flag. The options are so much fun: do you try to land on the top of a bank thus killing the speed and the ball rolls down to the flag, or do you over hit a bit knowing you have a bank as a backstop and hope the ball comes down in the right angle to get near the flag. Throw in the fact you are going into the prevailing wind which makes the lower shot all the more appealing, this is honestly one of the most fun shots I have played.
Without boring you, I will quickly talk about the 3rd hole as this green site is truly fantastic. The approach to the green is preceded by huge waves of fairway that are very steep, any ball hitting them at slightly the wrong angle will kill all speed and the ball will roll back. That being said, if you catch a downslope on your second shot into this long par 5, which is doable as it is downwind, then the ball will shoot forward and hopefully crest the top of the last hill and will take the slope all the way onto a large deep green. Its hard to describe it but this green is almost like a giant bowl but with a quarter of the bowl rim taken away. If the flag is at the front and you have a putt from the back, I could aim 90’ right and watch the ball roll all the way across the green and slightly towards the 4th tee like a pinball machine and hope I have judged the speed correctly for the ball to die at the top of the back slope and roll its way straight to the flag.
Everyone talks about the 16th hole which is indeed the toughest par 4 into the wind I have played, but it is also the most amazing green too and it is almost impossible to fly a long iron on and keep it on the putting surface, the play is to hit a low boring long iron which will bounce short and run up the slope before the green. I have played here more times than I can count and I have only realised this is the best way to play the hole….Honestly, it’s not me being stupid I promise!
The par 3’s are a great mix, so much so that I have hit all clubs ranging from a 3 wood to a 9 iron.
I played last weekend in a very strong wind and also some rain, I cannot commend the Greenstaff enough for their work on the course and bunkers. The greens were amazing, firm on the first bounce but provided such a true roll on chips and putts. The fairways and bunkers had fantastic grass coverage and that prime links sand we know and love. I really think if golfers spent a bit more time actually looking away from the flag, their score would improve….instead of hitting a 20 yard bunker shot that stops by the flag, as satisfying as that is, aim to the right and hit a bunker shot that just gets out and takes the slope and ends up in the same place. More often than not. The approaches are like putting surfaces in Surrey.
I would highly recommend anyone to play this course, Royal St George’s may be of the higher caliber of club but this is a more fun course that is genuinely sneaky tough.
Date: May 02, 2018