Mike Strantz, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 50 after having designed only eight new courses, is the critically acclaimed genius that designed Royal New Kent. Strantz’s layouts are known for being unique and memorable, and that is certainly true of Royal New Kent. The publicity campaign for the club calls the course “an inland links” and “a tribute to Royal County Down and Ballybunion,” two of Strantz’s favorite courses. Trying to emulate those courses is a lofty goal, one that may be impossible to attain without proximity to the sea. However if you can imagine plucking up Royal County Down by its roots and transplanting it, bunkers, dunes and fescue included, to a hilly inland tree-lined landscape similar to that of St George’s Hill or Sunningdale, then you’ll have an idea as to what Royal New Kent is like.
The course is a beautiful brute, measuring over 7,300 yards from the tips and is rated as the most difficult course in Virginia. Like the fraternity pledge in the movie Animal House after each smack on the bum from the pledge-master, when you finish your round at Royal New Kent you’ll feel beaten but will likely say to the starter: “Thank you Sir, may I have another?” Many of the fairways are bordered by dunes and hills covered with high fescue. The landing areas are fairly wide, therefore, played from the correct tees the tee shots are not too dangerous. This is a course that requires great focus and concentration on the second shots (and third shots on the par fives) as there are all varieties of danger and difficulty lurking, including more than 120 strategically placed bunkers, most of them large and/or deep. Several holes (including my favorite, the par five 5th) have narrow well-protected waists that separate one section of fairway from another and for good measure there are a few blind shots that result from changes in elevation. The large greens (one is 80 yards deep) are well protected by bunkers and/or burns. Several of the greens are multi-tiered requiring an approach to the correct section in order to either hold the green or avoid a three putt.
The first hole is a dogleg left with an elevated tee shot down into a valley. To shorten the hole a long hitter can cut the dogleg, which is over high hills (higher than the Himalayas of Prestwick). The green is elevated with a false front. A short approach can roll back 60 yards. The 2nd is a fantastic par five in the shape of an upside down fishhook. If you dare to try a 225-250-yard shot (all carry) across a deep hollow you can go for the green in two. All four par threes are interesting. The 7th is 173 yards from an elevated windswept tee to an angled green fronted by a burn with bunkers right and back. There is really no safe place to miss and club selection here is crucial and difficult due to the size and shape of the green and the wind. No two holes on this course are the same and each will be remembered in your mind’s eye long after you leave the course.
Above article by Stewart Abramson
Formerly owned by Traditional Golf Properties, Wingfield
Golf purchased Royal New Kent in 2018 and subsequently closed the facility for
restoration. The new owner worked with the late Mike Strantz’s original
team to restore the course – which reopened in Spring 2019 – at a
reputed cost in excess of $2 million.
August 13, 2008