Royal St George's - Kent - England

Royal St George's Golf Club,
Sandwich,
Kent,
CT13 9PB,
England


  • +44 (0) 1304 613090


Royal St George’s was the first English course to host the Open Championship and is the fourth most used Open venue (host to 14 Opens) after St Andrews, Prestwick and Muirfield.

Date Winner Country
1894 John H.Taylor England
1899 Harry Vardon England
1904 Jack White Scotland
1911 Harry Vardon England
1922 Walter Hagen USA
1928 Walter Hagen USA
1934 Henry Cotton England
1938 Reg Whitcombe England
1949 Bobby Locke S Africa
1981 Bill Rogers USA
1985 Sandy Lyle Scotland
1993 Greg Norman Australia
2003 Ben Curtis USA
2011 Darren Clarke N Ireland
2020 Cancelled Cancelled
2021 TBC TBC

In 1885, Dr William Laidlaw Purves of Royal Wimbledon Golf Club, spotted from the vantage point of St Clement’s church a spectacular piece of undulating land with expansive sand dunes. Being a Scot and a keen scratch golfer, he decided that there was only one thing to do with this links land; create a golf course. In 1887, the course opened for play and was named 'St George’s' after the English patron saint.

"For a course that is still comparatively young," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "Sandwich has had more than its share of ups and downs. It was heralded with much blowing of trumpets and without undergoing any period of probation, burst full-fledged into fame."

After only seven years of play, in 1894, Sandwich hosted its first of fourteen Open Championships. This was the first Open to be played outside Scotland.

Royal patronage was granted in 1902 and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) became club captain. Many celebrated people have been affiliated with the club; the great golf writer Bernard Darwin was president of Royal St George’s between 1952 and 1961.

The course is not a traditional out and back layout. In a similar style to Muirfield, each nine is broadly circular, a loose figure of eight. There is nothing artificial about Royal St George’s; there is a natural look and feel to the course that blends beautifully into the surroundings, with wild flowers, dune grasses and the sweet song of the lark. Commanding views over Pegwell Bay and the white cliffs of Dover ensure an engaging experience.

All the holes are very different and memorable, a true sign of a great golf course. Royal St George’s also has some unique features; thatched roof shelters, the red cross of St George on the flags, and that bunker on the 4th hole cut into a huge dune, the UK’s tallest and deepest bunker. If you can carry that famous bunker on this 470-yard par four, then you can enjoy the peace of the fairway beyond, called the 'Elysian Fields'.

The par three 6th is called the 'Maiden'. We’ll let Bernard Darwin explain why: “There stands the ‘Maiden’ steep, sandy and terrible, with her face scarred and seamed with black timbers, but alas! we no longer have to drive over her crown: we hardly do more than skirt the fringe of her garment.” 'Suez Canal' is the 14th, so called according to Darwin because; “many a second shot has found a watery grave”. The 15th is considered architecturally to be one of the most impressive in golf because the fairway bunkers are virtually symmetrical.

"After the strategic school of golf architecture started to dominate thinking in the early 20th century, it became fashionable to criticize Sandwich as a big hitter's paradise, with too many blind shots," wrote Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. "After the First World War, some of the most famous holes were changed – the Maiden hole was re-oriented so one did not have to play up and over the famous dune, and greens like the 9th and 17th were moved from blind hollows to their present locations on grand plateaus, perhaps by Dr. MacKenzie himself."

In the mid 1970s, Frank Pennink was brought in to eliminate further blindness. Three new holes were built and tee changes were made to two other holes. Many, except for devout traditionalists, believe that these changes further improved the layout.

"Whatever petty criticisms have been leveled over the lack of visibility on some holes, or the need for good fortune to master its difficulties, Sandwich has the four prerequisites of great architecture, and it has them in spades," continues Tom Doak. "Challenging golf holes, beautifully crafted greens and bunkers, a character of its own, and stunning scenery."

Royal St George’s certainly represents one of the most difficult tests of golf, requiring courage, confidence and solid ball striking. Severely undulating fairways make good scoring very tough indeed. Often the tee shot will come to rest on an upslope or a down slope, then one needs to hit a long iron or fairway wood into the green from an uneven lie.

Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, was a member here at Royal St George’s. The golf scenes from the film Goldfinger were filmed at Stoke Park, but Fleming called the course “Royal St Marks” in the film, no doubt inspired by his home club.

Sandwich is a classic links course, summed up nicely by Bernard Darwin: “My idea of heaven as is to be attained on an earthly links”. Darwin went on to become president of the club between 1952 and 1961.

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Reviews for Royal St George's

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Description: There's nothing artificial about Royal St George’s Golf Club; there's a natural look and feel to the course that blends beautifully into its historical Sandwich surroundings. Rating: 9 out of 10 Reviews: 96
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Rick Samuel
I have played Royal St George's a number of times and agree with the previous reviews that it is a great links golf course. However, the club staff and members cannot be less welcoming. The club were incredibly selective over the time we could book and yet we barely saw another golfer on the course all day which is quite normal for a week day at Royal St George's. You cannot enter any part of the clubhouse except the changing room without a jacket and tie regardless of the time of day. Visitors are expected to ring a bell to enter the club - how pretentious is that? This is a real shame since it is one of the finest clubhouse bars in the country with great golfing memorabilia and historic references throughout. If you do not wish to change into jacket and tie you are ushered into a snack bar that resembles a motorway cafe. The members we did have the misfortune to encounter were incredibly hostile making us feel like we were not worthy of being on their land. The course is clearly being groomed for the Open so expect most of the bunkers to be GUR and the greens were recently treated so fairly slow. I would strongly recommend a trip two miles down the coast to Royal Cinque Ports where the members and club staff are delightful, the course is in excellent condition and the greens are true and fast. There is no question that Royal Cinque Port is a far more pleasurable golfing experience than Royal St George's.
March 22, 2011
4 / 10
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Steven Robinson
March 22, 2011
Dear oh dear 2nd best ranked course in England. 11th in Uk. 26th in the World!!! You have given it a 3 ball rating. My favourite course alongside Birkdale. Class
Anthony Daniels
March 22, 2011
I played RSG this time last year and was blown away, as you will see from my review below. However, whilst I made no mention of the members or staff in my review they added to the experience. The staff were nothing but extremely hospitable and the members very friendly. Yes, the dining room was shut, but we knew that before we went, but we managed to go for a wander and had a good look around throughout the clubhouse. The members we encountered were only too pleased to take photos of us surrounded by all the historical memorabilia. I don't know what happened on the day that you visited, but personally I can't speak high enough of RSG and I can't wait to return in July.
dan
March 22, 2011
OK, i will keep this briefer than I feel. We played recently and were of course fully prepared for having to wear jacket and tie in the lovely club house, but that restriction is of course the right of the lucky members (very friendly to us) who allow us to play their course - try that in the USA ! We were treated very well by the professional, caddie master, changing room attendant, extremely friendly steward and all other staff. Yes most fairway bunkers were GUR, surely expected in the run up to The Open, but the greens were fine. The fact that the course was well managed yet relatively quiet allowed us to have a very relaxed morning four ball and afternoon foursomes. My experience of RCP was slightly different in that the course was great but in the club house no-one said that clothing requirements were in place hence I had to finish my lunch on the balcony ! Both courses great but no need to draw a 3 ball distinction I feel.
Ed Leaney
March 23, 2011
Bravo - agree with the review above. Last time I played the course in October the steward and the members were incredibly rude and unwelcoming. I also remember the difficulty my playing partner had in booking the round despite the course being deserted. We were considering playing next month but don't fancy paying £150 a head if the bunkers are GUR. Thanks for an honest and helpful review.
Rich
March 23, 2011
Agree with the comments - as the original author suggested (and complimented), good course, but no atmosphere and very unwelcoming - I hope they sharpen up their act for the Open. Judging by the way Anthony Daniels jumps on any slightly poor review of RSG, he is probably either a member or the steward of the course!
Richard Amadio
April 02, 2011
I find it quite incredible that any visitor to a traditional golf club such as Royal St Georges should expect the club to change their long standing rules just to please a few casual visitors . I imagine the bunkers are being reveted before the open and they needed protection . Most visitors to golf clubs know the regulations of clubs before they go there and abide by them .I personally change my golfing clothes before eating but then I always have
Stephen Pook
November 02, 2011
Myself and a friend visited on two occasions in March 2011 prior to the club holding 'The Open". Is it true that some of the bunkers were GUR but that is quite understandable. The golfing experience was excellent. We also found the staff and members were perfectly friendly and whilst sitting in the bar for a post round drink, (in a jacket and tie as the club rules require), we were engaged in conversation by a couple of members and had an enjoyable chat about the club. OK, so the place is traditional (or a bit old fashioned if you prefer), but we found it to be a great all round experience and would recommend it to any prospective visitors.
Ian
November 07, 2011
Would you walk into a strangers house without ringing the doorbell?
Ed
February 14, 2012
I had a similar experience in terms of staff and member attitude and think it is important for visitors to be aware of this. Agree that the golf course is worth the visit, but my local driving range offers a better customer experience. I think Ivan needs to stay off the hard stuff - comparing entering a stranger's house to paying for a round of golf is pretty stupid!
Anthony Daniels
February 16, 2012
I am neither a member (although I would love to be, but 180 miles is a little far to travel every week) nor the steward.
John
March 14, 2012
Ian is an idiot - it is not a 'stranger's house', but a golf club open to visitors. The only reason you would walk into a stranger's house is to rob it so you would definitely not ring the bell. That aside, congratulations to the reviewer for actually stating what the majority of golfers have long since known - great course, but unwelcome club.
Hans Berntson
I played this magnificent course on Monday March 14 and I'am still overwhelmed. It is absolutely fantastic. As it winds it way through the dunes you get to play all kinds of shots (especially from the majestic bunkers). Even though it's an Open course it's not overly tough for the regular guy. That is if you play from the proper tees and steer clear from the bunkers. The bunkers are on the other hand so cool that you almost want to take them on once every now and then.
March 16, 2011
10 / 10
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Keith Baxter

There’s an “old money” feel to Royal St George’s. Everything appears understated, perhaps comfy and rather familiar even to the first time visitor. The course appears straightforward enough but it’s not easy, even when the wind is light because the routing, in a Muirfield style, is excellent. Thoughtful, strategic play and solid ball striking are required to play this old links. It’s not my favourite Open venue, nor is it the most scenic or even the toughest but it’s a class act and I’m hard pressed to fault RSG in any area whatsoever.

March 13, 2011
9 / 10
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Dan Hare
We paid £130 each for a day ticket at Royal St George's and we all agreed that it was the greatest day of golf that we had experienced. Having arranged our game in advance, we had breakfast (£10) followed by 2 two balls in the morning, lunch (very prompt and reasonable), then a foursomes game in the afternoon. Superb golf, even with many bunkers GUR in anticipation of The Open this Summer. The whole experience is 5 star, with very friendly staff from the caddie master to steward to locker room attendant. For me, RSG vies with the Ailsa course as the most enjoyable Open rota course. Must play. dan
March 13, 2011
10 / 10
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alan ritchie
Had the pleasure of playing this brute last week in glorious sunshine and the breeze fairly testing but not extreme. From the outset you can feel the history, the old school clubhouse and thatched roofs of the huts out on the course. Its tough but fair all the way round and if you dont have a decent game with you I can see how it would be a nightmare. Having played the scottish open venues this is on a par with any of them, and reminded me a bit of carnoustie and muirfield in places. There are a few things a feel that seperate these courses from the good, but not 'great' links. Bunkering is the first, every one cavernous and brilliantly positioned, not just dropped by the side of the fairway. The undulations are also key and add so much to the character of these courses and just make them so easy on they eye. Not just the natural ampitheatres that are created but the course management that is required. On many courses you can miss the green right or left without much damage but here you are punished and punished bad!

Coming from nairn, a fine track itself I do still realise the difference in quality of this and other open venues. Barely a weak hole on the course and the suez canal would sum it up for me. A par 5 that damands placement and the ultimate confidance in your own swing to avoid any OB the entire length of the hole, excellent bunker placement down the left and a green that if you bail out left is very tough to approach the pin. I would say only turnberry (because of the views), and kingsbarns ( because I dont want to feel like Ive gone 10 rounds with flloyd mayweather every time i play) come above this for me. Still an awesome place and we even found ourselves going out behind a very pacy jimmy tarbuck and sat opposite hugh grant who parked his ferrari next to our less glamorous peugeot!!
September 27, 2010
8 / 10
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HDM
Some full reviews in here explain this course well so I will not repeat. But this is a must play that will knock your socks off for weeks after. When the wind blows it will test your mental strength to the limit as this can be a real tough beast when it does. Bring your A game if you can. Brilliant.
September 24, 2010
10 / 10
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Ivan Lipko
I might be a hacker but I can't understand the hype about this place. This is a one hell of a tough track and I agree with that. But being ranked that high I can't understand this.Yes it is very historic, long and tough but other than that it is a pretty average links golf course. You must be very good to enjoy it and there is very little aesthetics about it.
September 02, 2010
8 / 10
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Simon
September 02, 2010
As a 'hacker' I would stick to municipal courses and leave the classic open links courses such as RSG to serious golfers.
Ivan
September 02, 2010
Do you really think it would be in the top 30 if it was built 5 years ago?! I personally don't. Again, this course is good but it is not outstanding. And the main thing about it is it's difficulty. If you ask me Sunningdale Old is a way better course in every respect. And I am not alone in this opinion. Let's leave the municipal courses to those who don't care much about golf at all.
Simon
September 03, 2010
You simply can't compare Sunningdale Old with RSG, they are chalk and cheese and require completely different strategies and mental approach. As to whether it would be in the Top 30 if it was built 5 years ago, sort of a mute point really but personally I believe it probably would be. Also I didn't think it was overly difficult either, I play off 9 and comfortably reached all par 4's in two and didn't come away thinking I'd been beaten up, but I respect your opinion and we can agree to disagree! Regards
leatherwedge
September 03, 2010
Simon, is that not the point of these rankings - to try to come up with a ranked list of the 'best' golf courses, regardless of be they links, heathland etc? Personally i'm a links man but have not played either of these two courses, but am desparately trying to get a member friend to sign me on to Sunningdale!
Simon
September 04, 2010
@Leatherwedge - I agree completely that this is the whole point of rankings, I just think that ultimately you can't compare an out and out links course with a heathland/parkland course which is why they polarise opinion I guess, but going back to my original point I fail to see how any serious golfer can call RSG an average golf course.
Ivan
September 04, 2010
Alright, sir, thank you for your understanding and respect. I believe that I have not grown up to this course yet. Anyways there are no regrets about playing this great classic and I would recommend everyone to do so if he or she has a chance to. In any case there are no regrests about
Max
Royal St George’s is not easy to get to and it is a fair trek from London. The clubhouse is not grand looking from the outside but inside it is an Alladin’s cave of golfing memories and memorabilia. The practice facilities are nice (driving range, chipping, putting, practice net) but then that’s to be expected at an open venue. After paying the green fees we headed down to the 10th tee, where we were starting. Warning to anyone who starts there: leave at least 10 minutes to walk there and make sure you find a path; we didn’t and had to cross patches of extremly tall and thick rough.

My view of the course and the experience will be somewhat warped as we played the course in gale force winds. Wooden benches were blown over, the flags were bending over at 45 degrees, my powakaddy was blown over and downwind it was pushed by the wind at a brisk walking pace down the fairway. Undoubtably this wind was far stronger than what stopped play at St Andrews at the Open. The course was in immaculate condition. The fairways were very hilly with many steep mounds but they were quick and firm. The rough was thick and it was only a hack out if you went in it. The greens were small and slopy. This made them hard to hit in this wind especially so as they were firm too (11 h’cap). However, it was a delight to putt on them as they were fast, exceptionally true and they had several interesting slopes and burrows. I found the bunkering to be the most severe challenge on the course. Many greens were surrounded by them and many were dotted around on the fairway. Although small they were not particularly deep.

I thought the back nine (our front nine) was nice but in my opinion the front nine was superior and some of the holes were just outstanding. That bunker on the 4th was something else and when i dropped a ball in there it was only a 30 yard pitch over another bunker to safety on the side let alone over the top of the lip. The par 4/5 5th hole was very interesting and the ‘Maiden’ reminded me a little of the ‘Postage Stamp’ at Troon. I preferred the front nine as it wound its way through much larger dunes while the back nine was mostly flat. I also thought the 18th was a little weak. I would have preferred it had the wind not been quite so strong (windy but not like a gale). RSG was a very good, tough course with some truly memorable holes and noticeably better than Prince’s. It certainly looked much tougher than St Andrew’s did on TV. I would warn you to check the weather before you play but it is certainly worth the trip. They also had a junior rate of £35 which was good value. Only complaint would be that the food stopped at 3 o’clock. I felt that it was a breakfast/lunch place.
July 19, 2010
8 / 10
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Malcolm Searle
Played here in early May - conditions were very forgiving, a lovely sunny afternoon, not too much wind till later in the day and rough was only 6" high so I wasn't playing it at anywhere near it's fiercest, for which I was thankful by the end of the afternoon. The staff were very friendly,courteous and accommodating - couldn't wish for a better reception. Lovely understated club house, with modern and spacious locker rooms, super lunch - an proper jacket and tie affair, but not to be missed. It was nice to see many members walking with their dogs roaming free. I did find the signage a bit lacking from one tee to the next as you don't have many points of reference. The greens were a little lacklustre , but they had recently been tined and overseeded, but to be fair to RSG I don't think that affected my score negatively. I loved the par threes especially 3rd nestling into the dunes. As others have noted the bunkers are ferocious and discretion proved to be the better part of valour I chose to exit more than one bunker sideways, rather than take two (or more!) fruitless shots at the pin. I wasn't unhappy with my scorecard, but could see how the conditions had been kind to me and how differently things could have turned out, especially as the wind got up on the last two holes back to the clubhouse to remind me that I'd had a cushy day here. I really enjoyed RSG, but wasn't as blown away as some reviewers, maybe recent reviews had made me over-hype it in my mind, for me it felt like a fairer and much better conditioned version of Portmarnock (Old) - I'm not a massive fan of blind shots. It was certainly a great days golf, fabulous lunch and I will look forward to watching The Open there next year.
May 18, 2010
8 / 10
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Patrick McGarey
I played RSG on a clear, windy day in mid-April 2010, teeing off as a single on the 10th hole. The course was in good condition and I found it to be a very straightforward and fair test. Most of the trouble was clearly visable, so my challenge (even as a first time visitor) was confined to executing often-lengthy shots around the fast layout (i.e. not guessing where the greens or danger lay). Greens and fairways were both firm, and well-planned shots were required to get near the pins. Greens were in great shape and putting presented a fair test of nerves, as many putts were lengthy and/or downhill. As is usually the case, a second trip around the course would have been welcome in terms of utilizing better strategy. I'll definitely make time for a return in the future. The staff was pleasant and efficient, and despite the stature of the course, I was never made to feel unwelcome as a visitor.
May 02, 2010
10 / 10
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