The following edited extract is from John F. Moreton & Iain Cumming’s book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses:
“Walmer and Kingsdown, a cliff-top course on the Kent coast, has an unusual history. Firstly, it seems to have been constructed quickly, Braid and Vardon opening it on 10th April 1909, Braid having only laid it out a few months earlier. It was somewhat rough at the opening, only partly due to the lack of rain. Braid was the victor 3&2 in the morning, and again in the afternoon with a 78, Nicholls the professional scoring 81 and Vardon an 84.
During World War I it reverted to nine holes but was officially re-opened in 1919. However, the War Office requisitioned the land in World War II and the course ceased to exist as such. But the 2000 booklet reveals that during 1944 and 1945 the greens were ‘preserved’ by the professional-to-be and his father, which tends to suggest the course was largely reinstated. In 1974 there were changes to holes 7 to 9 and 14 to 15, mainly lengthening.
If the 1948 activities were essentially a reinstatement, Braid’s course is mainly as he designed it, the first nine having magnificent views of the Channel, and the second nine looking inland to Kent countryside.”
Positives - great views, peace and tranquility, good value at £25 twilight green fee. Some decent holes, most notably 7, 10, 16 and 18. All of these were sweeping downhill holes which offered temptation and reward.
Neutral - fairways in decent nick, though running very fast as there’s not been a lot of rain in East Kent. Wide playing corridors were very much needed lest the ball run away. Greens true.
Less good. I felt greens were all rather similar. All round, mostly flat, in contrast to the sloping fairways, and many had a shelf at one end and a steep drop down at the other, which on the downhill holes was as one approached the green. This made for the high approach being the preferred one, which was not what I expected from a fast running downland course.
Questions - this is a downland course, why are trees being planted, most notably on the par 3 14th? It’s all very well for those who can carry the ball, but what about those whose game is more focused on running the ball up slopes. Maybe the hills put off the more senior golfer, but blocking out a running approach seemed curious to me.
Without doubt the worst greens I have ever played on, this course should not have been open and I feel cheated that the state of the greens was not communicated to our group. Mickey mouse course on side of hill with many hidden greens with strange embankments cut out of hills where if you are unlucky enough that your ball bobbles towards you have no putter backswing. Some very mediocre and strange holes more suited to a crazy golf course.
Walmer and Kingsdown Golf Club is unfortunate as it sits in the shadow of three of England's best links courses (which are ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Kent - I'm sure you know what courses they are!). While the course here doesn't match the quality of the links courses this clifftop downland course is good and the springy turf is beautiful to play off. I'm sure this course is affected by the wind very often but we played on a hazy day. I shot a gross 103 (I am a junior who plays off 34!) but I found a lot to like here.
1 - a nondescript par four of 328/322/306 that plays uphill and is guarded by out of bounds on both sides. I did not like the hole as it felt a bit "squeezed in".
2 - a good par four of 414/401/406 that plays from an elevated tee with great views over the English Channel. Not too tricky, but a lovely hole.
3 - an uphill par four of 385/379/335 with a blind tee shot. Nothing too interesting here, but not a bad golf hole. The views from the green are superb.
4 - a short par three of 136/132/122 with a two-level green protected by bunkers. It didn't impress me that much. Everyone in the group struggled here.
5 - a good par four of 340/330/305 that has a slanted fairway and a sunken green. The views here were excellent. I liked the hole as it had a risk-reward feel.
6 - a par four of 288/285/257 that is steeply uphill. Nothing too impressive here. The fifth which is fifty yards longer is more drivable. I did not like the hole.
7 - a fantastic par four of 451/446/436 with a beautiful downhill drive towards the sea before curving right. One of my favourite holes to date.
I should also point out that on the 7th tee there is a sign pointing to some of the world's finest courses.
8 - an uphill par five of 497/491/402 yards that was similar to the sixth. There is a strange hump to the right of the green. My least favourite par five here.
9 - another par five of 487/480/463 yards that is about as flat as a pan. The views are great from this hole. An okay end to the front nine.
10 - a short par four of 341/337/321 that curves to the left. It is reachable in one for long hitters due to a downhill slope. I liked the hole.
11 - a good par three of 202/196/184 that plays over a slight dip before reaching the green. The only par 3 on the course that is not uphill. A lovely hole.
12 - a tough par five of 507/500/406 with a slanted fairway and three bunkers crossing it a short distance from the green. Nothing too special, but a good hole.
13 - a par four of 364/336/316 that plays on a ridiculous right to left slope. I didn't like 13 as no golf ball could ever hold the fairway.
14 - a semi-blind par three of 135/132/122 that plays over a massive clump of bushes. The hole was ok, but too similar in length and in structure to the fourth.
15 - a huge par four of 472/430/410 on a right to left slope. When I played the yellows were closer to 460 yards. Better than 13, but the slope is still extreme.
16 - a great par four of 458/450/423 from a massively elevated tee down to the fairway. A standout hole on the course and by far the best par four on the back 9.
17 - a fairly nondescript uphill par three of 167/160/144 that has not got many interesting features to speak of. My least favourite par three.
18 - a great par five to end on, 499/494/484 down a big hill to a green in front of the clubhouse. I love the hole as it is the perfect end to the course.
W&K is a good course. The fairways are firm and the front nine especially has some fantastic holes. The greens are a little on the slow side, but this course is worthy of a four ball rating.