Review of the Month May 2018 – Royal Cinque Ports
Time slipped slowly over the preceding days and ever-decreasing nights. We set off at dawn for Deal and as the roads narrowed toward the precipice of the shore, the sky brightened, kissing the distant horizon of the glistening, mottled Channel beyond. We were excited to return, we are old hands here. We knew what to expect: A Titanic back nine pushing 3,700+ yards into the prevailing. We relished navigating the vast and cavernous bunkers ahead, sat like icebergs on an angry sea of rolling dunes. The dizzying corrugations of the greens, that would be firm and fast and true. The vast ball eating deserts of feral flora soothed only by sherry Bovril at the turn. We were not disappointed.
Getting to Deal is the reason they won’t be holding the Open anytime soon. It’s good enough. One road in. one road out. Fine for you and me but 45,000 people a day? Nah.
Deal is something timeless and essential in this modern world, that amongst all the change there is a redoubt of palpable and reassuring steadfastness. It is like returning to the cold stone corridors of the old school and finding your old master is still there, a little greyer, a little shorter perhaps but as sharp as ever, wielding a MacBook instead of a chalky gown.
Ah, the Wind. A rare day indeed. With the wind at our backs we set off, usually it is the other way around and the first gives you a taste of what to expect on the way in. Generally, it means you gather a score on the front 9 and desperately try and hang on to it with your long sticks on the back nine as you head back in. Not today. At the second we switched back into the howling wind for the next 8 holes. By the fourth I had lost 4 balls and scattered more shots like confetti, more than a Vegas wedding chapel sees all summer in fact.
I lurched to the fifth tee deafened by the whistling wind in my ears and my trousers flapping like my confidence. The BBC weather app once again testing my credulity. 14 MPH??? Je ‘ pense pas! I stabbed the crappiest ball in my bag into play. Just.
Viscerally intoxicating golf, exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.
All is well, everything is as it was but very much relevant to now. Unlike our National Trust that keeps vast swathes of our Country preserved in aspic; anathema to me, a lauded mausoleum to, by and large, ghastly people, the trust create a pastiche of yesteryear that bears no resemblance to the reality of most people of that time. Or ours. Turn these opulent estates into schools, Country Clubs, and hospices. Do away with the acrid and the ammonia rinsed, the irrelevant and the stale. The Grade 1 Listed, hideously unctuous voyeurism, that celebrates yesterday over a tomorrow we could better create ourselves, It has to go. It has no benefit that could justify not having a purpose.
Deal is as good as I remembered. I have changed and so has Deal, new bunker construction here and there but by and large it is as good and spectacular a place to play today as it ever was. I appreciate it more now, each time I am lucky enough to go back.
By JCB Lay (including photos)Review of the Month May 2018 selected by Editor-in-Chief, Keith Baxter – click to read more about Royal Cinque Ports.