A trip out to London’s version of East Lothian on the coastal links of East Kent is always a joy and offers an incredible choice of venue. Royal St. George’s is a formidable championship test, Royal Cinque Ports at Deal is perhaps more fun than RSG for an average club chopper but no less testing, and then there is Prince’s, which, for the less initiated has always been more accessible for newer London golfers looking for their first taste of linksland golf.
I do not mention Prince’s in third place because it is inferior to its neighbours, Prince’s has always offered pure links golf to a broader audience than either of its two neighbours and because of that it might merely be considered less rarefied. However, I must say that my visits to Prince’s over the years, in-fact over decades, have left me feeling that whilst Prince’s was a lot of fun to play, offering some very enjoyable linksland golf, it was perhaps living on past glories, it felt a little tired with little by way of stand out features, and that it could have been much better if only….
Well ‘if only’ has now happened. Prince’s owners the McGuirk family have by employing the skills of Martin Ebert and his firm ‘Golf Architects’ reinvented and reinstated Prince’s as a full equal alongside its illustrious neighbours. This not really surprising given the post WWII rebuild there was the work of J.S.F Morrison and Sir Guy Campbell. Martin Ebert was perhaps fortunate to have this excellent foundation with which to update and improve upon, Guy Campbell served as architectural adviser on the pre war R&A Championship Committee. This link to the R&A and the Open Championship will not be lost on those who know Martin Eberts’ connection via The Open and it’s current rotation of golf courses.
Golf Architects have installed a distinctive character at Prince’s, over not only the course as a whole but even between the individual nines, this addition of character now sets Prince’s apart from its neighbours and gives visitors a very different style of links golf to that offered at either RSG or RCP. The Shore and Dune nines both enjoy restored features from the original 1906 design, both nines enjoy adventurous green contours and dramatic run-offs, glorious sand scrapes make for an interesting visual test, especially if a light breeze is blowing.
The Himalayas loop at the northern end of the property incorporates more wilded wetland areas, these areas heavily influence strategy and shot choice, both holes 2 and 8 use these areas to good effect albeit they are very different styles of hole. On the par 5, 2nd the dog leg is bordered by a wetland making choice of driving line crucial and fraught with danger, and on the drivable 8th you must take on a huge swathe of swampy morass if you are to get near to or on the green.
Bunkers of all kinds abound, some are spectacular, others lurk, many sited exactly where you’d like to hit to, non are in the rough, all have tightly cut approaches eager to gather your up ball and dump it in an adjacent pit. I am sure Martin Ebert is a very nice man but he possesses a spiteful dark side where his bunker placement is concerned. That mini pot set right in the middle of the first fairway of Himalayas a prime example !
A few of many standout holes are:
Will Prince’s, the first course designed in 1906 to battle the Haskell, come to the fore again in stemming new equipment and ball technology ? only time will tell, but that Prince’s is now perfectly positioned to host top tier championships and enthral visiting golfers is in little doubt, and if I were a landlocked Open rotation course will little room to stretch further I would definitely be looking over my shoulder.
One final word of advice is to make sure your distance device is updated, mine got lost amongst the extensive alterations that have taken place, and if you knew Prince’s before expect your jaw to drop at the spectacle of Prince’s reincarnate.
(Independent review green fee duly paid.)