Prince’s in Kent is one of the country’s best, and when the wind is blowing, toughest links - Rob Smith finds it on the up

Prince’s Course Review

Courses Blog

Rather like the New Course at St Andrews and the Old Course at Ballyliffin, Prince’s is sometimes overshadowed by its immediate neighbour, in this case Royal St. George’s. As someone who has been visiting Prince’s Golf Club for more than 30 years, I feel that rather than signature holes and face-value fun, the three loops of nine have real strength in depth and offer a golfing challenge equal to many of our finest links. And with recent changes and improvements to bunkering, fairways and run-off areas, it continues to grow.

Prince’s Course Review Video:

Conditions

Two bright but breezy days in late June

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The Dunes

The severity of the challenge ahead is apparent from the opening drive where you need to carry a bunker on the corner of the dogleg into the prevailing wind. There is then a long approach to a green with run-offs on both sides. These areas have been greatly improved in recent times leading to fair and consistent lies that offer hope of an up-and-down. Turning with the wind, the short second is far more welcoming, although the large green can lead to a challenge with the putter.

The 2nd hole on Dunes usually offers some respite

The 2nd hole on Dunes usually offers some respite

A risk and reward long hole comes next, back into the wind and with an attractive, rumpled fairway. You will want to play to the left, away from out-of-bounds, but this brings two bunkers into play for the lay-up.

The long 3rd has an undulating fairway and a ditch lining the right

The long 3rd has an undulating fairway and a ditch lining the right

Four is another tough and heavily bunkered two-shotter, and I have always really liked the look of the fifth where a large, sleeper-lined bunker guards the left and a run-off short and right calls for a well-struck approach.

Hole five with the Lodge in the distance

Hole five with the Lodge in the distance

If the wind is from its usual direction, it will now help all the way to the turn with an attractive and reachable par 5 at six, a shortish 4 at seven, a tough par 3 at eight, and a mid-length two-shotter where you will need to land short of the green and roll the ball up.

The Himalayas

Some people don’t hold the Himalayas in such high regard as the other two nines, perhaps due to its less links-like opening, but I feel it provides a strong, welcome and very enjoyable contrast. It begins with two doglegs; the first gently left to right, the second much more of a handbrake turn to the left.

The 2nd on the Himalayas - stroke index one

The 2nd on the Himalayas – stroke index one

Following the par-3 third, you turn 180 degrees to play a short par 4 to a double green that will yield plenty of birdies but also offer a real challenge if out of position.

The large shared green of the 4th (right) and 8th (left)

The large shared green of the 4th (right) and 8th (left)

The fifth is a straightforward par 4 and it is followed by the longest hole on the site, a seemingly endless par 5 along a new fairway to a well-guarded green. The main protection at the bunkerless par-3 seventh is the wind which means it can take almost any club in the bag.

The short 7th is particularly tough into the wind

The short 7th is particularly tough into the wind

The Himalayas concludes with two strategic par 4s, the latter to a green beside the famous Sarazen bunker. Prince’s hosted The Open in 1932 which was won by the American who had invented the sand iron a little while earlier. He used it from a bunker by the final green en route to victory.

The rebuilt Sarazen Bunker protects the 9th green on the Himalayas

The rebuilt Sarazen Bunker protects the 9th green on the Himalayas

The Shore

The Shore nine opens with two strong holes, particularly into the wind, a par 4 and a par 5.

The 2nd hole on Shore calls for the longest carry at Prince’s

The 2nd hole on Shore calls for the longest carry at Prince’s

A short hole in the opposite direction is followed by a very appealing hole to a green protected on the right by a deep bunker, one from which you might never escape!

Don’t miss to the right on the par-4 4th!

Don’t miss to the right on the par-4 4th!

Five takes you up to the Lodge, before you head for home via an excellent par 4 to a green that is tricky to find and hold, a final par 5, a short hole back into the breeze and a final par 4 along a switchback fairway to a green by the clubhouse.

The final green on the Shore nine with the welcoming clubhouse behind

The final green on the Shore nine with the welcoming clubhouse behind

The golf rates at Prince’s are extremely reasonable, and even more so if you add in a night or two at the excellent and well-appointed Lodge which boasts a very fine restaurant. Check in advance, and if you are lucky you may be offered the chance to look round the fascinating and lovingly maintained Gallery museum.

The Lodge at Prince’s overlooks the 5th green on the Shore

The Lodge at Prince’s overlooks the 5th green on the Shore