Think of golf in Kent and you think of the great trio of Open links in Sandwich and Deal. But there are more fine courses on the coast and inland too
The two par 3s down at the clifftops by the Captain Digby pub stand out heading out, the 5th playing up to a ruined folly that once had a tall central tower, and the 7th a little longer with wonderful views of Kingsgate Castle to the right.
The 17th is the pick of the homeward run – a long par four that sweeps down and then up to a green with a steep slope at the front, a deep run-off to the right and a large grassy hollow to the left.
The long demanding par-4 16th (a par 5 for many in all but name!) and the superb par 3 that follows it have always stood out for me, but the other 16 holes are none too shabby, with things hotting up immediately after the short par 4 opener.
At 407 yards, the 2nd is a mid-length par 4 with the approach played between a dip in the dune ridge that affords you a helpful sight of the flag if you haven’t strayed too far offline off the tee – a little like the 3rd at Muirfield.
While the Shore and Dunes nines are considered the Prince’s ‘course’ by many, I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the Himalayas, which perhaps has greater variety among its holes.
The 7th here is as fearsome a long par 3 as you’ll encounter when the wind is up, playing to a raised green with steep run-offs either side.
But if you’re looking for the hardest hole at Prince’s, look no further than the 1st on the Dunes, a long dogleg left where the fairway is hard to find, but not as hard as the upturned saucer green,
Royal Cinque Ports
The links gets going quickly with the excellent par-5 3rd, where the word ‘undulating’ takes on its fullest meaning.
A punchbowl green lies semi-hidden beyond the final crest, with the trickiest pin positions towards the back. Several outgoing holes flank the sea wall, with the 6th green right up against it.
Royal St George’s
I absolutely love everything St George’s has to offer, from the feeling of spaciousness around the 1st tee to the sheer individuality the holes.
No two holes are remotely the same here, which can’t be said of several otherwise very fine links.
The 1st on this expansive Faldo design is a grand opening hole that sweeps away and down to the right, before the course heads off into the rolling Kent countryside through and around mature trees and woodland.
The famous Anaconda bunker stretches for miles along the right of the par-5 5th, and the final hurrah is a memorable island-green 17th, similar in length to the 17th at Sawgrass. It may not be long, but it’s surprising how inaccurate you can become when it really matters.
London Club – International course
The Nicklaus-designed International course boasts some of the best water holes you’ll ever play. You get a taster on the par-5 1st, where a large lake short right immediately tests the nerve.
But it is the 8th where the full force of this lake comes into play, a long par 3 which is all carry over the water and which seems to play longer than the yardage.
Four holes later, there’s a touch of déjà vu on the 12th, this time from a slightly more elevated tee, and the 13th is then a great risk-reward par 5 where most will choose to play around the lake though there is a more direct approach across the water for the brave or foolhardy.