Offering a heady blend of old and new, Prince’s in Kent has become one of the country’s premier play-and-stay facilities
Links To The Future – Prince’s Golf Club
This July, the eyes of the golfing world were supposed to be focused on the Kent coastline and the game’s elite doing battle for The Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Sandwich.
It was going to be the 18th time The Open had been contested in Kent, but only the 15th time at St George’s.
Unfortunately, The R&A was forced to cancel this year’s Open owing to the coronavirus crisis – it will now take place here in 2021 instead.
Right next door to Royal St George’s, Prince’s was the venue for The Open Championship of 1932 and the club is due to play host to Final Qualifying for 2021.
In recent years, Prince’s has gone from strength to strength. A huge amount of work and effort has been put in to enhance the golfing experience for members and visitors.
All three nine-hole loops have been significantly renovated and improved upon, and luxurious on-site accommodation has been developed to make Prince’s one of the leading play-and-stay venues in the country.
A Rich History
Golf was first played at Prince’s in 1906 when former Prime Minister AJ Balfour drove in the first ball as Captain.
The club had been established with a view to attracting junior, lady and family golfers and it was fitting that the first significant championship hosted at Prince’s was the 1912 English Ladies Open, won by Miss M Gardner. Prince’s remains an inclusive and welcoming club to this day.
Prince’s survived World War I and was a hugely popular venue with the golfing fraternity through the 1920s and ‘30s. In 1932, the club played host to The Open Championship.
The event was won by Gene Sarazen. It was The Squire’s only Open triumph and his total of 283 was an Open record, one that wouldn’t be bettered until Bobby Locke returned 279 at Troon in 1950.
World War II wasn’t so kind to Prince’s. The course and clubhouse were requisitioned by the military and the links was used for target practice.
By the time it was derequisitioned in 1949, the course was all but gone.
But not quite. Australian developer Sir Aynsley Bridgland stepped in and engaged Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison to restore and redesign the course.
They salvaged 17 of the original greens and created three loops of nine holes, each starting and finishing at the clubhouse – Shore, Dunes and Himalayas.
It’s the members’ favourite loop, although in the wider golfing world Himalayas has traditionally been thought of as the ‘third nine’ at Prince’s. But a transformation under the guidance of Mackenzie & Ebert course architects has greatly elevated the Himalayas to put it on a near par with the Shore and Dunes.
Unveiled in May 2018, the rejuvenated Himalayas features two completely new holes – the long par-5 2nd, which combines the old 2nd and 3rd holes, and the fabulous par-3 5th that plays out towards the sea and demands a precise iron shot to a raised green.
Elsewhere, there have been significant changes to the bunkering, the green complexes and surrounding off-course areas. A number of trees have been cleared to enhance the aesthetics of the layout.
It’s now a hugely impressive nine holes of golf, showcasing an interesting blend of traditional links and modern course design.
After a relatively gentle start, the challenge ramps up on the new 2nd. When played into the wind, it demands three strong shots and a strategic approach. With wetlands to the left and well-placed bunkering, a par is hard won on this excellent long hole.
Stop for a moment by the 3rd tee to admire the replica Spitfire propeller installed to pay tribute to former Walker Cup captain and Prince’s co-founder PB ‘Laddie’ Lucas. He had to make a forced landing on the site in 1943.
The 5th is a simply fabulous par 3 at the furthest point of the course, then the run back to the clubhouse begins with another formidable par 5.
The 7th is an excellent short hole and the 8th a great risk and reward par 4. The challenging 9th has been made even tougher with bunkers to the left and right of the fairway. The approach towards the clubhouse must avoid the cavernous ‘Sarazen’ bunker short and left of the green.
All in all, The Himalayas nine delivers a superb selection of brilliantly renovated and distinctive holes of golf.
The successful redevelopment of the Himalayas nine prompted Prince’s to make improvements to the Shore and Dunes nines, and this work has been completed for the 2020 season.
When conducting research for the project, Mackenzie & Ebert studied the original work of Campbell and Morrison. They realised a number of the greens had once been larger and they were able to restore that size fairly simply, just by changing mowing practices.
New tees have been added to bring bunkers back into play for elite golfers. And, much like on the Himalayas, natural ‘sand scrape’ areas have been added as not only an attractive landscaping feature, but also as a habitat for rare species of coastal flora and fauna.
Standing out on the Shore is a new par 3 that will be open for play in 2020. Much like the superb 5th on Himalayas, this short hole will play out towards the sea and offer a change in angle for the course.
The challenge of the Shore nine is evident from the outset, with a testing par 4 being followed by an excellent par 5 with out of bounds all down the left side.
The holes forge out towards the boundary with St George’s and Prince’s’ luxurious lodges – more on them later – before turning back towards the clubhouse.
The run in is tough, with the long par-5 7th, difficult par-3 8th and demanding par-4 9th asking for some strong and accurate hitting. A feature at Prince’s is the testing rough and this is to be avoided at all costs if one is to score well on any of the nines here.
The Dunes nine starts with what many consider to be the toughest of all the holes at Prince’s.
It’s a par 4 that can stretch to 473 yards, turning from right to left. The tee shot must be extremely well placed in the fairway to afford any chance of finding the upturned saucer-style green.
The next is a brilliant par 3 to a small, elevated green. A new wooden sleeper path now weaves its way up the middle of the hole through a bare sand area – this enhances the view from the tee dramatically.
Next, a short par 5 offers a decent birdie chance. But beware of the challenges posed by the undulating fairway with its well-placed bunkering, and the stream and OOB running all down the right side.
A great selection of unique and challenging holes follow on the Dunes as the layout runs in an anti-clockwise loop.
Take in the views across the whole course and of St George’s on the 6th tee before tackling what is an excellent par 5 featuring a selection of testy pot bunkers, plus a ditch on the left side.
The home hole is straightforward enough, but it asks for two solid blows as it leads you back to the comfort of the clubhouse.
The clubhouse at Prince’s was opened by Peter Alliss in 1985. It’s a fantastic facility offering stylish lounge and dining areas, great food and an impressively stocked pro shop.
It’s a welcoming and comfortable place to conduct the post-round debrief, or to refuel and head out to tackle another nine. A day filled with 27 holes at Prince’s is tough to beat.
And if you’ve done that, you might well choose to take some well-earned rest before travelling home. Prince’s offers 38 bedrooms, including two luxurious suites, in its Lodge and adjoining Lodge Houses.
Accommodation is spacious and contemporary in styling. There’s a lounge bar, snooker room and conference space and the use of gym and spa facilities is available. The 2 AA Rosette Star restaurant offers fine dining and a hearty breakfast – ideal if there’s more golf to be played.
With 27 superb and impressively renovated holes of links golf, together with accommodation that is perfectly fit for purpose, Prince’s is currently right at the top of its game.
This is a fabulous venue for a weekend away, an overnight stay or just a day out. Although easily accessible from London by road or rail, Prince’s offers a chance for some highly enjoyable, high-quality golfing escapism.
Don’t forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.