6 Royal St George’s
Stats: 6,630 yds, par 70, SSS 72
Visitor information: Visitors welcome Monday to Friday. Three and fourballs permitted on a Tuesday (two-ball all other times). Course recommends using regular weekday tees but guests can play from the Championship tees by prior arrangement
2008 Ranking: 12 (Up 6)
Improvements since 2008 Rankings:
Course: Major bunker work ongoing in preparation for 2011 Open Championship
Gallery: Royal St George’s pictures
Towering dunes and imposing bunkering, savage rough and greatly undulating fairways delivering cruel bounces and awkward stances, Royal St George’s on the Kent coast is a fabulously challenging links course with a long and distinguished history.
Royal St George’s is not an out-and-back links, in fact almost no two holes point in the same direction. It means the wind affects the ball differently on each one.
As the course winds through, over and round the dunes it becomes clear that no respite will be offered by this testing Open layout. The 496-yard 4th, where a huge bunker is set into the dune immediately ahead of the tee, and the 15th, with bunkers left and right from the tee and a tiny pear-shaped green, are two of the most difficult.
The par-5 14th, ‘Suez’, is a long straight hole which at first glance appears relatively innocuous. But out of bounds hugs the entire right side and the ‘Suez Canal’ crosses the fairway 200 yards from the green. In the 1993 Open there were 22 scores of seven or worse here.
The club was established in 1887 by a Scotsman, Dr Laidlaw Purves. Apparently he climbed the tower of St Clement’s Church in Sandwich to scour the coast for a suitable spot and his eye came to rest on the stretch of duneland where Royal St George’s now sits.
Just seven years later, in 1894, St George’s played host to the first Open Championship to be contested outside Scotland. Fittingly, it was Englishman JH Taylor who ran out the winner. Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke, Sandy Lyle and Greg Norman have all lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s. In 2011 Royal St George’s will welcome the Open Championship for the 14th time. It’s a great layout for spectators with numerous natural vantage points along the dunes.
Quality of test and design: This is one of the most testing links in the country. From the championship tees the par is 70 with just one par 4 – the 12th – coming in at under 400 yards on the card.
Presentation: Flowing through wonderful duneland, the links has a very natural feel. The course has evolved with the game and new tees and bunkering maintain the exacting challenge for the modern player.
Visual appeal and enjoyment: There are views to the sea and over the surrounding dunes. The distant cooling towers at the disused Richborough Power Station provide a useful and unusual focal point as the layout spins around.
Ambience: Visitors are made very welcome midweek, especially on Tuesdays when the two-ball regulations are relaxed. The clubhouse is steeped in history and packed with character and tradition.
Panellists’ comments: “There is a real feeling of space, remoteness, and tranquillity here”; “There aren’t many holes where an easy par is available”; “The higher dunes early on create some wonderfully enclosed holes such as the 3rd, 6th and 8th”