Upgrades to the Himalayas nine at Prince’s Golf Club
Prince’s, on the Kent coast near Sandwich, gave me my first taste of links golf some 30 years ago, and was probably responsible for sparking my lifelong love affair with the seaside game.
On my recent August visit, it was in as good a condition as I’ve ever seen it, something I celebrated in style by finally hitting two good shots into the 1st on the Dunes nine, a dogleg left to a hog’s back fairway and green that provides the sternest of the three opening tests
The Shore nine was resplendent too, but the Himalayas nine was my main focus following news that renowned course architect, Martin Ebert, had been commissioned to upgrade this third loop.
The many eye-catching changes include new holes, new features and the reinstatement of the three long-lost Himalayas bunkers set in the dune ridge between the 8th and 9th holes, over which golfers played on the pre-World War II layout.
Work is well-advanced on the most striking change of all – the new par-3 5th that will finally give Prince’s a sea-facing hole. With turfing imminent, I went down to take a look, and it was great to see the green complex, with its solitary revetted bunker short left, awaiting its top coat.
This new hole, which will play from 120 to 160 yards, has paved the way for the 2nd and 3rd to merge into a long par 5 with less of a dogleg than the existing 2nd, while other changes will see the 8th become a potentially drivable par 4.
There will be new or more expansive wetlands alongside the 2nd, 6th and 8th holes plus several open sandy areas. Other tees are being moved to the highest dune ridges to afford better sea views. Despite the scale of the operation, everything should be finished by spring 2018, with all 27 holes remaining in play until then.
The club was founded in 1906, and its proudest moment came in 1932 when Gene Sarazen won The Open Championship here, after introducing his revolutionary new sand iron to the world. It worked a treat! Yet despite its rich heritage, Prince’s has never been afraid to invest in improvements.
Playing 27 holes here in one day is one of links golf’s finest experiences, bettered only by staying in the Lodge and doing it all again the next day.
Perhaps best of all though is staying a couple of nights and taking advantage of a rare opportunity within these shores to play three Open Championship links within such close proximity of each other, for Royal St George’s lies next door and Royal Cinque Ports, which hosted the 1909 and 1920 Opens, just three miles to the south
Design thoughts with Martin Ebert…
“At a proprietary club rather than a members’ club, when you’ve got someone who wants to do something, they’re the only people who need to make the decision, so that’s been refreshing. The brief has been to get the best out of the Himalayas that we can.
“When you add something new to something that was already good, people sometimes see it with a different set of eyes, and I think that will be the case with the new 5th hole, where the change of direction will bring a great backdrop of the sea. The idea to get tees up on to the ridges for the sea views on other holes is a great one too, but one very much generated by the guys at Prince’s.
“We’ll end up with two pretty long par 5s, with the 2nd and 3rd merging into one hole, but whichever way the wind’s blowing there will be one that’s reachable and one that definitely isn’t.”