May 8th, 2017
You Little Beauty! All Down to Prince's!!
The jewel in the Kent crown
Words: The Brigadier Photography: Getty Images, GolfPunk
If you want a proper golf escape then get yourself down to Princes Golf Club, and loose yourself in the vastness of this beautiful part of Kent. And make sure that you stay at their fantastic lodges, which make for the perfect break from the hustle and bustle of modern life. (Hark at Gloria Hunniford! – Ed)
This time last year, we went down to Prince's Golf Club to play the MacMillan 72 hole Longest Day Challenge, as we thought this would be the best way to really experience what the course has to offer, and get a proper understanding of all the idiosyncrasies of this twenty-seven hole lay out.
Now, we wouldn’t recommend this as the best way to have a relaxing weekend, but it did at least afford us the opportunity to get to know this piece of golfing nirvana very intimately.
And with one of our team nailing a hole in one on the 8th on the Shore course (Did I ever tell you about my hole in one at Prince's during the Longest Day Challenge? – Ed), our memories of Prince's will always be great, despite the suffering involved with playing 72 holes. The eighth is a tricky 176-yard par three, and when our leader knocked it in, the scenes of joy were unbridled. The timing was great, as it gave us all a badly needed boost for the next ten holes.
After 60-something holes we were very tired and a bit upset. And then this happened...
Our day began before dawn, when we slipped quietly out of the Lodges, to make our way onto the first on Dunes, one of the three loops of nine, which also include The Shore and The Himalayas. There is so much history to this place, that when you know it, will just further enhance your enjoyment of this great course.
The original Dunes and Shore lay out opened in 1907, and was laid out by Percy Lucas and Charles Hutchings on land provided by the Earl of Guildford.
It was this layout that was to host Prince’s one and only Open Championship, the 67th in 1932. It was where the great American Gene, ‘The Squire’, Sarazen won his only Open title, five strokes ahead of runner-up Macdonald Smith.
Sarazen led wire-to-wire to secure the fifth of his seven major championships. There was a field of 110 players, with 62 making the cut, and a total prize fund of £500, of which £100 went to the winner. One Percy Alliss, father of Peter, was also in the field and came in a tidy fourth.
Another piece of absolutely fascinating history is that it was here that Sarazen first played the ‘sand wedge’ which he had invented. He kept it hidden during the practice rounds, but unleashed it to full effect in the actual event.
(Did I ever tell you about my hole in one at Prince's during the Longest Day Challenge? It was a six iron and I actually called it – Ed)
The club used to be on display in the Clubhouse, but it’s now locked in a bank-vault, as this piece of golfing history is just too expensive to insure.
The next major episode in the course’s history was World War Two, when the Army requisitioned the course, and the course was all but wiped out. Under the watchful eyes of Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison, restoration work began, and they were ultimately able to save 17 of the original greens and build them into the new 27-hole lay out. Campbell was also responsible for Royal Cinque Ports, and Machrihanish, so he has left a great links legacy.
Our first venture onto the Dunes nine at dawn finds us adjusting to the light, but we are soon greeted by a beautiful dawn, and the prospect of a very hot day, with zero cover. Perhaps we hadn’t thought everything through! But we are saved by a gentle breeze from the sea, and by the first bacon sandwich of the day, thoughtfully provided by the good people at the Clubhouse.
(Did I ever tell you about my hole in one at Prince's during the Longest Day Challenge? It was a six iron and I actually called it. That's right, I stood on the tee and told everyone it was going in the hole – Ed)
And it is worth making the point that everyone involved with the Club will give you a very warm welcome. Prince's has built a well-deserved reputation for being a little different, forwards thinking, relaxed and informal, but serious about its golf and the experience that it offers members and visitors alike. They’ve distilled something pretty unique here, and we know no one will ever be disappointed with the greeting and experience that you will be given. They are, to put no finer point on it, a top bunch of people.
One thing that immediately struck us was the demanding carry’s that are required across the 27 holes. And the penal rough! They are only able to cut back the rough a couple of times a year, because it is in an environmentally protected area, with lots of unique flora and fauna. If you want to score well, then you simply have to keep your ball on the fairway. If you’re a matter of inches off line, you’ll be dead and buried. You have been warned!
(Did I ever tell you about my hole in one at Prince's during the Longest Day Challenge? It was a six iron and I actually called it. That's right, I stood on the tee and told everyone it was going in the hole, and lo and behole it sailed true and high onto the green, rolled for a second and disappeared into the hole – Ed)
There are no weak holes to speak off. We had a preference for the slightly shorter Himalaya nine, which has some of the course's most dramatic holes in our opinion.
The course is in fine condition, which comes as no surprise as, when we played, it would shortly be hosting the Local Final Qualifying for the 144th Open Championship. Prince's also co-hosted the Amateur Championship in 2013, and will do so again in 2017. 2016 will see them host the prestigious Jacques Leglise and St. Andrews Trophies, so there is high quality tournament golf being played here on a regular basis.
(Did I ever tell you about my hole in one at Prince's during the Longest Day Challenge? It was a six iron and I actually called it. That's right, I stood on the tee and told everyone it was going in the hole, and lo and behole it sailed true and high onto the green, rolled for a second and disappeared into the hole and everyone went berserk and someone said "If you get a hole in one with a Bridgestone ball (which I did) you get a lifetime's supply of Bridgestone balls free, and we all thought 'that can't be right' but we all believed it anyway – Ed)
One real treat is the fifth on The Shore, which plays up to the Lodges. It’s not just the prospect of a welcoming pint that makes it special. It’s also the original 18th green, where Sarazen claimed his victory in 1932. He went on from this victory to become the first player to win all four majors. He is also one of only five golfers to have ever won all the Major Championships in his career.
The history is here, the course is here, the people are here, and the accommodation is here. There’s nothing not to like, so get your mashies out and book yourself a piece of golfing nirvana.
And what’s even better is that the three great Kent courses are all now co-operating, so you can get to play Prince's, Royal Cinque Ports and Royal St George's. Hole yourself up at the Lodge and then tuck yourself into three magnificent courses. Now that’s what we call a proper golf break!
(Did I ever tell you about my hole in one at Princes during the Longest Day Challenge? – Ed)
Inside Princes Museum