Prince's Golf Club
This 27-hole venue is back to its best after restoration work
THIS famous corner of Kent can boast no fewer than three Open Championship venues, all within a couple of miles of each other.
The most celebrated is Royal St George’s, while neighbouring Royal Cinque Ports also enjoys an international reputation.
By far the least celebrated of the trio, in recent times at least, is Prince’s, separated from St George’s by the width of a fence.
Yet it was here in 1932 that Gene Sarazen won his one and only Claret Jug, on his way to becoming the first man to claim the Grand Slam of winning all four of the modern Majors.
He did so having invented a club specifically to recover from the punitive Prince’s bunkers – it became known as the sand wedge.
Originally laid out by Charles Hutchings, a former amateur champion, in 1904 the course was used by the military in the Second World War, Lord Brabazon memorably describing the German attacks it withstood as akin to “throwing darts at a Rembrandt”.
It fell upon an Australian, Aynsley Bridgland, to restore the links, which is organised into three roughly equal nines – Shore, Dunes and Himalaya.
You approach the club on a road that runs between Pegwell Bay and Royal St George’s (the first hole you will see is the 5th green at St George’s), and your first sight of Prince’s comes in the form of the newly-restored Dormy House that now offers guests first-class on-site accommodation.
By the time you have reached the clubhouse you will have seen several holes from the Shore nine and be licking your lips in anticipation. The Shore and Dunes combination is widely considered to be Prince’s best composite 18 and stretches to well over 7,000 yards. Much work has been done in recent years to restore the look, feel and definition of a high-quality links. On what is a flat piece of land, it is particularly important that fairways do not blend into rough and bunkers sink below view.
Bunkers, tees and greens have all been greatly improved and a course that had become somewhat tired and jaded in appearance – especially when compared to its esteemed neighbours – has burst back into life.
No hole on this 18 is anything less than worthy, with the Dunes nine perhaps the pick when taken as a whole.
The highlight of the Shore nine is probably the 4th, a shade over 400 yards but usually into the wind. Here you must find the fairway, and preferably the flatter right half, to attack a green that is both well protected and awkward to putt on.
The Dunes begins with what is surely the toughest hole on the property, which makes it a tough proposition should it be your opener.
It is 439 yards off the regular tees, let alone the backs, and into the prevailing wind. It doglegs left and the narrow, raised green throws off anything that is not struck into its heart to leave a tricky chip-and-run. Very few will be unhappy with a five here.
Things get no less interesting, but certainly more scoreable, as the nine goes on. The 3rd is a par 5 that can be attacked but is highly dangerous with out of bounds down the right, and the 5th features a huge, sleepered bunker and a raised green.
The Dunes concludes with a long par 4, mercifully downwind, to a huge flat green that waits at the far end.
The Himalayas begins with a tricky and disorientating dogleg, where there is little positive to aim at, and you know bunkers and out of bounds await.
Negotiate this hole safely and there are chances to score elsewhere, though as is the way at Prince’s the holes boast plenty of yardage from anywhere backward of the regular yellow tees.
Rare indeed are courses that offer 27 holes of genuine links, so make sure you visit, or re-visit, Prince’s soon, preferably taking advantage of the new accommodation to make this an overnight trip to savour.