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Prince’s in Kent is one of the country’s best, and when the wind is blowing, toughest links - Rob Smith finds it on the up
Prince’s Course Review
Rather like the New Course at St Andrews and the Old Course at Ballyliffin, Prince’s is sometimes overshadowed by its immediate neighbour, in this case Royal St. George’s. As someone who has been visiting Prince's Golf Club for more than 30 years, I feel that rather than signature holes and face-value fun, the three loops of nine have real strength in depth and offer a golfing challenge equal to many of our finest links. And with recent changes and improvements to bunkering, fairways and run-off areas, it continues to grow.
Prince's Course Review Video:
Two bright but breezy days in late June
The severity of the challenge ahead is apparent from the opening drive where you need to carry a bunker on the corner of the dogleg into the prevailing wind. There is then a long approach to a green with run-offs on both sides. These areas have been greatly improved in recent times leading to fair and consistent lies that offer hope of an up-and-down. Turning with the wind, the short second is far more welcoming, although the large green can lead to a challenge with the putter.
A risk and reward long hole comes next, back into the wind and with an attractive, rumpled fairway. You will want to play to the left, away from out-of-bounds, but this brings two bunkers into play for the lay-up.
Four is another tough and heavily bunkered two-shotter, and I have always really liked the look of the fifth where a large, sleeper-lined bunker guards the left and a run-off short and right calls for a well-struck approach.
If the wind is from its usual direction, it will now help all the way to the turn with an attractive and reachable par 5 at six, a shortish 4 at seven, a tough par 3 at eight, and a mid-length two-shotter where you will need to land short of the green and roll the ball up.
Some people don't hold the Himalayas in such high regard as the other two nines, perhaps due to its less links-like opening, but I feel it provides a strong, welcome and very enjoyable contrast. It begins with two doglegs; the first gently left to right, the second much more of a handbrake turn to the left.
Following the par-3 third, you turn 180 degrees to play a short par 4 to a double green that will yield plenty of birdies but also offer a real challenge if out of position.
The fifth is a straightforward par 4 and it is followed by the longest hole on the site, a seemingly endless par 5 along a new fairway to a well-guarded green. The main protection at the bunkerless par-3 seventh is the wind which means it can take almost any club in the bag.
The Himalayas concludes with two strategic par 4s, the latter to a green beside the famous Sarazen bunker. Prince’s hosted The Open in 1932 which was won by the American who had invented the sand iron a little while earlier. He used it from a bunker by the final green en route to victory.
The Shore nine opens with two strong holes, particularly into the wind, a par 4 and a par 5.
A short hole in the opposite direction is followed by a very appealing hole to a green protected on the right by a deep bunker, one from which you might never escape!
Five takes you up to the Lodge, before you head for home via an excellent par 4 to a green that is tricky to find and hold, a final par 5, a short hole back into the breeze and a final par 4 along a switchback fairway to a green by the clubhouse.
The golf rates at Prince’s are extremely reasonable, and even more so if you add in a night or two at the excellent and well-appointed Lodge which boasts a very fine restaurant. Check in advance, and if you are lucky you may be offered the chance to look round the fascinating and lovingly maintained Gallery museum.
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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