The Himalayas 5th hole
While all eyes were turned to the Open Championship at Royal St George’s, over the fence another fabulous links course has been progressing. Prince’s Golf Club, which staged the Open in 1932, but is not currently on the rota, has undergone a series of subtle, but noteworthy improvements. Not least of these improvements include wide, irrigated and closely mown paths linking all the key playing areas such as tees to fairway, greens to tees, and so on. They are perfectly maintained, providing a smooth, level walking surface, but with far more natural characteristics. These pathways are the hallmarks of a class facility.
Prince’s is run by Rob and Ali McGuirk. Rob’s father originally took over the golf club in the early 1970s and it has been progressing ever since. Then two years ago they purchased Chart Hills, near Biddenden in Kent: a massive turnaround of this facility is already underway and we will be back to feature that in more depth in future issues.
The club comprises of three challenging nine-hole courses, each with a par of 36, and averaging 3,400 yards. The Shore and Dune nines enjoy glorious views of the coast with dramatic run-offs and plenty of awkwardly positioned bunkers; the Himalayas loop is at the northern end of the property where there are more ‘wilded wetland’ areas.
Green fees range between £100-£150 during the peak season, dropping to £70-£90 in the low season. There is a full grass driving range in use during the summer season as well as undercover mats that are available all year round, along with two chipping greens located at the front of the clubhouse and a putting green.
There have been major changes brought in over the last few years to better define the golfers’ overall experience. The green complexes have been adapted and smoothed into the adjoining teeing areas - this gives a seamless transition for the golfer walking from one perfect pelouse to another.
The greens are absolutely perfect without flaw. They have been immaculately maintained by the head greenkeeper, Sean McLean and his outstanding team of skilled technicians.
The renowned golf course architects, Mackenzie and Ebert were selected to guide the Prince’s team towards reshaping and gently redefining the 27 holes. They spoke to Golf Features:
“We have thoroughly enjoyed our time working on the links of Prince’s. The McGuirk family are constantly investing and striving to improve the golf offering at Prince’s and it has been great to be a part of the development in these recent years. Our work started with a deep dive into the fascinating history of the course and how it developed from 18 to 27 holes, following the devastation during WWII. The 27 green complexes that were produced by Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison after the war are of the highest quality, set within the valleys that run through the numerous dune ridges which sit parallel to the coastline.
“The split nature of the design work is an interesting detail given that these were two architects that did not often work together and who chose to split the work almost equally, one taking 13 greens and the other taking 14, although we have yet to find evidence showing which architect was responsible for each green.
“The bones of a 27 hole layout was already there and was already being improved upon every year by Sean Mclean, the Course Manager. He had worked hard on expanding the green surrounds, which are certainly one of the strongest features on the property and one of the best examples in the UK. Our work has focused on embellishing the courses and making best use of the land.
“Work started on the Himalayas nine where the new par 3 5th was produced, playing directly towards the sea, something not evident on the post WWII routing with all the holes running through the valleys parallel to the shore. The new green took inspiration from the other memorable green complexes at Prince’s and features a devilish tightly mown run off to the right and an intimidating single pot bunker to the left.
“There are a few key themes on the Himalayas work which was then carried through to the Shore & Dunes nines:
• Tees were lifted onto the dune ridges to provide some welcome elevation change and to open up the views of the sea.
• Wide grass pathways were introduced to provide seamless transitions from greens to tees and then onwards to the fairways.
• The bunkering was made larger, rougher and bolder to stand out when viewing them from the new tee locations.
• The out of play areas were cleared of rank vegetation, scrub and poor trees to reveal the sandy nature of the site beneath. These were also added into the carries of many holes to provide even more drama from the new tee positions, some of which now feature the iconic sleeper walkways installed by the club.
• Many out of play areas also sat close to the water table and resulted in poor, lush rough. These areas were lowered to become seasonal wetlands which now help to drain the playing surfaces and also provide an interesting strategic feature on many holes. They also add to the wide variety of habitats not previously evident on the site.
“Like the 5th on the Himalayas, the new par 3 5th on the Shore Nine was inspired by the existing complexes, this time with an away sloping green, played over one of the most extensive sand areas on the course. This new hole replaced the claustrophobic 8th which was squeezed into a small area and its removal has allowed more space around the many holes in that area.”
There is also outstanding accommodation at Prince’s. Situated at the entrance of Prince’s, The Lodge, with two adjoining Lodge Houses, has 38 bedrooms including two lavish Bay and Links suites, all with en-suite facilities with the modern essentials. Dogs are also welcome to stay too. The buildings were rebuilt several years ago and are on the site of the old clubhouse, next to the 14th hole of Royal St George’s.
Incorporated within the lodge is the excellent restaurant The Brasserie on The Bay. With tired golfers happy to relive their round over a few drinks and a sumptuous dinner, there can be few better places to stay and dine than here. Head chef, Ricky Smith, has been in post for 6 years and prides himself on using high quality, locally sourced food to produce his creative and appealing menus, which change to accommodate new seasons.
The physical attributes of Prince’s are easy to write, but the experience is hard to convey. Skylarks and marsh toads, add to the traditional sounds of the coast. The wind varies from a light zephyr to fully blown gales and defines the type of round to be enjoyed, or sometimes in squally conditions, endured. The scent of the sea, the perfectly presented playing surfaces, winding through the natural dunes are beyond a delight. Prince’s is the venue. Henry Cotton knew a thing or two about golf and he said simply: “Prince’s is the finest links course.”
Prince’s is a great venue to visit for any golfer. It is playable throughout the year and always in pristine condition. For higher handicaps it is highly playable and a selection of differing tees are useful in allowing the course to be enjoyed by less powerful and higher handicapped golfers. The wind adds hugely to the experience and ensures endless variations to the golfer. The new improvements have taken it to an even higher level – if you like links golf, you will love Prince’s.
For more details and how to book, please visit the website: princesgolfclub.co.uk