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The Garden of England and the Royal Golf Coast


Quick Overview

Though Scotland and, more specifically, the Old Course at St Andrew’s lay claim to being the ‘home of links golf’ there are some who argue that the county of Kent, in the south east tip of England, boasts the widest variety of links golf to be found on the planet, let alone the British Isles.

The Kent region is known throughout Europe as the Garden of England for its rich history for growing fruit, vegetables and hops (for beer), but is now marketed to golfers as Kent’s Regal Golf Coast – and a right royal time you’ll have playing here.

Royal St George’s in Sandwich is, of course, world-famous for hosting The Open Championship on 14 occasions and lies immediately next to Prince’s Golf Club, another coastal gem of Kent.

Connoisseurs of links golf might contend, however, that the finest links of them all lies just two miles away in Deal where, even on a sunny day, Royal Cinque Ports offers one of the sternest tests of golf you are ever likely to find.

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I like to imagine that Mother Nature must have been a keen golfer. She and Father Nature possibly had a holiday home, somewhere in Kent, to share with the kids.
The Natures must all, however, have been low handicappers because the four links courses that ‘Mrs N’ helped to create here - all within a coastal strip of seven miles - are amongst the toughest anywhere and three of them have played host to The Open Championship.

Let’s start at Prince’s in Sandwich, a 7,275 yard par 72 links and the scene of Gene Sarazen’s five-shot Open win in 1932.

Prince’s, which has an eye-catching chalet-style clubhouse, is a 27-hole complex in its own right. The Dunes nine and Shore nine collectively form the 18 used for Open qualifying in 2011.

The Himalayas, the newest of the trio, completes the tough-but-fair test of golf here.
Laid down in 1904 followed by a 1950 re-design to remove blind drives and approaches, this is a course that still needs to be respected. While the club its self has been described as “privately-owned but with a real family feel to it.”

Now under the management of Arizona-based Troon Golf, it has aspirations to host The Open once more. The course also boasts a new golf lodge, on the site of its own clubhouse, offering overnight accommodation for visitors.

Right next door to Prince’s is its illustrious neighbour Royal St George’s, which needs little by way of introduction here. 

St George’s, which overlooks Pegwell Bay, was the setting for Irishman Darren Clarke’s popular three-shot triumph in the 2011 Open – a tournament that has been intermittently hosted here since J. H Taylor pocketed £30 for winning in 1894. Inflation dictated that Clarke collected almost £1million as well as the famous silver claret jug!

St George’s welcomes mid-week visitors, with handicap certificates, from Monday to Fridays.

The third Kent course to have hosted an Open is to be found a few miles along the coast at Deal, another of the Cinque Ports dotted around the Kentish coast, from which Royal Cinque Ports takes its name.

This ruggedly beautiful but exacting links hosted Open Championships in 1909 and 1920 and, following extensive renovation to its greens, welcomed the British Amateur Championship for 2013.

Punishing rough, perilous cross winds, cavernous pot bunkers and greens that are akin to putting on floorboards are just a few of the perils awaiting you at this 7,006 yard par 72 links masterpiece. My finest hour in golf came at the 456-yard par four 18th hole at Royal Cinque Ports when, after one of best drives, I holed a nine-iron approach shot for an eagle two to win our Thursday afternoon four-ball and with it a huge £5 wager!
Further around the coastline the historic Littlestone club also welcomes members, as does the friendliest of Kent club’s at North Foreland, perched on the cliff tops at Broadstairs and near to Bleak House (formerly Fort House), the summer retreat in the 1850s and early 1860s of celebrated author Charles Dickens.

If you need a break from the taxing shot-creation that links golf demands, then travel half-an-hour inland to try Canterbury Golf Club’s undulating Scotland Hills course.

It was designed by Harry Colt, who later collaborated with Augusta National’s creator Alister MacKenzie to design California’s celebrated Cypress Point course at Pebble Beach. You may not get California weather, but you’ll enjoy the golf all the same.
As for a base, the idiosyncratically named Blazing Donkey Restaurant and motel in the leafy hamlet of Ham, near Sandwich, offers a package that include a two-night stay with dinner and 18 holes at three of Kent’s Regal Coast courses for just under £600 – a bargain if ever there was one.


Off-course delights

Kent has more castles and historic houses than any other county in England. Dover Castle has safeguarded Kent’s shores for centuries, Hever Castle dates back to 1270 and Walmer and Deal Castles, both 16th century coastal artillery forts. 

The county’s No1 tourist attraction is, of course, Canterbury Cathedral, which dates back to AD 597 and, together with Rochester Cathedral, founded in AD 604, line up as England’s oldest cathedrals.

Kent also boasts over 180 breathtaking gardens that showcase the region’s rich heritage; from the deep rooted tradition of Penshurst Place with its formal walled garden dating back to 1346, to the meandering streams of Leeds Castle’s natural woodland garden.

With vineyards to visit, Britain’s oldest brewery Shepherd Neame in Faversham to sample, top sea food restaurants to eat in and a rich maritime heritage to discover, Kent has plenty to offer. And I should know. I live there.


July 12, 2023


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