This blog was written by brand ambassador Guillem Mataró.
The first time I heard the name Royal Cinque Ports
I knew that sooner or later I would end up playing it. I don’t know why
exactly, I guess I was just caught by the name. And I first developed
the ambition to play Royal St. George’s
when I saw Darren Clarke holding the claret jug in 2011. I haven’t
gotten it out of my mind since. So the time finally came when I could
bring all of my wishes together and plan a trip to play the best golf
courses in Kent.
The Kent Loop
After landing at Heathrow on a Sunday afternoon, I drove the rental
car straight to Deal just in time to have dinner and a good sleep. I
usually take the first day off from the course to settle down and visit
the surrounding area. Kent is known for more than just its golf courses
so I had a whole day planned. I visited The White Cliffs of Dover,
Folkestone, Dungeness National Nature Reserve, Rye and the imposing
The next morning I visited the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich,
as a warm up for the incoming golf. Upon planning the trip I came across
a deal called the ‘3 courses package’. This consisted of green fees for
three golf courses in Kent: Royal Cinque Ports, Royal St. George’s and
The Prince’s Club as well as 2 nights at the Prince’s Lodge.
The Prince’s Lodge
This lodge is set right in the middle of the path that separates two
prestigious Kent golf courses: Royal St. George’s and Prince’s, an
absolutely perfect location! While having breakfast or dinner, you are
provided with views of the 13th green at St. George’s and the 5th green
at Prince’s. One full courtesy dinner is also included in this deal. I
highly recommend this option if you’re planning to play the Sandwich
area. The room at Prince’s Lodge was huge, and all of the staff were so
friendly and helpful too. A truly pleasant experience.
Two hotels near Prince's and Royal St. Georges (Photo: member Guillem Mataró)
Another option would be to book one of the small hotels in Sandwich
itself. You’re still 5 minutes away from the courses and there are a
couple of pubs to visit in the town. On a separate trip we actually
stayed at The Bell Hotel
. This a nice place in the center of town with an excellent choice of gin & tonics and a great English Breakfast.
If You Can, Book a Caddie
Something I always do when playing in the United Kingdom or Ireland, is to play with caddie. You can just mail the course after booking a tee time, and request a
caddie online. I just love the caddie culture and I highly recommend it!
To me playing with a caddie is one of the best experiences and makes
the whole thing much more enjoyable. He/she is so helpful when playing a
course that you’ve never played before. From giving lines from the tee,
breaks of the putts (sometimes very hard to do for me), searching for
lost balls (they always know where to search)…etc.
On this trip I had really great guys on my bag (Photo: member Guillem Mataró)
They are also good fun when you travel alone like I do. You can spend the
round chatting and learning more about the place you’re playing. They
can also give you good advice for nice restaurants or pubs after your round as
Royal Cinque Ports
Royal Cinque Ports
was established in 1892. The first thing you see when approaching the
golf course is the magnificent 19th century clubhouse. White, isolated
and just lovely. This puts you in the state of mind for a round straight
If you happen to play in the summertime or when it’s hot enough to
wear shorts, you’ll have to play with knee-length socks. But don’t worry
if you don’t have them, there are lots for sale at the Pro Shop. I
suddenly felt like a schoolboy again with this uniform in the middle of
My new club socks... (Photo: member Guillem Mataró)
Besides the dress code, there are some very nice traditions at RCP. The yearly Halford Hewitt Cup
for instance. A four-day tournament which is played mainly on the RCP
course as well as it’s neighbours Royal St. George’s and Prince’s. It
started in 1925 and is considered the largest amateur tournament in the
world. Over 600 players made their way to the Kent golf course last
year, comprising of various school teams from all over England.
The course itself
When I played the course it was pretty dry and the ball tended to
roll a lot. This made it a really fun links to play. However, some
unpredictable rebounds and less than accurate tee shots made it a “beach
day” – I was in most of the bunkers.
Sometimes when I wasn’t in the sand, I was in the heavy rough! But
these are the challenges links golf throws at you, I suppose.
Beautifully maintained bunkers and well protected greens at RCP (Photo: member Leonard)
In general however, the course is not too tough and has some good sea
views from the back nine. The shape of the bunkers is one of the things
that I really like most about links courses. That and their extremely
good positioning on most of the holes.
The course is basically a long and narrow strip of land with a
traditional 9 holes OUT and 9 holes IN. I especially liked the 16th and
18th tee shot with the clubhouse in full view.
I found Royal Cinque Ports to be such a relaxing place to play. It
was almost completely flat, easy to walk and so quiet too (not busy that
day at 13:00).
After the round, the reward of having a drink at the bar on the first
floor of the clubhouse is fantastic. You can go out to the terrace in
front of the 1st fairway/18th green and watch members play with a pint
in your hand.
Have a look at Royal Cinque Ports
on Leadingcourses.com and see some other reviews
to help you decide when to go there.
Royal St. George’s
It was difficult to hold back the excitement of playing one of the
best golf courses in Kent, and the one that will play host to the 149th
Open Championship. I arrived 2 hours before my tee time and it was just
starting to rain – a light rain at least. The forecast for the day
didn’t look great, so I went to the Pro shop to do some of my usual
shopping before it started raining cats and dogs.
The guys from the Pro shop noticed my concerned face and took me to
visit the caddie master who also happens to be the weather-man. In a
very British manner (serious but with a smile under his nose) he told me
that it would stop raining 30 minutes before my tee time. He also
cheerfully mentioned that it should stay dry the whole rest of the day. I
really wanted to trust him.
They suggested to go and explore the clubhouse while I waited. Before
11 AM you can get in without jacket and tie and I couldn’t let that
chance go passed. I personally never travel with jacket or tie, but they
let me know that there are some available for the visitors, just in
The clubhouse at RSG (Photo: member Leonard)
The first thing that shocked me was the smell of leather armchairs and
old books in the library. To me that is the smell of history and I just
stood planted, taking in all the details. Just trying to realize how
many things had happened inside these four walls was almost
incomprehensible. The impressive wooden panels with Captain’s names and
previous Open Champions (the first one in 1894) can be seen on the
walls. As well as the trophy cabinets along the corridor accompanied by
historic and famous pictures. It really was an honor to be there.
One of the more notable members in the history of Royal St. George’s was Ian Fleming, the creator and author of James Bond. He spent a lot of time here in the 1930’s playing golf with his colleagues from Eton. The National Express bus that travels from London to Sandwich has the number 007, so if you’ve ever wondered where that number comes from, now you know. In 1964, Fleming actually got a heart attack and died on the course at Royal St. George’s.
Almost Time to Play!
I soon realised there was self-service coffee available, so I sat in
silence for another while enjoying what to me, was kind of a mystical
experience. All that took me to 30 minutes til tee time. Just as the caddie
master had predicted, it stopped raining. I didn’t know whether to be
more amazed or happy, but either way it was now golfing time!
I met my caddie John, a friendly and talkative man, who walked me to
the first tee. There, I just found one of the most simple but marvellous
starter cottages I’ve ever seen. I had the feeling that if they put a
bed and wifi inside, I could live there with no problems at all.
Starter house at the 1st (Photo: member dagmarbuysse)
The tee box markers here are some kind of red bin baskets which are
simple and beautiful. The one on the first tee also has a wooden red
structure in the shape of a rail. John told me that it is the way to
know which member is playing next. As they arrive, players put a ball in
the rail and it’s like forming a proper queue. Interesting.
The Course at RSG
I particularly enjoyed the loop from hole 3 to 5. What’s interesting at
Royal St. George’s, is that the layout is not one of a traditional links
course. As you can see from the positioning above, the wind direction
changes on almost every hole. This makes the course a lot more
challenging during tournaments. Especially during The Open as they don’t
want the course to be overrun by modern golf and equipment.
Routing at RSG (Photo: Royal St. Georges)
The 3rd hole is a 195 yard, bunker free par 3 that played into the wind.
John told me that it was the only bunker free hole in the whole Open
rotation. The 4th, a 415 yd. par 4 where the tee shot must fly over the
most iconic bunker of the course, the Himalaya bunker. You’ll then find
an extremely sloped and tricky green. There is a beautiful tee shot on
the 5th, which is a 416 yd. par 4. You are facing the sea from the tee
box, followed by a blind second shot. That was the hole I liked the most
in the course.
The Journey Back
The course provides some excellent holes all the way through the back 9.
I also liked the 10th a lot. A straight uphill 371 yd. par 4, with an
elevated green and some serious bunkers protecting it. The 13th hole is
also wonderful with the Prince’s Lodge in full view just behind the
green. Hole 14 is a 533 yd. par 5 with out of bounds all the right side
and a creek crossing the fairway. The creek can be reached with the tee
shot but there is very good bunkering defending against the second shot.
Great skies at Royal St. Georges (Photo: member Guillem Mataró)
When I reached the 16th hole, a 161 yd. par 3, a certain image came
into my mind. It was that of Thomas Björn losing an Open in a particular
bunker on the right side of the green. Again, I was in the middle of
golfing history. From there, the return to the 18th and the clubhouse
was to me, one of the most memorable golfing journeys ever.
I must mention that it was my only bunker free round at a links
course ever. I finished with a good 83 in pretty windy conditions. Happy
You can have a look at Royal St. George’s
on Leadingcourses.com as well as find all the reviews
on the course.
Prince’s Golf Club
The Prince’s Golf Club
is just a 2
minute drive away from the Lodge and right next to St. George’s. When I
arrived, I could immediately see how different it was from the other two
golf courses in this area of Kent. Despite being just a par 3 away from
RSG, everything was far drier and more sandy. The clubhouse was quite
modern compared to the previous two. It wasn’t really what I had in
mind, but the practice areas were better than the ones in the older
Beautiful greens at Prince's Golf Club (Photo: member natadri)
At Prince’s Golf Club you can play 3 nine holes loops. That day I played
the ‘Shores’ & the ‘Himalayas’. I played Shores as front nine and
there’s not much that I can say? A pure links loop of 9 holes with
nothing really special to take away except from maybe the 9th fairway
due to its bumpiness. Either way, playing a links course is always a
challenge and poses difficulties nonetheless. The day was very windy
which always makes it interesting and more fun.
An Enjoyable Round
The Himalayas are quite different. Without losing the links spirit,
the holes are wilder with huge waste areas. To retain the shape of the
bunkers, they have placed wooden sleepers along the sides. They looked
great to me.
There are some good holes here for me. For example the 2nd (11th for
me), a 577 yd. par 5 dogleg left was very exciting. The 3rd (12th) is a
381 yd. par 4, which had strong wind pushing me all the way to the green
with the tee shot. I felt like a superhero!
Probably one of the best however, is the 5th (14th). A ‘new’ 125 yd.
par 3 which is really beautiful but not that easy with the cross wind.
It will most likely become the iconic hole of the course.
At the end of the round, I got another portion of history – the very
last bunker of the course. It’s called Sarazen’s bunker. This is because
in the 1932 Open, he holed the ball from that bunker to win the
Sarazen’s Bunker at the Prince’s Club (Photo: member Guillem Mataró)
So at the end of the day, I enjoyed my time. If I’m honest it was not
the best of the 3 Kent courses that I played, but the weather was good
for golf and the club is definitely worth a visit.
A Few Free Days
Reculver Towers (Photo: PhilipJSchadenfreude)
After three intense days of golf, I was in need of some rest.
Although I didn’t mention it above, I had surgery on my knee a month
ago, and it was becoming painful. And I also wanted to do see the area!
My choice was to settle at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge in the
heart of the charming, medieval town of Canterbury. The Cathedral is
very impressive and the river tour was enjoyable. However, it was great
to simply walk around the town and explore all the corners.
The next day, I visited the lovely Faversham market. I was also able
to make my way around the beautiful seaside town of Whitstable,
Tankerton beach with its lovely small beach houses and the interesting
Herne Bay with its Pier and Neptune’s arm. It’s great as these
attractions are all within close range of each other and perfect if you
fancy seeing the British seaside. I visited the twin towers of the
medieval church at Reculver too. Built against Saxon raids on the ‘Saxon
Shore’, this was one of the earliest Roman forts. To conclude a packed
day, I managed to cram in a visit to Botany Bay’s white stones by the
sea, and finally Ramsgate before resting for the night.
On Sunday, I took the car to drive to Leeds Castle, the town of
Aylesford and finally to Tonbridge. In Tonbridge there was a medieval
fair with knights, fights and dancing which I thoroughly enjoyed.
A Great Trip
I can safely say that the experience was a great one. The golf courses
in Kent went above and beyond my expectations. A combination of top
quality golf, compelling history and the fine weather helped to make my
golfing adventure most enjoyable. The towns, seaside and surrounding
areas were also delightful. I would highly recommend a trip to one or
all of these courses in the near future. So, go and find out yourself!