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Prince’s Golf Club: A Links Legacy

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Tucked into the sandy terrain of England’s southeastern coast, Prince’s Golf Club has carved out a special place in golf history. Founded in 1906 and boasting the scenic backdrop of Pegwell Bay, Prince’s 27 holes offer a captivating test across three distinct nine-hole loops – the Shore, Dunes, and Himalayas courses. Each circuit presents links golf at its finest with rumpled fairways, wispy fescue rough, and cavernous bunkers that demand creativity and precision.

Though Prince’s hosted The Open Championship in 1932, it fell into disrepair during WWII when the course was requisitioned as a military training ground. Architects Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison were brought in postwar to rebuild Prince’s into the outstanding modern links it is today. Recent years have seen further renovations and investments that earned Prince’s a top 100 ranking in Great Britain and Ireland for the first time in over three decades.

In this post, we’ll delve into Prince’s origins, history, and evolution. We’ll also revisit the 1932 Open, where Gene Sarazen debuted his version of the modern sand wedge, specifically engineered to help him deal with the bunkers of Prince’s. Further reading and video suggestions are highly recommended and will help bring the course to life. As always, the adjacent images are simulated to set the scene and provide context.

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Origins and History

Prince’s was founded in 1906 by Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley, the founder and first President of Prince’s Mitcham golf club, and his friend Percy Montagu Lucas. Sir Harry was a regular golfing visitor to East Kent and decided to establish a new links course in Sandwich Bay that would welcome ladies, juniors, and family golfers.

The course was designed by Charles Hutchings, the 1902 Amateur Champion, on land donated by the Earl of Guilford. It opened as an 18-hole course late in 1906 and was notable for being one of the first courses designed to counter the longer distances of the new Haskell golf ball. At nearly 7,000 yards, it was considered extremely long at the time. The club captain and former British Prime Minister, A.J. Balfour, struck the ceremonial opening tee shot in 1907.

Prince’s Golf Club hosted The Open Championship in 1932, with the legendary Gene Sarazen emerging victorious. This remains the only time Prince’s has hosted The Open, but it established its credentials as a championship-caliber course. However, World War II nearly destroyed the course as it was used as a battle training ground and rifle range, obliterating most of the original design.

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The Open

Prince’s Golf Club had the distinction of hosting golf’s oldest major, The Open Championship, in 1932. However, it has not had the opportunity to welcome the world’s best players back since then for several reasons. First, during World War II, the course suffered extensive damage when it was requisitioned for military use and turned into a battle training ground and firing range. This rendered the course nearly unplayable for years. Second, after the war ended, Prince’s had to undergo a complete redesign and rebuild into the 27-hole facility found there today. This long redevelopment process made hosting another Open difficult in the postwar period.

Additionally, the close proximity of Royal St George’s Golf Club, an Open venue itself, likely overshadowed Prince’s and led organizers to favor Royal St George’s for future Opens. Like Prestwick, logistical limitations around infrastructure and crowds compared to other courses and unfortunate timing also prevented Prince’s from hosting again after its initial success in 1932. Ironically, Prince’s was denied an opportunity to earn itself the “Royal” designation, which may have been redundant anyway. Prince’s also served as an open qualifying venue from 2018 to 2022.

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Did You Know?

Gene Sarazen is credited with inventing the modern sand wedge in the early 1930s. The idea came to him in 1931 when he took flying lessons from Howard Hughes and noticed how an airplane’s tail adjusted during flight. This inspired Sarazen to create a club designed for playing out of bunkers. He crafted a prototype “sand iron” with extra weight on the bottom to prevent digging into the sand. For more, see our post “The Squire’s Tale: Gene Sarazen’s Life in Golf.”

Sarazen secretly tested his new club leading up to the 1932 Open Championship at Prince’s but did not use it during practice rounds to keep it hidden from competitors. When the tournament began, Sarazen unveiled his sand wedge to help him lift his ball cleanly from the bunkers at Prince’s. The club instantly succeeded – Sarazen won the Open by five shots in dominant fashion. His creative sand wedge was quickly recognized as a revolutionary development that transformed bunker play, and it popularized the concept of having a specialized wedge just for sand saves.

Sarazen may not have technically invented the first-ever sand wedge, but he is largely credited for his pioneering work designing one specifically for bunker play. His triumphant debut of the club at the 1932 Open Championship put the sand wedge permanently into the mainstream. Wilson Sporting Goods began mass-producing Sarazen’s wedge design in 1933, cementing its legacy in golf history.

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Evolution

In the postwar years of the 1950s, renowned golf architects Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison were brought in to completely redesign and restore the course. This resulted in the present-day layout of three nine-hole loops, known as the Shore, Dunes, and Himalayas courses. Each course has its own unique style and architectural features. Major upgrades and renovations have continued over the decades right up to the present day, under the guidance of acclaimed modern architects like Martin Ebert.

After being under the private ownership of the McGuirk family for 30+ years, it was purchased in 2018 by new investors who have invested substantially in upgrading facilities and honoring the club’s rich history. This has led to Prince’s re-entering British and Irish top 100 course rankings for the first time in over 35 years. With its rich history and heritage now matched by superb conditioning and amenities, Prince’s continues to cement its status as one of England’s premier links courses.

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Critical Acclaim

Prince’s Golf Club is highly regarded as one of the premier golf destinations in England. The 27-hole facility, located in Sandwich Bay next to the famous Royal St George’s Golf Club, impressively holds three distinct 9-hole layouts – the Himalayas, Dunes, and Shore courses. All three loops offer breathtaking seaside scenery and challenging links-style golf, with the Shore course being the original 18 holes dating back to 1907.

Prince’s is consistently ranked among the best in Great Britain and Ireland. Most recently, Prince’s cracked the top 100 in GB&I for the first time in 35 years, coming in at #99 on Top100GolfCourses’ ranking of the Shore and Dunes combination. It also entered Golf Monthly’s UK&I Top 100 at #74. The dramatic improvements and redesign work across the 27 holes, led by renowned architects Mackenzie & Ebert, has garnered widespread critical acclaim and validated Prince’s ascension back into the upper echelon of British and Irish golf courses.

In addition to the world-class golf, Prince’s offers outstanding on-site accommodations and dining at The Lodge overlooking Pegwell Bay. With the comprehensive golf and hospitality experience. With its idyllic location, outstanding courses, and heritage as a former Open venue, Prince’s balances historic charm and modern excellence, making it one of England’s most revered clubs.

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Shore, Dunes, and Himalayas

With three distinctly different nines, Prince’s Golf Club offers variety and challenge in a historic seaside links setting. Strategic bunkering, undulating fairways, and slick greens protected by pot bunkers put a premium on driving accuracy, creative shotmaking, and sound course management across all 27 holes.

The Shore follows the shoreline south and plays 3,419 yards from the back tees with a par of 36. The opening hole features one of the longest forced carries on the course. The severely undulated 4th and uphill 6th are particularly difficult par-4s, and the 7th heads north towards the clubhouse, requiring an accurate drive and precise approach to find the elevated green. The current 6th served as the 18th hole in 1932, where Sarazen won his Open title.

The Dunes plays to par 36 at 3,436 yards and starts with an extremely tough dogleg right, measuring 440 yards. The drive must avoid a bunker complex on the left while allowing enough room to approach a green tucked behind dunes. The 4th and 5th holes are equally demanding par-4s playing into the prevailing wind. The 6th offers respite as a scenic par-5, while the one-shot 8th requires a long, accurate approach over a waste area to a small, heavily protected green.

The shorter Himalayas loop was opened in 2008 and also plays to a par 36 at 3,376 yards. A highlight is the new par 3, “Bloody Point,” demanding precision to hit a raised green against a seaside backdrop. The course also boasts a unique double green shared by the 4th and 8th holes, reminiscent of St. Andrews. The 6th stands out as the longest hole, enhanced with a marshland water hazard, while the 7th offers breathtaking views of Pegwell Bay. The loop concludes at the 9th, where the Sarazen bunker guards the left of the green.

Visit Prince’s online at https://www.princesgolfclub.co.uk

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Further Reading

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Classic Golf Links
by Donald Steel

Summary: Classic Golf Links of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland by Donald Steele is a guidebook featuring 75 spectacular links golf courses in the British Isles, covering their history, design, and challenges. The book includes scorecards, hole maps, photos, and playing tips for each course, providing key information for golf travelers while celebrating these revered seaside tests.  With writing by Donald Steel and photos by Brian Morgan, Classic Golf Links is considered an essential reference for experiencing the best of links golf.

This book is a must for anyone with an affinity for links golf. I bought this book years ago and still return to it often. The pictures are amazing and they alone will make you fall in love with these courses.

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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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True Links
by  Malcolm Campbell & George Peper

Summary: True Links by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper profiles over 240 of the world’s top links golf courses across the British Isles and beyond, examining their history, design features, and status as an authentic “true links.” Organized geographically, the book offers photos, maps, scorecards and playing tips for renowned seaside tests like Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Cabot Links, Barnbougle Dunes and others that meet the authors’ criteria.  For links golf aficionados, True Links serves as an illustrated guidebook for experiencing the unique joys and challenges of the game’s most revered coastal courses.

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The 150th Open
by Iain Carter

Summary: The 150th Open is the official book celebrating the sesquicentennial (seriously, that’s a thing) of golf’s oldest major championship, produced in partnership with The R&A and capturing the history and stories that make The Open unique.  From its 1860 origins in Prestwick to today’s iconic venues, the book chronicles The Open through archival images and interviews with past champions, reflecting on characters, courses, and moments that have defined this revered event over 150 years. The comprehensive narrative and visual history in The 150th Open commemorates The Open Championship’s illustrious past and enduring prestige as golf’s most beloved tournament.

Videos

Prince’s Overrview
Introduction to Prince’s
Princes Golf Club

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