I'll say straight from the off that I am a huge admirer or North Foreland. I was visiting the course for National Club Golfer magazine because it had been shortlisted for their Top 100 Golf Courses in England project. As far as I'm aware the course has not featured in any list previously so kudos to the person who shortlisted it. I'll go as far as saying it should almost certainly be included.
It's not an easy course to classify. I've heard some say it is parkland in feel but I don't really see any characteristics to support this. Others say it is a bits linksy - firm and fast-running yes but it's definitely not a links. At times there are elements of a heathland persona to it, however, I think downland-clifftop is as close as you'll get, not that it really matters.
A complete restoration of the bunkers (all done in house) is now almost complete and I suspect this has breathed new life into a course that dates back to 1903. If you haven't played it for a few years I would suggest a return and if you've never been before then now would be a good time because it played exceptionally well in the summer of 2021. The condition was fantastic and the layout superbly presented.
My only gripe was that the long rough was too punitive. The fairways have a lovely width to them so you do have to hit a wayward one to find the thick stuff but if you do there is a good chance you'll lose your ball. Thankfully, the club are aware of this and will be doing their best to combat mother nature and thin it out.
Stood on each tee you have a fantastic feeling of space and width. The property is fairly undulating so you can work the landscape to your advantage by controlling your ball flight and I suspect the ball will run well here for 12 months of the year.
The bunkering is bold and whilst the frilly edges may not be to everybody's taste I think the staff have done a fabulous job in tying everything together with their surrounds to create a course that is very harmonious with itself. The position of the traps make you think when stood on the tee and there are some deep pits you most certainly want to avoid when playing into the greens.
However, the thing that pleased me most about the course was the wonderful shaping around the greens; the run-offs, swales and hollows did have more of a links feel than I had anticipated and the options you had for chip shots around the green was plentiful.
There are some outstanding holes, especially on the front nine.
The first and second make a very strong first impression whilst the two short par-threes that play out towards the sea both have exceptional green complexes. The star of the show may just be the eighth though; a slinging par-four with another brilliant green site that sits so naturally into the terrain.
The back-nine is certainly the weaker of the two halves but there is still some outstanding golf to be played. My favourite hole was the uphill 14th with what looks to be three cross bunkers facing you when stood on the tee but the visual deception means they are actually staggered some 50 yards apart so those driving up the left can hit further for a closer approach.
North Foreland, accredited to Herbert Fowler & Tom Simpson, is a course you should make the effort to visit, you will not be disappointed. Only a twenty minute drive from Sandwich it would be an excellent fourth course to add on to Royal St. George's, Deal and Prince's.
Another feather in North Foreland's cap is the 18-hole, par 3 "Northcliffe" course that sits alongside the main layout. I did not have the opportunity to play it on my visit but it looked very tempting and is a fantastic asset for the club.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.