Prince's (Shore & Dunes)
My first word of advice would be to take a few days to enjoy a place where tradition and history not only meets the demands of modern day golf head on but somehow merges them seamlessly to create a fabulous experience.
In terms of the golf you have three loops of nine holes. They are named Shore, Dunes and Himalayas with the former two, until recently at least, comprising their 'main' layout. However, nowadays you will certainly want to play all three, multiple times if possible.
The fact that there are 27 holes to enjoy, as well as accommodation on site in The Lodge, Prince's is a perfect place to visit for short golf break. Throw into the mix nearby Royal St. Georges and Royal Cinque Ports and you could easily make a week of it down in this remote corner of Kent.
Over the last few years the Himalayas nine has had a major redevelopment and the results are superb. It has transformed what was viewed as the 'loop round the back' to one that holds its own with the other two. It is still my third favourite of the three nines but the gap is much closer than it was the last time I visited in 2013 and in truth that speaks more about how highly I rate the Shore and Dunes.
From the centre-line bunker at the first, to the new short par-three fifth, to the untouched 7th, to the driveable 8th, to the drive over the Himalayas on the 9th the list goes on and on of the highlights on this reimagined nine. The club, under the watchful eye of Mackenzie & Ebert, have created many sandy waste areas which not only help pace of play but give the golfer a variety of recovery shots should they find the scrubland. There are wetland areas to contend with too.
Both the Shore and Dunes courses have recently had significant alterations too and there is now a real cohesiveness to the entire property. The bunkering all ties in really nicely with a mix of blow-out fairway traps and more traditional revetted pits near the greens. On occasion the same bunker will have both as it blends from greenside to rough!
Both the Shore and Dunes loops are similar in the fact that they both head out to the furthest point of the property before turning for home. Out here the land backs directly onto Royal St. George's but the quality of golf at Prince's means you are not even slightly tempted to jump the fence and sneak a few holes at the prestigious Open Championship venue. (OK, well maybe a little bit, but you get the point).
In fact Prince's can lay claim to hosting an Open itself, albeit back in 1932, when Gene Sarazen triumphed. Due to the Second World War the course has changed much since then but it still remains a brilliant test of golf and was deemed worthy by the R&A of staging the Amateur Championship in 2013 and my most recent visit in June 2021 came just a couple of weeks before the venue was due to stage both Regional and Final Qualifying for The Open.
If you start your round on the Shore course and face a head-wind it can feel like an eternity before you reach the second green. The first is a long par four and the second a three-shot par five. However, the exquisite short third - with its multitude of pin locations, provides a momentary breather before you turn again and play a rock-solid par-four.
The fifth, Smugglers Landing, is a completely new hole since I was last here and what a beauty it is with the only green on the estate that runs away from you. I played the next hole from a forward tee which gives you chance to go for the green although the raised nature makes it tricky to find.
You head back to the clubhouse with a trio of stout holes. Each is different and each is excellent.
The exposed green at the par-four 7th falls steeply away to the right before you play the extended 8th - now a par five. The Shore nine finishes with one of my favourite holes on the complex - on the face of it the ninth is a relatively straightforward hole but after repeated playing you get to learn its subtleties. It has a beautiful rippling, almost multi-tiered fairway and a generous green that helps gather the ball into the centre of the putting surface.
Dunes also starts with a demanding hole that arches round to the left and has a devilish green that drops off on both sides - it is an intimidating opening approach if you commence on this nine.
It is followed by yet another splendid par three, this time played to a smallish green and protected by deep bunkers. The wooden sleepered walkway, made from reclaimed tee markers, is a wonderful touch as it snakes through a newly created sandy waste area. Fairway bunkering at the long third is the main obstacle although out of bounds can come into play down the right, especially if a strong wind is blowing off the sea. The fourth is one of the hardest on the course whilst the fifth is a true highlight as you play between large bunkers, one of which is sleepered, to an elevated green that has the luxury of a back-drop if required.
The inward stretch commences with a brilliantly designed par five. Bunkers must be avoided along the way but it is the long, elevated green on top of a huge dune that makes this hole stand out. And it is followed by yet another majestic par three, possibly the best of the lot, where the right half of the green should be favoured in order to avoid trouble on the left. The round closes with a 430 yard par four that demands both accuracy and length.
The Dunes nine doesn't miss a beat throughout and is arguably the best stretch on the property, it is certainly my favourite.
One of the constants at Prince's is the quality of turf around the greens, many of which are raised and have swales and hollows around them that sweep your ball away. The grass is exceptionally tight and mowed out a pleasingly long way which makes chipping (or in many cases putting) a real adventure and extremely fun. The number of options on how to play recovery shots around the greens is a real highlight at Prince's.
The long drive to the club, along the seemingly endless coastal road, is something that fills you with anticipation as you arrive and one that has a tinge of sadness when you depart, albeit with some fantastic memories and the knowledge that you simply must return one day.
The beauty of Prince's is that it is one of very few links courses that has accommodation on site. There are plenty of inland resort courses with hotels but not many seaside courses can cater for a large group of players away from the course like Prince's can. Here you have it all; 27 holes of top-class links golf, luxury accommodation and award winning dining.