A quirky championship links providing thrill a minute golf

Royal Cinque Ports

Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club

Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club

Date Reviewed
May 11, 2017
Reviewed by Ed Battye
I always enjoy my visits to play Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club at Deal, the Kentish town that the course is often referred to by name.

It’s an excellent links golf course that requires imagination and skill as well as distance and sound hitting. However, cunning is certainly the order of the day for the most part here. What I love most is that on a number of occasions after you have hit the ball it will disappear, behind a hump or into a hollow, only for it to reappear a few seconds later travelling in a completely different direction. How some of your recovery shots slowly unfold around the brilliant green complexes is a true joy.

It’s a golf course - a past host of The Open Championship - that has grown on me with multiple plays, in different wind directions, and I think it’s the sort of layout that needs this in order to gain a fuller understanding of it. I wasn't overly enthralled by it on my first play, which is a bit unusual because it actually delivers everything I love about links golf; quirk and challenge. Maybe I had my head in the clouds or perhaps it was because I played it straight on the back of playing its near neighbour; Royal St. George's. Either way I'm happy to be proved wrong on my original opinion.

After my first ever round here in 2014 I left Royal Cinque Ports not quite knowing what to make of it. I thought there were some unbelievably good holes but several that I wasn’t too sure about and wanted to have a second look at. Now I have had another chance to get to know this highly individual course I believe there is probably only the first (although it has a putting surface), the 10th, 11th and 18th that don't really bring much to the party. Every other hole is either exceptionally good or world-class.

Scenically, it's not what I would describe as a good looking course - the holes do most of the talking here - and the coastal view is largely hidden by the sea wall that runs the length of the links. However, the setting of the back tee at the 11th, almost on the beach, is simply stunning.

After you play alongside the clubhouse at the first hole, to an amazingly contoured green beyond a small burn, it is essentially ‘out and back’ links golf from here. And with a prevailing wind it is the front nine where you must make your score… and then hang onto your hat for the bumpy ride home where a string of eight par-fours on the inward half will sort the men out from the boys.

Wonderful and quirky green complexes abound at Royal Cinque Ports. The third is perhaps the most memorable; played to a sunken putting surface but with two-tiers in it. However, the ones at the raised 6th, the U-shaped 12th and the fluid 16th and 17th will run it close. I cannot really describe how sublime these are with an almost North Berwick-esque feeling to some of them.

There are only three short holes but all are excellent. I'd pick the 8th as the best of the trio especially as it plays at right angles to most of the other holes and therefore the wind can be more of a factor.

The final seven or eight holes, played back into any sort of a breeze, is as stern a finish as you will find but the holes are also of the highest quality although, as mentioned earlier, I'm not particularly a fan of the final hole which, in a similar manner to the first, is played to a slightly raised green beyond a stream (and no I didn’t hit it in the water!).

That said, the 18th capped a great experience and one I’m looking forward to hopefully re-visiting many more times in the future.

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