18 Jan 14
I recently purchased England’s Finest Links, a comprehensive history of the club and links of Royal Cinque Ports GC. Most readers will know that golf club histories can be dry reading even for members and I wondered if the author, David Dobby, could produce a good read for the interested non-member. Written in much the same format as Heather and Heaven, Phil Pilley’s award winning history of Walton Heath GC; Mr Dobby’s distinguished effort managed to engage me while still providing detailed information.
At 288 pages including appendices, this 9.5” by 6.5” book is replete with well chosen photos, both colour and black & white. Combined with the intimate anecdotes of the club’s major characters, the pace of the book hums.
The first six chapters outline the founding of the club and course design developments up to the Bridgland era starting in 1950. Very much up and down times these were. While Deal (the name Cinque Ports is often known by) hosted The Open in 1909 and 1920, the 1923 Amateur and the 1936 English Amateur in the early years, yet there was heartbreak with the loss of several Opens due to the outbreak of WWI (1915), flooding (‘38 & ‘49) and WWII (1942). It is quite possible that had Deal hosted a few of the later Opens then it may well have continued in the rota.
For those inclined toward learning of the course evolution, there is no better person than Mr Dobby to relay that information for he is the club historian. A great many pages, including maps and published descriptions by well known figures of the time are provided and what a thought- provoking account they provide.
Deal went through an extended period in the doldrums. Royal Cinque Ports wouldn’t be blessed with a major event until the 1964 Brabazon Trophy won by Michael Bonallack, that consummate English amateur who went on to win five Amateurs and represent GB&I nine times in the Walker Cup. Bonallack stayed in golf’s limelight as Secretary to the R&A for 15 years and Captain of the club in 2000.
Mr. Dobby does a very good job of chronicling the second half of the history by focusing on club characters such as Gordon Taylor and the flooding issues which precipitated the construction of the sea wall defences. It isn’t until the early ‘80s when the club begins to emerge from its long slumber by once again being recognized by the R&A and other golf bodies as a worthy ground for major amateur events. The resilience in overcoming wars, many floods and financial hardship is marked by the pillbox on the 16th fairway and may it never be removed. If one has any interest in club histories, England’s Finest Links is one of the finest of its type and undoubtedly one of the most deserving of subject matters.
Information on the book and how it can be ordered is available via the link below