Royal Cinque Ports GC
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The town of Deal is often mistaken as one of the medieval Cinque Ports entrusted with defending England’s coastline, perhaps because today it remains an attractive bustling town not given over wholly to tourists. In fact Deal is a Limb of Sandwich, an original Cinque Port whose River Stour silted up long ago. For many, the limb analogy holds true for the respective golf courses in each town. Royal St Georges (often known as Sandwich) has long held a prominent position in English golf, perhaps only second to Royal Liverpool. Deal’s Royal Cinque Ports (often referred to by the town namesake) having hosted 1909 and 1920 Opens plus three Amateurs is very well established, yet decidedly in the shadow of Sandwich. It is a great shame, but almost inevitably the case that when two world class clubs are in close proximity one shall rise to greater prominence than the other. Such is the case where Deal is concerned, but for most who know both courses well, each has their appealing characteristics which set them well apart.
Deal is on a small, narrow site, running predominately north to south, hard on the Downs and nary 25 miles from France. Like The Old Course at St Andrews, the terrain is low lying, humpty bumpty, broken land which creates havoc with ball flight control when there is a hint of wind. At times one may get the impression that Deal is mountainous, but the elevation change in the property can’t be more than 20 feet. Despite the many architectural changes over the years, Deal feels as if was built during medieval times or even 2000 years ago for one must cross Caeser’s Roman Road on the 11th! Royal Cinque Ports is rough, raw and unforgiving as any championship links can be, but it also holds many charms including four All England candidates; #s 6, 15, 16 & 17.
After two fine opening holes the brutishly long two-shot 3rd runs over tumbling ground and finishes at punchbowl green.
Like the #3, the sixth is an up an up and down affair, but to a green plateau green. The seawall, built to mitigate the links being flooded, mercifully retains the overly assertive approach.
#7 is rarely mentioned as hole of consequence, but it features one of Deal’s best greens, when where crafty play can be well rewarded.
At the end of the course there are three flat holes played back and forth across the width of the property. The 10th is the choice hole of this group. The flag beckons down the left beyond low, rough ground and to the right is a hollow and bunkers. The green tilts a bit to the right so often times a long ball left is not terribly helpful.
Deal is famous or infamous (you decide) for its run home from the 12th. The demands are relentless, often beating back into a fierce breeze. 15-17 are holes of remarkable quality and if approached in the right spirit, are fun no matter how difficult one finds them to be. All share the qualities of running over rumpling dunes and finishing on well contoured greens. One will be hard pressed to discover a string of three holes which are more compelling. Of particular note is the 16th. Driving around an old gun turret, the par requirement used to allow five shots. Recently, par was made a stingy four, though a five should always be considered acceptable. Depending on one’s length, the second plays to or over the “Valley of Inglorious Security”.
While the club is rightly proud of its championship history and course it may be just as well contented with its association with the Halford Hewitt Cup. Thought to be the biggest foursomes golf tournament in the world, this annual event pitches 64 public school sides made up of 10 golfers each playing foursomes matchplay. Indeed, the club is so enamoured with the event that there is a “Hewitt corner” in the Jack Aisher Lounge!
Royal St Georges GC – perhaps the best course in England; both demanding and majestic.
Princes GC – a low key near neighbour to Sandwich and Deal featuring several demanding par 4s.