Royal Cinque Ports
My guest for this friendly game said that the playing conditions at Royal Cinque Ports were the best he had played all year. It was difficult to disagree despite it being the first week of December. The fairways were superb and the greens exemplary. I don’t remember a plugged lie or a splodge of mud on my ball. This is one of the joys of Links golf. Great conditions all year round.
It is looked after meticulously but I am sure it helps that Deal is to be considered too far for many and is left to those who are searching for pure links golf. It is certainly a great course and as fine a links specimen as one could wish for.
The clubhouse is a classic too, for the period, decorated not only by the prints and histories on the wall but also by the staff; attentive and proud. An excellent breakfast too. My favourite picture was a cartoon of an old boy telling the pro about his singles match: “It was ding dong all the way until, he sprang a seven on me on the last”
The course surroundings are more like Littlehampton to the west than it’s nearer neighbour, St George’s because the sea defences rather dominate the skyline seawards; a glowering presence that foretells the power of the elements on this great, natural, links land.
The gradients over the first seven holes are much more dramatic than might be imagined from the outset. A beached trawler could be hidden in some of the swales. This makes for a few blind shots, none of the flag visible, let alone the last foot. However, if you read the physical and airborne ‘contours’ well and can trust your shot into the greens then your ball will be gathered favourably. Just learn to trust the contours.
And as for the greens, don’t worry about the pins, just land on one of these huge greens. They are large and rolling and fair. I counted at least seven significant ridges on the first alone. Though I did three putt on one green there is no excuse for so doing, except for the wind which must be reckoned with because the other elements are absolutely reliable.
Although you maybe aware of clubhouse eyes upon you on the first and last the rest of the course is gloriously isolated leaving you to your thoughts. On the hillocks around you figures appear and disappear, set against the light like silhouettes on a weather vane. But it is only the golfer who is being spun around by the elements, the swales and the fairways.
From the, arguably, more attractive first eight holes which lure you in, the course starts to show a steelier edge. The holes snake more menacingly and an extra club is required to reach the green and you find yourself stretched a little more as the denouement of your match closes upon you. The home holes are fabulous for cranking up the pressure and building a crescendo. And suddenly you crest the ridge by the seventeenth green and survey the last. A real treat. As neither of us ‘sprang a seven’ the game was drawn and we would gladly have gone around again but for the knowledge of a warm reception in the clubhouse to take the edge off a long trek back to London.
I regret not taking the fast train from London and approaching the course in the way visitors must have done in the past. Classic links style. Next time. For there will be a next time. This is a timeless classic and well worth the trip.
Thank you to the whole team at Royal Cinque Ports for a tremendous day and for allowing me to pay my green fees to Alzheimer’s Society. This brings the total raised to a whisker over £6,000 for the year. Thank you everyone
Next week Rye followed by Gary Player’s Links at Fancourt in the first week of the New Year. Great contrasts to be expected