7 reasons to add Kent to your golfing bucket list (and why it’s the best couples golfing destination in the UK)

Kent is an English county located in the southeast corner of the country, bordering Greater London to the northwest, Surrey to the west, East Sussex to the southwest, and the English Channel to the south. The Kent coast boasts stunning white cliffs, quaint seaside towns and some of the finest links golf courses in the world; most notably Royal St Georges, Royal Cinque Ports and Princes. In this blog I’ll be summarising some of the reasons why Kent should feature on your next golf trip to the UK, and why it’s considered one of the best locations for a couples golf trip. 

1. The Towns of Sandwich & Deal

Royal Cinque Ports, which the club (Deal) derives its name from, is actually a term dating back to 1155 when the five ports (hence ‘cinque ports’) were given the duty by the Royal Family to look after their fleet. It’s also the reason the club logo at Deal (Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club) sports the heraldic banner of the castle and the lion. Interestingly, Rye, only a few miles down the coast, also uses a similar logo as one of the two ancient towns who joined this confederation in 1190 on England’s south coast to service trade and protect the borders.

Anyway, the area has always been steeped in history. Sandwich boasts medieval architecture and the narrow windy streets – many now unable to accommodate two-lane traffic – are said to comprise more half-timbered houses than anywhere else in England. King Charles II drank outside The Bell Hotel and Queen Elizabeth I visited in 1573.

Deal is a more traditional English coastal town, packed with bistros and traditional pubs. This is a part of the world where large multinational conglomerates have largely stayed away, and a plethora of independent eateries and pubs decorate the streets and where a good night of live music and bustling atmosphere is guaranteed.

Interestingly, the pronunciation of ‘Cinque Ports’ has been a long-debated issue, specifically around the word ‘Cinque’. Eventually, the club wrote to the Queen Mother to settle the matter,
and in 1985 the response came advising that the pronunciation of ‘cinque as in kitchen sink’ would be the preferred parlance, however – in true British way – the Queen mother further added that the whole thing is a matter of personal opinion and that she ‘would never want to be dogmatic about it’.

2. Lunch at Royal St Georges

Whilst a few clubs north of the border in Scotland can boast a famous lunch (notably Muirfield & Prestwick), lunch at English golf clubs is a serious business. Typical fare usually consists of a
cold plate to start of fish (or soup), a roast lunch with a selection of meats and trimmings, sugar-laden desserts like Sticky Toffee Pudding (‘STP’ for short), cheese and biscuits, and coffee, often washed down with a glass of ice-cold kummel. Many clubs do this well, but the best on the circuit in England is without doubt Royal St. George’s. It’s traditional English food done to an impeccable standard.

The room is arranged in long tables where you eat together – intentionally designed to foster camaraderie and kinship – and a huge painting above the fireplace dominates the room where Dr William Laidlaw Purves looks down in his red coat at all times, making sure everyone is
behaving themselves.

Laidlaw Purves is central to the history of the club as its founder in 1887 who led a group of members from Royal Wimbledon down to the south coast in search of better year-round playing conditions and from a church spire saw some holes in the dunes out towards Sandwich.

The rest, as they say, is history.

3. The Halfway hut at Deal (Royal Cinque Ports)

It might look unassuming from the outside but inside it is a treasure trove of delights. The benches outside the hut are adorned with the names of schools who have enjoyed years of making fond memories playing in the annual public school foursomes event (The Halford Hewitt) which is played at Royal Cinque Ports in Spring.  Cushions inside boast the vivid color scheme of the club in blue, green, yellow, and red – said to represent the key aspects of the club: sea, land, sand a wine – and they also happen to serve some brilliant specialties. ‘Bovril & Sherry’ (Aka “Shovril”) is a popular choice. Bovril being a nostalgic warming winter drink which is a substitute for beef stock in cooking in Britain, with the sherry adding the kick. Even more unique is the ‘Chicken Kiev’. This chicken soup is served with a shot of vodka offering the same warming qualities with a medicinal dose to soothe your nerves for one of the toughest stretches in British golf that awaits.

4. The 18th Hole at Princes

Prince’s held the Open in 1932. Deal had suffered from flooding as the sea defenses broke beyond the 6th green, so its neighbor was the obvious choice. Gene Sarazen went on to win that year and in doing so he set a new scoring record for the championship with a score of 283.

The sand wedge was the secret formula that year, having been invented by Sarazen specifically for the event, and he put it to good use throughout the tournament.

While the course was re-designed in 1950 following the effects of the war, the 9th hole on the Himalayas nine is one of the original holes that remains. The huge dune ridge where you tee off from up on high is a particular highlight in the round, but be sure to miss “The Sarazen Bunker”, a steep sleeper-faced pit of despair

5. The travel time (or lack thereof)

It’s almost impossible to arrange a trip where the travel time between 3 world-class courses is so short. A lot of times when touring, time in the car can create some great memories but let’s face it, it’s not the main event.

In Kent, travel time to the courses is a complete non-event. The Prince’s estate (where Prince’s and Royal St George’s are located) is a private residential road so the chances of traffic are non-existent, and only a small road across the wetlands and along the back nine of Royal
Cinque Ports is required to get there. The proximity of the courses is actually a key part of the history the three courses share, as well as how they operate for the visiting golfer. All three work together in partnership with one another creating a truly frictionless experience where all you need to worry about is avoiding the sand and what you’re having to eat at the halfway hut.

Walter Hagen actually played all three courses in one day on foot. St George’s and Prince’s share a border (right of the famous 14th hole – Suez at George’s) and Deal is only a short walk across the fields from the 5th tee. As a result, the club now has a famous event each year where members from all three clubs play in something known as ‘The Hagen Hoof’. A film showcasing the event can be seen by the guys at No Laying Up here, playing all three courses in one day in a betterball stableford competition. Each club battles hard for the honor of winning the hoof which was gifted by Royal Cinque Ports member Richard Craven.

6. A history with the claret jug

The three clubs have hosted The Open on no fewer than 18 occasions. Royal St George’s was the first to host the Open outside of Scotland in 1894 when JH Taylor was victorious and has witnessed a number of iconic moments in the sport. Most recently Collin Morikawa lifted the Claret jug in 2021, and many will remember Darren Clarke’s victory in the twilight of his playing career when a British journalist had written him off on the lead up as being on an ‘inexorable slide into golfing insignificance’.

Walter Hagen won The Open in 1922 at George’s in what became a period of American
Supremacy. The first homebred American to lift the Claret Jug, a watershed win by one shot to Scotsman George Duncan (winner in 1920 at Deal), which ushered in a new era where the Americans were prolific.

We’ve already touched on Prince’s who hosted the 1932 Open, but the club still to this day host Final Qualifying for The Open where anything in the 60s is regarded as an exceptionally good score and in 2023 also hosted the Women’s Amateur.

Royal Cinque Ports has hosted The Open twice. George Duncan won in 1920, the same year when a flamboyant and much talked-about talent from America had burst onto the scene. Walter Hagen was not permitted to enter the clubhouse to change his shoes that year. Incensed by the attitude in England to the touring professional, he continued to eat smoked salmon and caviar in his Rolls Royce underneath the flagpole directly in front of the clubhouse… how times have

7. Location, Location, Location.

Kent’s location in England makes it one of the most desirable locations for couples golf trips in the world. 

As one of the most southerly spots in the country, Kent is blessed with the warmest weather. This means they’ll get the growth sooner in the spring and the milder weather will hold on later into the autumn months.

As well as the towns of Deal and Sandwich, there are a number of other wonderful spots to stay in Englands South East. Broadstairs is another quintessential seaside town and less than a half-hours drive to the Kent courses. Shakespeare used to holiday here and his holiday home is still open to visitors today. More recent additions include no less than two Michelin star restaurants, an abundance of seafood, traditional fish & chips and local pubs which cater for this small town of fewer than 25,000 people and its visitors.

Perhaps more famously there is Canterbury, again only 30 minutes away from the links.
This quaint city is steeped in history with its cathedral, medieval architecture, and home to the oldest continually running school in existence (Kings) School.  If history doesn’t interest you, Canterbury is also littered with riverside wine bars and restaurants where couples enjoy punting up and down the Stour. Everyone’s a winner!

If you’re craving even more “off course” culture,  Dover Castle is a great place to delve into Englands turbulent past, whilst Chapel Down Vineyard grows some of the best grapes in Europe for sparkling whites. Guided tours are available at both venues.

A golf trip to Kent almost certainly involves a stop-off in London, but if you have time to extend your stay in Kent then you can also visit the renowned par 3 course at North Foreland. Designed by Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson it sits atop the iconic white cliffs as you look out to France and comes highly recommended.

The Heathlands of the Surrey/Berkshire sandbelt are only a stones throw from Heathrow airport and ideally situated for London and Kent, making it ideal for couples looking for a break with history, fine dining and of course some of the world’s best courses, before or after a trip to Kent. In terms of the additional golf in London and the south of England, most readers will be aware of Sunningdale. It is without doubt one of the best places to spend a day, but on its doorstep is Hankley Common, Woking, Worplesdon, West Hill, The Berkshire, New Zealand, Walton Heath and of course, Colt’s ‘least bad course’, Swinley Forest. In this part of England, you’re truly spoilt for choice

If this article has excited you about a golf trip to the south coast of England, take a look at this example golf trip to Kent & London we’ve designed, featuring the best golf in Kent and London. 

At Halcyon Golf Travel we’re really passionate about customising golf trips to suit the needs of our customers. If you’re interested in working with us to create your perfect golf trip to England, please don’t hesitate to get in contact. 

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