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Royal Cinque Ports Feature Review

By: Andrew Picken | Thu 12 Jul 2018

Royal Cinque Ports (Deal) is a wonderfully traditional club established in 1892. This was my first visit and I admit to being more than a little nervous particularly as there was a strong wind gusting across the links.

I am developing a real passion for links golf and have been fortunate enough to play some of the best. This facility has all the pedigree of those courses with an added sprinkling of some special stardust. It hosted the Open in 1909 and 1920 and would have enjoyed three more but for the war years and floods. It has hosted Amateur Championships and been a Final Open Qualifing venue for four consecutive years.

Cara Banks from the Golf Channel speaks of it in the highest tones. “For me, it’s the place I learned to love the game. Each year the club hosts 'Deal Week' at the end of August – it’s a week that’s open to anyone (members and visitors) and has a non-stop calendar of men's, women's, mixed and junior competitions and is one of the highlights of the year – often attracting new members with its relaxed and friendly atmosphere.”

10 of the Best Golf Courses in Kent

I wondered how the course acquired its name and discovered  that in medieval England, the defence for the counties of Kent and East Sussex, fell to a confederation of the five main ports at that time. These were: Dover, Hythe, Hastings, Romney and Sandwich, plus two other towns, Rye and Winchelsea. Their correct title is, The Cinque (pronounced 'sink') Ports and two ancient towns.

Royal Cinque Ports or Deal as it is affectionately known lies south of its brother at Sandwich (Royal St. Georges). Along with Prince's, these three clubs form a trio of the highest quality links golf on the Kent coast.

Golf in Kent Travel Report

Having been introduced to the county I have become interested in its golf, aided by an excellent book by David L Dobby. He is the club historian and archivist for the club and a member since 1957. I thoroughly recommend his book 'Golf on the Kent Coast' to any golfer wanting to know more about this area and its history.

Considering the glowing terms spoken on Deal, I was concerned that I may be disappointed given its reputation. I wasn’t. The course was a wonderful experience to play, even though it chewed me up and spat me out. The wind and complexity of the layout led to some very poor scoring but still ighly enjoyable that I look back on with fond memories.

The course itself was originally a nine-hole layout designed and constructed by Harry Hunter in 1892. A host of other architects have influenced its development including   ames Braid right after World War I. Then Major Sir Guy Campbell, Hugh Alison, John S. F. Morrison, and Major C. K. Hutchison were involved with the course during World War II. Finally, in recent years, Donald Steel has consulted on bunker and tee placement. This amalgamation of the best golf architects in the world has created a layout that is beautiful in its simplicity and treacherous in equal measure. These luminaries have let nature take its course and it is the better for that.


I have selected a few holes that were my personal favourites. I could easily have written about all 18 as they each possess unique and interesting features.

1st, Par 4 - 418 yards

This appears to be a generous fairway from the tee. The suggested line is towards the right hand bridge leading to an approach over the ditch. The green is 46 yards long containing a series of contours and slopes that require no bunkering as protection. This hole lies due south and account should be taken of the wind direction using the flags and masts standing proudly outside the formidable club house.

I would suggest that you use a course planner as it is of a good quality and also includes accurate details of each green complex. This is very useful as it would take a lifetime to fully understand and read many of the greens to be enjoyed.

There are many tee box options and I would suggest that you check with the pro shop as to recommendations on the day of your visit. This is a course to be savoured not over powered. Please don’t let your vanity make you attempt Championship tee’s if your game and the prevalent weather dictate otherwise.                                                                                                 

2nd, Par 4 - 430 yards

This hole provides an interesting tee shot with no obvious line to the virgin player. The planner suggests keeping your drive to the right of the fairway. On reaching the green it became apparent that the best route was indeed via the right of the fairway. As my round progressed I found myself trying to trust the planner more and more

4th, Par 3 - 149 yards                                                                                                                    

No bunkers and an upturned saucer type green that acts as a bowl. Directly heading towards the North and framed by the sea. This is a lovely golf hole. The pulpit type tee box provides spectacular views across Pegwell Bay to Ramsgate and then the Richborough Power Station. This is beautifully illustrate on the flyover video.

6th, Par 4 - 356 yards

This is a relatively short risk or reward golf hole. The fairways offer swales and runs along its length. This is a beautifully natural hole that needs to be treated with respect to ensure a decent score.

8th, Par 3 - 172 yards

This is a difficult hole played towards the sea and the wind is an ever present factor to be taken into account. Each bunker has an accompanying swale that increases its effective size substantially. This is a superb, classic links golf hole. The green is set at an oblique angle to the tee.

11th, Par 4 - 398 yards

Even if you are not playing from the championship tees try and pop over the sea wall to savour the view offered by its position. It is a beautiful golfing sight. This is a challenging hole from any tee requiring strategic placement. As I write this it occurs to me that every hole requires the same type of thinking. This entire course is one of planning and strategy. It is like playing 3 dimensional chess with a golf ball.

12th, Par 4 - 463 yards

This hole heads South East and signals the return home. Try and keep as close to the left hand bunker as possible to give you any chance of a meaningful approach shot to the green. The green is shaped like a U and a bunker left ensures it should be approached via the right side of the green complex.

14th, Par 3 - 221 yards

Anything short goes left and the hole favours a shot from the right allowing the greens natural contours to do the hard work drawing the ball towards the pin. This is a visually deceptive hole requiring a confident strike to a full length to have any degree of success. The green has run offs on all sides and is a beautiful but complex green complex. This is a gem of a golf hole requiring full concentration and accurate execution.

16th, Par 4 - 496 yards

In my humble opinion this hole is worth the price of admission in its own right. It is justifiably included in Henry Cottons “ 18 best holes of Britain” .It plays due South so again wind will add to its issues. Cross bunkers patrol the tee with a diabolical pot bunker featuring left at 220 yards. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that the only hazards are sand based. Each bunker has its size effectively increased by the cut of the grass and the natural shape of the ground. To the right is an expanse of rough then out of bounds.

There are two parallel fairways and the troubles seem to increase once you have finally reached the green. It is small, elevated and undulating. I played four different balls from different points of the compass on this green and have to admit to being completely bamboozled by its intricate nature. This hole is fabulous. I recorded an 8 and then spent 15 minutes on the green. I loved this experience; we had no golfers behind us and it was a golfing moment I will treasure for a long time.

17th, Par 4 - 396 yards

This is another stunning golf hole. From the tee bunkers loom large into the players view. This fairway contains an area known as Vardon’s Parlour. This commemorates his 1909 Open success where he landed his tee shot in almost identical positions on the fairway despite different weather and wind conditions. There are no bunkers around the green. They are not necessary the natural topography provides all the protection it needs.

The clubhouse is friendly and accessible and served some great food and ales. The trophy cabinets are striking and there is a genuine welcome for the visiting golfer that are  sometimes absent at a club of this prestige. Deal is a classic links course, a truly consummatre challenge and magnificent experience. It featured large on my bucket list for several years. Having played it, I am very pleased. However, since my performance on the day was less than startling, it has simply meant that it has now risen to a higher point on that list as I know that I will have to return and play it again.

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