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Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club in Deal has an Open Championship past -- and hopefully future.
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club in Deal has an Open Championship past -- and hopefully future. (Joe Whitley/TravelGolf)

Former Open Championship host Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club is the real Deal in England

By Joe Whitley,

With the Open Championship and World War histories, few golf courses in England have the kind of tumultuous past of Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club.

DEAL, England -- Had it not been for a freak force of nature, you may have heard a lot more about this course.

That's because Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club -- or Deal as it is locally known -- was once a fixture on the Open Championship rota.

The classy links, located in Kent, southeast England, held the game's oldest major in 1909 and 1920. But when it was scheduled to host the world's best players again in 1938, abnormal high tides caused severe flooding. Nearby Royal St George's was forced to step in. The R&A gave Deal another crack at the whip in 1949, but, incredibly, the same freak tides returned. Again, St George's was called into action at the last minute.

Cinque Ports was understandably removed from the rota, leaving St George's as the only Open course in the south of England.

More than 60 years on -- and with a flood-prevention wall now in place -- Deal is hoping to get back in contention to host its third Open championship. And it's hard to see why it is not one of the strongest contenders at the R&A's disposal.

World War unrest at Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club

Created in 1892, Cinque Ports was originally laid out as a nine-hole course by Henry Hunter and extended to full size just six years later.

After successfully hosting its first Open in 1909, where JH Taylor won his fourth claret jug, Deal was scheduled to host the tournament again in 1915 but was cancelled because of World War I. The war caused significant damage to the course. Indeed, the club's main flagpole is still dotted with bullet holes from enemy-aircraft attacks.

James Braid rescued the course after the war and prepared it for the 1920 Open, at which Walter Hagen famously protested the treatment of professional golfers. The American was denied access to the clubhouse and its changing facilities and was asked to disrobe in the pro shop. He proceeded to get changed in his chauffeur-driven hire car outside the front door.

The course was in the firing line during World War II, too, and was this time brought back to life by Sir Guy Campbell, with help from Henry Cotton, who described the par-5 16th as one of the best 18 holes in Britain. More recently, the Open Championship "course doctor" Donald Steel made his mark, lengthening it and reshaping both bunkers and greens.

What now stands is one of the toughest coastal golf courses in the UK.

A quintessential out-and-back links, Deal is laid out on a long and narrow stretch of land adjacent to the English Channel. Characterised by its firm, sloping greens and bouncy, rumpled fairways, it demands imaginative and creative shot-making and committed ball striking. The course is very much a tale of two halves, with a front nine that usually plays downwind and, off the yellow tees, measures 400 yards shorter than the inward half, which plays into the teeth of the breeze.

With the wind in your sails, you must build your score on the front nine and do your best to pick off the odd par on the arduous back side, which features a collection of brutal par 4s. Andrew Reynolds, club pro, said it is not uncommon to see scores coming in almost double the size of those going out.

The 13th is arguably the course's best hole and has a slight dogleg that is protected by three bunkers. In agreement with Cotton, the par-5 16th is also a gem.

Royal Cinque Ports: The verdict

If the R&A do decide to add another course to the Open rotation, it's hard to think of many that can outclass Royal Cinque Ports.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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