“Golf always makes me so damned angry!”
The quote could have been attributed to me in a rare moment of rage after duffing an off-green putt on the Dunes’ sixth hole or even mild-mannered Mrs W after her stellar round imploded.
But, nope, it was said by King George V and was rather apt, given that his son, Edward VIII, was looking down on us, at the entrance to Prince’s Golf Club.
This week as The Queen’s coffin has been brought to London from Balmoral to lie in state, I have coincidentally played Royal St. George’s (bestowed its status by Edward VII) and Prince’s which can claim Edward VIII as a former president.
The two are very different clubs, however. RSG oozes tradition – upholding strict dress codes around the clubhouse and on the course and sticking largely to two-ball golf. It feels like a gentlemen’s club rather than an Open venue.
Prince’s is different – it shouts its history loud and proud in a modern clubhouse where guests won’t suddenly have hats thrown on mobile phones as they would do if they were to be seen at RSG.
Its course also contrasts with its next-door neighbour – requiring more big-hitting.
The last time I played Prince’s was in a fearsome gale and lashing rain. With a similar morning forecast, the accommodating pro shop switched our game to the afternoon when conditions were much more benign.
But, strong wind or gentle breeze, Prince’s still bears very sharp teeth from the start to the end.
Here the grassy hills are not as dramatic as at RSG and, consequently, there are fewer quirks and blind shots. But the bunkers are its great protection. There are many and they are treacherous.
The adventure takes on several forms at Prince’s because it has 27 championship-standard holes.
The most-acclaimed combination is the nine holes known as Shore, followed by those named Dunes.
The former I had played before but the experience clearly didn’t help as I mucked up the opening two holes – a 426-yard par four and 510-yard par-five.
Prince’s relatively wide fairways lull players into believing they can blast it around. If they do, they will succumb to its subtleties.
I hadn’t thought carefully enough about strategy so, while my tee-shots landed safely enough, punishment came in the shape of sand or tangly rough snaffling my ensuing hits.
Mrs W reeled off a minimum-fuss five points in the opening two holes because she had a more controlled game plan.
I also found that the large greens were pacier and more subtle than those in the practice area. Thus, it is tricky to nestle an approach near to the flag and even short putts require great care.
I don’t know if the greenkeepers are instructed to make pin positions regularly as tough as they were on this day but many were near the edge of the putting surface or, in the case of the par-threes, hidden behind bunkers.
Without a doubt, my best golf was on the short holes which yielded three pars and a birdie – a particular thrill because all were so well guarded.
One of Prince’s gorgeous lawned pathways leads the golfer through sandscapes in front of the short fifth and its dramatic left-to-right sloping green.
The dogleg-left sixth is my favourite on the Shore course – its clever bunkering means a strategic drive is required before a deceptive approach into a green up a slope which is longer and sharper than initially appears with the naked eye.
The ascent into the seventh is much more obvious and requires a deft touch to make certain the ball doesn’t tumble off the green. Again, flag placement was fiendish.
The Shore was challenging but The Dunes which made up our second nine was even more imposing.
Its first or our tenth sets the tone – a sharp left-turn after a drive which must carry a long, wide bunker is followed by a long approach over a devilish pot sand trap.
The course flits quickly back towards the clubhouse for the par-three second (11th) and my only birdie of the day before winding back out towards RSG.
The mounds and hollows of Prince’s are part of its allure and nowhere are they more visible than on the Dunes’ next hole – a straight but tough par-five with out of bounds on the right and rough and bunkers on the left.
The key is in its title, but sand is even more prevalent on The Dunes than on The Shore and this is especially so on the 5th (14th) with a giant railway-sleeper line bunker on the left and a vast trap on the right.
Proudest par of the day was on the near 200-yard par-three eighth (17th).
The target can barely be seen for sand which runs the length of the hole. If that weren’t enough a horrible pot bunker defends the hole leaving a precise right-sided approach the only avenue to success.
Prince’s wasn’t our most successful day in terms of scoring but we both believed it could have been. Maybe it was a tad too long for me from the whites but the ladies’ tees are generous so Mrs W felt she had a chance.
And as the queues snaked to pay respects to Her Majesty for the last time in London, we had our own right royal day out.
However, Prince’s demands a higher level of concentration than most courses and clearly ours was no better than her grandfather’s.