This club is famous for… The Spitfire landing on the courseMay 17, 2018 Courses and Travel
A propeller and plaque mark the spot where Laddie Lucas downed his plane at Prince’s in 1943...
Percy Belgrave Lucas, more commonly known as Laddie, was an author, MP, wartime fighter ace and a Prince’s Golf Club legend.
He was born in the clubhouse of the Sandwich Bay course and his father, Percy Montague Lucas, was the co-founder of the Kent club.
Prince’s held the Open in 1932 when Gene Sarazen beat Macdonald Smith by five shots to win his only Claret Jug.
But Lucas’ legend arguably outstrips even staging the world’s oldest major championship – such was his life.
Top amateur at the 1935 Open at Muirfield, he was considered one of the best left-handed players in the world and practised as a youngster with Henry Cotton.
A sports writer for the Sunday Express, he volunteered for the RAF when World War II broke out.
He made his name during the defence of Malta in 1942 when commanding 249 Squadron. Often vastly outnumbered, his men were the top-scoring outfit in the battle and he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross that July.
But it was a year later when the familiar fairways of Prince’s might just have saved his life – and further entrenched him in club folklore.
Returning to RAF Manston after a raid over northern France, Lucas’ Spitfire was damaged by enemy fire and smoke filled the cockpit as he made his escape back across the Channel.
Losing altitude, and fearing he may need to ditch his craft in the water, Lucas spotted the outline of Sandwich Bay and the old Prince’s clubhouse.
He aimed straight down the course, avoiding the 2nd, 4th, 8th, 9th and 12th fairways before coming down just beyond the boundary fence at the far end of the course.
A plaque and a replica propeller, on the Himalayas nine, just past the new second green, marks the spot where his plane came to rest.
It states that the day after his crash landing, a telegram came from his friend – the noted golf writer Henry Longhurst.
It read: “Driven out of bounds again Lucas.”
After the war, Lucas played in the 1947 and 1949 Walker Cup GB&I team – captaining the latter outfit – and was elected a Conservative MP for Brentford and Chiswick in 1950.
Influential in the establishment of a professional European tour in the early 1970s, he was awarded the CBE in 1981 and died in Chelsea in March 1998.