The course that has become a Prince among layouts
It was 7.01am when the first competitive shot was hit, a drive struck in a squall.
The gusts were hitting 45 miles-per-hour, flagsticks clung grimly to the holes, the rain menaced and the ball threatened to come backwards.
Yet there was a queue on the tee. And all the men were still going off the whites.
I suppose when you’ve waited so long to play Prince’s new Himalayas course, not even Mother Nature was going to stop the members in their tracks.
They’ve watched with curious eyes as architect Martin Ebert took their favourite nine and almost redrew it entirely over the better part of a year.
The Shore and the Dunes are the loops that always brought the Sandwich club acclaim, but it was the Himalayas that was closest to the hearts of those who played at Prince’s most frequently.
It takes courage to meddle with emotions, and history, with the course having stood as a monument to 1950s design principles.
But the McGuirk family, who have owned the club for two generations, pushed forward.
Not that they are saying this is a redesign, rather a re-imagination. Well, someone clearly had some big dreams.
If you are going to show ambition, then hiring the team that turned Turnberry’s 9th into one of the world’s most spectacular par 3s, or could envisage the two new holes at Royal Portrush that will stun spectators at next year’s Open, was a masterstroke.
“You have to describe Prince’s as perfect links terrain,” said Ebert of his first impressions of the stretch of turf that has been the club’s home for more than a century.
It’s land that has withstood not only the most severe examinations by the weather but the bombs and barbed wire of two world wars.
“It’s beautiful sandy soil, with fantastic links undulations produced by the natural wind. A great tract of land, and plenty of room for it characterised by these parallel ridges to the ocean.”
Even if the members didn’t feel the same way, the Himalayas was the awkward child of the trio of layouts.
If visitors didn’t ignore it, it was reluctantly embraced. As far as the McGuirk family were concerned, it didn’t hit the championship standard of its other siblings.
You couldn’t argue that now.
“When we first talked to Martin about it, we’d had a number of the top 100 people come down and they said ‘it’s a really strong 27 holes but you haven’t got any signature holes’,” explained general manager Rob McGuirk.
“It was ‘every par 4 is a similar length, there’s no risk and reward and you don’t have any holes facing the sea’.
“When Martin came, we said ‘these are the observations we have had over the last 10 years’ can we integrate these things into the Himalayas? He filled the brief.”
As is his firm’s wont, Ebert delved into the archives with staff architect Mike Howard, unearthing old photos and scattered aerial shots – any scrap that could give them a hint of how the course developed.
But a simple restoration, however, was not in their minds. Only the first hole remains the same as the original design.
Feature continues on next page…