Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club
Kent, England

Thirteenth hole, 420 yards; Variety of challenge is a- some say the – most appealing attribute for any design to possess. When analyzing a course for that potential quality, some look at the holes in their totality while others like to break up the one, two and three shotters and look at the pars separately. Whichever way is fine and in the case of the two shotters at Deal,the 1st and the 18thare bunkerless while 7th and here possess the most bunkers on the course with eight. Of all the bunkering patterns at Deal, the 13th is as appealing as any. Two large bunkers on the inside of the dogleg require a carry of 215 yards while three cross bunkers bisect the fairway 105 yards from the green. Which set of bunkers is more problematic shifts with whether the hole is into or downwind.

This dominate pair of bunkers off the thirteenth tee need to be carried to have the best angle into the green, which is bunkered only on its left side.

The thirteenth putting surface is the high point of its surrounds, making it hard to hold as well as readily identifying the better ball striker - an excellent low profile green complex.

Fourteenth hole, 220 yards; Deal has hosted two Opens though floods and two World Wars prevented it from hosting three other ones. As one might imagine from a course that is highly sought to identify the best players, the ability to hit controlled long iron shots is a requirement. In an effort to keep the challenge of the course current with modern technology, the 14th has been lengthened by 25 yards since Deal was to host the (canceled) 1938 Open. Now as then, the player must punch a low boring long iron to a none too big target.

As seen from a distance, the fourteenth looks like a fairly straightforward one shotter...

...but closer inspection shows a severe green complex. This front hole location presents a most difficult up and down for any shot missed left. Better to use the green's right to left tilt to work the ball toward the left hole locations.

Fifteenth hole, 450 yards; Standing on the 15th tee, the golfer is in the heart of the original 1892 nine hole courseso he is not surprised to find ideal golfing terrain with random land movements of one to six feet from tee to green.

Lay of the land architecture at its very best: the hump on the left serves as a runway for shots onto the fifteenth green, which slopes from front left to back right. Trying to judge such an approach remains endlessly fascinating, something that cannot be said of many of the forced carries found on modern courses.

Sixteenth hole, 505 yards; Sir Peter Allen calls this ‘a hole in a million’ and surely either this hole or the 3rd would be included in any eclectic 18 hole compilation of the United Kingdom’s finest holes.  Mark Rowlinson in The Globetrotter Golf Guide to England and Wales succinctly describes the challenge of the hole when he writesthat ‘from any distance the green is hard to hit and hold, perched as it is on a minor mountain.’

A power fade hammered at the fairway bunker above is ideal and leaves the golfer...

...with this view, one of the greats in the game. The elevated green is within reach from here. By looking/admiring the natural folds and humps and bumps, the golfer concludes that mother nature offers the most compelling terrain.

Club Historian David Dobby stands on the plateau green while the golfer on the right rues his decision to try and reach the sixteenth in two.

Now lying three, the golfer ultimately cards a sad seven but at least is in good company: dealing with the terrain 60 yards short and in of the 16th green complex has vexed golfers for over 100 years. No wonder Bernard Darwin termed it the 'valley of inglorious security'!

This wildly undulating putting surface caps off the sixteenth hole.

Seventeenth hole, 390 yards; Deal’s strong hold on Bernard Darwin is legendary and in part must be due to the fact that the sand dunes, ridges, and humps and hollows run throughout the course and especially in the fairways.Deal is at the other end of the spectrum from Royal Birkdale where the dunes mainly serve to frame the holes and the golf is generally played from flat fairways and level stances. At Deal, the golfer is always adjusting his stance and the 17th fairway is as roly-poly as any on the course. Vardon’s Palour is a basin down the the right of the fairway from where the flag can be seen; any drive left of center is likely to yield a blind approach. And just as the fairway is full of character, so too is the green complex where the natural folds in the ground around the green feed well into the putting surface. This wonderful penultimate hole leaves the golfer wishing that more holes of this length were played at this point in the round.

The massive cross bunkers cut into the hillside are 300 yards from the seventeenth tee.

Just look at all the interest that the ground holds 60 yards and in at the seventeenth.

As with the third and sixteenth greens laid out by Hunter, the seventeenth green contains many wonderful natural rolls.

Eighteenth hole, 410 yards; Not as dramatic as the holes that immediately precede it, this becomes a very fine Home hole because of its raised kidney shaped green complex. Some approaches will catch the right edge of the green only to roll off the plateau and leave an interesting chip or putt back up the three foot slope. Other approaches may catch the bank and be kicked further from the green, leaving a very awkward recovery shot across flat ground to the raised green.

The ideal tee ball from the closing tee leaves this approach shot from just short of the burn.

One thing’s for sure:as atThe Old Course at St. Andrews, to add to the pressure at the 18th green, prying eyes from the clubhouse window will be taking in all the action.

And speaking of the Old Course at St. Andrews, its influence on the evolution of Deal is evident. Like St. Andrews,the routing of Deal is of the out and back variety with a loop at the end, a burn guards the 1st green (which makes for an excellent 19th hole as well), the ground is not dramatic but it is full of wrinkles and creases into which bunkers were cut, and the green complexes are well and truly varied allowing the course to play equally well whether the wind is with or against on the way in. Deal has a famously strong finish like St. Andrews. Also, too, the author’s favorite single shot at Deal (the approach to the 15th) shares the attribute that St. Andrews possesses beyond all courses: a controlled shot to a green that runs away from the player. In the case of the 15th at Deal, the play is to miss the green long as the resulting return chip is none too difficult but like The Old Course at St. Andrews, getting to know the smart misses takes years and years.

Also, as at St. Andrews, the terrain flattens out for a few holes around the turn. However, like St. Andrews,the golf quality never suffers. Indeed, those who cite St. Andrews as their favorite course in the world are quick to point to the great merits of the dominate bunker at The Short hole at The Old Course or how the 10th green may be the course’s most perplexing. Similarly, one’s ultimate opinion of Deal likely depends largely on one’s thoughts regarding the merits of its first twelve holes, not its famous finishing stretch. The clever angles at Deal’s 10th and Braid’s excellent green complex at the 12th are but two examples of the course never losing its appeal and of maintaining a high standard throughout all eighteen holes.

With the round concluded, the golfer repairs to the bar on the second floor of one of the United Kingdom’s most attractive clubhouses, offering views across the English Channel to France. Thinking back over the day, who can fail to be impressed by how solid the eighteen holes are? Every hole is of appeal, from the rippling 1st green across the burn, to the crumpled 2nd fairway all the way along to the plateau 18th green. None of this is by accident and to peruse David Dobby’s Feature Interview on this site is to understand that much care and thought has gone into the evolution of these links. The enthusiasm with which Noel Freeman writes about Dealin Deal Me In! was echoed in every decade of the 20th century by various esteemed writers/players/critics.

To see Deal ranked #50 in the world in the 1939 publication of The National Golf Review as found by Tom MacWood is of no surprise. More is the pity is that golfers rush to play courses on the modern Open rot alike Royal Birkdale and Muirfield, not understanding that the historic links at Deal still offers a superior form of links golf to this day. In sum, to quote Mark Rowlinson again regarding Deal, ‘True, there are blind shots, short par 4s, and uneven fairways, the sort of thing deplored by some modern players, but they are appreciated and expected by connoisseurs of true links golf.’

The End