The Golf World Top 100 panel selects the best golf courses in Kent, a county headlined by Open-hosting links and packed with depth.
Celebrated as ‘The Garden of England’, but in addition to the vineyards, oast houses, hop farms and scenic parkland estates, Kent famously has prime coastal land for golf.
There are more than 80 courses to be found here, incorporating Open-hosting links, parkland, downland, heathland and clifftop layouts. It’s a county that stars in our rankings of the Top 100 Courses in Britain and Ireland, Top 100 Courses in England and our guide to the Best Links Golf Courses.
But why should you trust our ranking of Kent’s best golf courses? Well, the Golf World Top 100 panel has been ranking the finest courses in England for decades and has the most comprehensive knowledge in the game. Using a combination of our current rankings and their experience of each county, the team has produced a comprehensive list of the best golf courses in every English county.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
What are the best golf courses in Kent?
1. Royal St George’s
RSG is our No.1 in England and is thus top in Kent. One of Britain’s top-six links, the Sandwich course is quintessentially English boasting a brilliant layout over undulating land that houses unforgettable holes.
Lovable, a little eccentric, and tough underneath, those of us who play golf for enjoyment rather than for a living and a legacy relish its quirkiness. Of course, even amateurs can be frustrated by Sandwich’s humps and hollows. But the charm and character of this unique links surely outweighs the occasional bad bounce.
St George’s, which staged England’s first Open – in 1894, a mere seven years after it opened – begins with a gentle hole without too many of the eccentricities which follow. But it isn’t long before you are wide-eyed at what lies before you, ‘Hell’s Bunker’ on the 4th being the second highest in England and making for a truly awesome tee shot.
It has seven blind tee shots but you need not be scared of it with driver in hand. Instead, much of the test comes around greens often cuddled by rough-covered hills, gullies and steep-faced bunkers.
In summary, a breathtaking dunescape, awesome green sites and epic holes.
2. Royal Cinque Ports
This old-fashioned out and back links jumped nine places in our GB&I ranking to 31st, its highest position since the first list of 100 courses in 1994. ‘Deal’ builds over the first 11 holes and is then an epic journey home.
Benefitting from some of Britain’s most naturally undulating terrain, this is a fast-running course with rippling fairways and unexpected green locations. RCP has a host of world-class holes and should definitely not be overlooked for more celebrated neighbour, St George’s. While it is understated, it is not underpowered.
A former host of The Open, it remains strong enough to stage the Amateur and for us mere mortals, it is entertaining because of the perfect links terrain on which it sits. The topsy-turvy 3rd and its comically concertinaed fairway is worth the visit alone and, when coupled with RSG and Prince’s (see below), Cinque Ports makes for a stunning golf break.
Just over the fence from Royal St George’s, Prince’s is much-improved after architect Martin Ebert’s work – demonstrated by the fact we rank all three loops together.
The Dunes and Shore, always the prime two at the 1932 Open host, have been improved in recent years but it is the Himalayas that has seen the key upgrade. It is genuinely like playing a new course and if you haven’t been for a while, you won’t recognise it. It will, we predict, now be the first choice for many.
It is now at least the equal of the other two, with terrific run-offs and flow to the routing. Prince’s lacks the number of great holes of its neighbours, but there isn’t a weak hole on the site and it is a top-70 fixture in our GB&I list again.
Most importantly for the majority of amateur golfers, it is a huge amount of fun to play.
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4. Knole Park
Notable position among Kent’s star links, this cerebral parkland design by the under-rated J.F. Abercromby is always interesting to play. It has a compelling undulating topography and a wonderful setting. A little more definition in places and it will be at GB&I level.
A stalwart of the England Top 100, with a little investment and direction it could be on the brink of the GB&I list. The 6th, 16th and 17th would not look out of place at an Open venue. Firmand fast make it a delight. Many of its holes have been copied in the US.
6. Chart Hills
Improving year on year after being bought by the McGuirks, owners of Prince’s. Expect huge rolling fairways and large green complexes. This Nick Faldo original is one of the finest courses built in the last 30 years and a Faldo-designed par-3 course, inspired by his favourite short holes, has just been announced.
A tree-lined parkland with small, undulating greens from 1890 that was revised by James Braid. The three-hole run from the 14th is right out of the top drawer and while the holes over the road are not quite of the same level, this is a high-calibre venue.
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8. London Club (International)
A fun,risk-and-reward downland course with a couple of great par 3 holes. While the two-shotters aren’t quite as compelling, the par 5s raise the heart rate. This regional Open qualifier and Volvo Match Play host is playable by visitors.
9. London Club (Heritage)
A Jack Nicklaus design that hosted the European Tour in 2008 and 2009. Only available to members, it hits heights at the 5th and 7th as well as the 10th and 13th. In top nick and a serious test, but difficult to pick lines off tees and bunkers set too far from the edge of greens.
10. North Foreland
Historic venue, founded in 1903 by Sir William Capel Slaughter and enhanced under the ownership of Lord Northcliffe, owner of The Times. Great views and good conditioning but it gets very fiery in the summer and a little rough management would make it easier to play in the wind.
11. Sundridge Park (East)
A good members course with some nice elevation change, laid out in 1929 by Guy Campbell and C.K. Hutchison. A tree-lined parkland in Bromley, seven miles from the City of London yet in the tranquil surrounds of a beautiful Grade 1 listed Mansion. The River Kyd Brook runs along its lush valleys.
This Harry Colt original has improved over the past couple of years, with input from James Edwards, to become an elegant parkland with very nice routing. With further investment, it could be top 10. The 12th is a classic par 4.
13. Rochester & Cobham Park
Originally designed in the 1920s by the estimable trio of Colt, MacKenzie and Alison, then revised in 1997 by Donald Steel. It is a well-conditioned parkland with some delightful touches and tricky USGA-spec undulating greens.
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14. Royal Blackheath
The club was instituted in 1608, but the course on its current site in Eltham was designed by Tom Dunn in 1892, revised by Braid in the 1920s and upgraded by Ken Moodie in 2014. A parkland-heathland much improved since a tree removal and bunker programme.
15. Hever Castle
The Championship course – comprising the Kings and Queens nines – has a good mix of par 3s, 4s and 5s. A very picturesque parkland with plenty of water, it has its own ‘Amen Corner’, the 11th to 13th incorporating carries over water and slick greens.
Opened in 1890 but after use in the wars it was extended and redesigned by Frank Pennink in the 1970s, laid out on either side of the River Teise. It has some modest holes but also some interesting green complexes. Well known for its terrific surfaces.
17. Wrotham Heath
A fine, relatively short heathland-parkland with some interesting holes, it is often under-rated. Sits on a free-draining sandstone ridge so the turf is routinely excellent. Opened in 1906 – thought to have been designed and constructed by club pro Len Job – it was extended to 18 by Donald Steel in 1995.
18. Langley Park
“The ground lends itself very well to the game,” said J.H. Taylor when he laid out Langley in 1910. He wasn’t wrong. Altered since, not least as a result of the wars, it remains a tough par 69 on relatively flat land, with many long, tight two-shot holes. The 18th is a par 3 with water almost from tee to green – a fitting finale.
19. Walmer & Kingsdown
Views over the English Channel are the abiding memory of this clifftop course, but James Braid also left some fine inland holes when he designed it in 1909. Don’t expect too many calm rounds! It winds along the coast before snaking backwards and forwards ever inland, playing along the hillside.
Sits on Kent’s undulating North Downs, close to the border with Surrey, Westerham has some really good holes and is notable for its three water hazards. Like many inland Kent courses, it needs trees and bushes managed correctly for it to move up the list, but a fantastic summer evening course.
21. Kings Hill
This West Malling-based course has some terrific elevation changes. Established in 1995 on open heathland, woodland and on the slopes of the lower Greensand Ridge in central Kent. Has the potential to be even higher in the list.
22. West Kent
A decent downland course that entertains and engages but which lacks the memorable holes to get it higher on this list.
Some interesting holes across this clay-based lush parkland course. Five par 5s give you a chance of a good score on this 6,300-yard course – but three lakes protect many of the greens.
Part of the Belmont Estate, this is another good parkland. It would definitely be higher in our Kent ranking if the club undertook a thorough tree management programme. Nevertheless, a tranquil experience. Home of Roger Chapman and Mickey Walker.
25. Mid Kent
Located on the southern outskirts of Gravesend, this Willie Park Jnr design was reworked by Frank Pennink in the 1970s. A well-maintained parkland.
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