A meeting was held at the Union Club, Walmer on 12th February 1892, under the chairmanship of Major General Graham, for the purposes of establishing a golf club at Deal.
It was resolved that endeavours be made to form a Golf Club to be called the “Cinque Ports Golf Club”, Deal. 116 acres of land are leased from Lord Northbourne, Deal Town Council and the Ordnance Department for the construction of the 9-hole course.
As The Times reported, “A Scheme has been set on foot for the formation of a golf ground on the sandhills immediately north of Deal…and the ground is admirably adapted for the formation of golf links”.
The Links opened for play on 30th May 1892.
Henry McGregor Hunter, known better as Harry, was born in April 1860 in Edinburgh. He later moved south to Sandwich, Kent, where he became assistant to his brother Ramsay Hunter, greenkeeper at St George’s. In 1889 he was professional at Ashdown Forest Golf Club, before he moved to Cinque Ports Golf Club as its first greenkeeper in early 1892.
Assisted by his brother, Harry was ultimately responsible for the detailed design and construction of the 9-hole course, based on a survey of the links by Captain Urmston, a seven-handicap member.
Hunter remained at Deal for 43 years.
The first competition, a monthly medal, was held on 25th June 1892 and won by Captain W H Eccles of Folkestone, handicap 14, who completed his round in 102 to return a net 88.
Later that year an extraordinary silver inkstand was presented to the winner of a Club competition. Ninety-six years later, the trophy was returned to the Club and can now be seen in the display cabinet at the top of the main staircase.
The clubhouse is opened on November 12th, complete with lockers in the changing room and a timber balcony, painted olive green, looking over the 1st hole.
Just nine months after the formation of the club, both the golf links with a staff of twelve and the clubhouse, were up and running.
The original 3000-yard nine-hole course would be recognisable to modern day players; the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th holes resemble the current layout, whilst the 7th, 8th and 9th match the last three holes of today’s course.
The bogey three 4th (“Sandy Parlour”) was played across the current 4th hole, over a mound from a beach side tee.
The old 6th was also a bogey three, played to the current 15th green.
1899 saw the founding of Deal Ladies’ Club. Soon thereafter, there were 105 members, of which ten were gentlemen. The Ladies’ Course consisted of nine holes, with a bogey of 74 and was located on land behind the clubhouse.
1902 saw the 18-hole course used for the Ladies’ British Open Amateur, won by Miss May Hazlet of Royal Portrush, who beat Miss E C Neville at the 20th, from an entry of 120, that included two members of Deal Ladies.
1902 also held a three-cornered international contest between the Ladies of England, Ireland, and Scotland.
Deal was awarded the 1909 Open Championship, and joined the illustrious rota which now read: 1910 St Andrews, 1911 Sandwich, 1912 Muirfield, 1913 Hoylake, 1914 Prestwick and 1915 Deal.
A qualifying field of 204 players was reduced to 69 players – 63 professionals and six amateurs – for the final four rounds, played on the 10th and 11th of June. The course length was 6,581 yards and the winner’s share of the prize fund was £50.
J H Taylor won with a score of 295 (74, 73, 74, 74), winning by six shots from James Braid and Tom Ball. As The Times reported “By his victory Taylor has now equalled the record of Braid, Harry Vardon and Tom Morris the younger of winning four Open Championships.”
“I am proud to have won the first Open ever played at Deal Links. It is most worthy of such an event being held on it.”
J H Taylor – Open Champion 1909
The first evidence of association between the club and the Royal Family came as early as 1900, when HRH the Prince of Wales (Later Edward VII) played regularly on his visits to Deal. He was later to become President from 1905 – 1907.
He bestowed Royal Patronage on Cinque Ports Golf Club, before his coronation as King George V, and the Club had adopted the Royal prefix by October 1910. The King remained the Club’s Patron and President until his death in 1936.
The title of Royal, however, was not formally granted until 1949, when George VI. During the intervening period the title of Royal had been innocently presumed from when the Royal Patronage was granted. His son, the Prince of Wales and later Edward VIII, regularly played at Deal between the wars.
Deal had been planned as the location for the Open Championship in 1915, but in early in that year it was decided that there would be no championships during the remainder of World War I; the next Open Championship would be held at Royal Cinque Ports 1920. Damaged during the war, the state of the course necessitated a revised layout, notably holes 8 to 13.
A field of 82 players – 74 professionals and eight amateurs – played on the June 30th and July 1st. The course length was 6,576 yards and the winner’s share of the prize fund was £75.
Walter Hagen, on his first visit to the Open in 1920, arrived in a chauffer driven ‘Austro Daimler’ together with a footman. He immediately fell out with authority, who insisted that professionals change in the Pro Shop rather than the Clubhouse. In response, he dressed in his hotel for the duration of the Championship. He parked his car at the flagpole outside the clubhouse, changing his shoes and sweater there. Hagen finished 53rd, with a score of 329.
George Duncan won with a score of 303 (80, 80, 71, 72), after being 13 strokes behind Abe Mitchell with two rounds to go. Duncan won by two strokes, ahead of Alex Herd, with Ted Ray and Abe Mitchell in 3rd and 4th place. The leading amateur, in 26th place, was William Irvine Hunter, son of Harry Hunter, the Cinque Ports professional.
“I think Deal one of the best and one of the fairest golf courses I have ever played on”
George Duncan – Open Champion 1920
Deal holds the Amateur Championship for the first time, which is won by Roger Wethered, who beats Robert Harris 7&6 in the final. In his semi-final Wethered beat Francis Ouimet, winner of the 1913 US Open.
There are many who believe that the Wethered-Ouimet match, watched by 3,000 spectators, was the greatest match ever played at Deal.
The Halford Hewitt Tournament is the world’s largest amateur foursomes team event. Today, it comprises 64 Public School teams of ten players, competing in a foursome match play knockout over four days.
The competition began in 1924, when Halford Hewitt, treasurer and later captain of Deal, presented the cup which bears his name. In the first year it was played on different courses over three months, but moved to Deal in 1925. Deal has remained the spiritual home of the Hewitt ever since.
According to golf writer, Nick Tremayne, “the tournament has a rich history, frequently pits average golfers against famous internationals, and produces moments of golfing pressure simply not experienced by amateur players elsewhere.” With 640 competitors alongside the hundreds of supporters who attend, the “Hewitt” a unique sporting event.
Having hosted the Open in 1909 and 1920 (the latter postponed from 1915 due to the first World War), Deal was awarded the Open in 1938 but serious flooding from unusually high tides in February left the course, according to The Times, like “an inland sea several feet deep.” It was transferred to Royal St. George’s and the winner was Reg Whitcombe.
The floods necessitated major reparations to the course, and commentators were glowing in what they saw as major improvements. Bernard Darwin wrote in Country Life that “Deal is emerging from its trials a course transfigured, and I am prepared solemnly to assert that there will be no finer one in the whole world of golf.”
Deal is allocated the 1942 Open but as in 1915, war intervenes.
In 1948, Deal is invited by the R&A to host The Open in 1949 and potentially the Ryder Cup. However in March of that year, following a night of 80mph north westerly gales, the sea breaks through the shingle banks along the whole length of the links. Such was the level of flooding that the decision was taken in May to transfer The Open to Royal St George’s, although interestingly, Deal was still able hold the qualifying rounds. The 1949 Open was won by Bobby Locke.
To date The Open has never returned.
For a more complete history of the Club, you can purchase a copy of ‘England’s Finest Links’ the history of Royal Cinque Ports GC, written by David Dobby. Click here for more information.