From wealthy heiresses to golfing legends, Kent historical golf connections with the USA gives the county added appeal for American golfers looking for outstanding golf experiences in England.
Add to this the recent fall in the value of sterling post Brexit and a golf trip to England will cost American visitors a great deal less whilst offering excellent value.
A strong American influence is most prominent on the historical path of two of Kent’s most famous castles, Hever and Leeds, and the reason that they both have golf courses in the estate grounds to this very day.
In the late 20s the Anglo-American heiress, Lady Baillie, made her home at Leeds Castle for almost half a century, leaving a huge legacy in her wake, modernizing the castle and opening its doors to the social elite of the time, including Hollywood stars such as Errol Flynn, James Stewart and Charlie Chaplin.
At the same time Lady Baillie decided to establish the challenging 9-hole golf course with stunning views of the castle that still exists today. Originally created as entertainment for her guests, it was at Lady Baillie’s invitation that the US Ryder Cup team stayed at Leeds Castle prior to their matches against Great Britain in 1933 whilst honing their game over the castle course.
Similarly, golf at Hever Castle was also first introduced by an American. In the 1920s the estate was owned by the super-wealthy Astor family, building a private 9-hole course for the personal enjoyment of family, friends and business contacts on the same site where today’s championship course and second nine-hole layout now lie.
Throughout the last century, many of America’s top professional golfers have travelled to Kent and enjoyed great success in the county known as the Garden of England.
Back in 1922 and 1928 American Walter Hagen won The Open Championship on two separate occasions at Royal St George’s and then in 1932, compatriot Gene Sarazen secured the Claret Jug when it was staged at nearby Prince’s. Most recently the unheralded American Ben Curtis was catapulted onto golf’s world stage when he became the champion at the 2003 Open Championship, again at Royal St George’s.
It is also a little-known fact that the golfer atop the trophy presented to the winning team at the Ryder Cup, famously contested between America and Europe, is assumed to be Abe Mitchell who was the club professional at the clifftop course at North Foreland in east Kent between 1920 and 1925. Founder of the Ryder Cup, Samuel Ryder, was a close friend of Mitchell and together they forged the idea of the biennial tournament that is now one of the world’s top sporting events.
To add to its more recent American heritage, two of Kent’s finest downland courses, The International and The Heritage at the London Golf Club, were designed by the US golfing legend, Jack Nicklaus.
Officially opened in 1994, the London Golf Club, located just 25 miles from the centre of London, has established itself as one of England’s finest golf destinations with two championship courses and a luxurious clubhouse. The club is run very much along the lines of an American country club, priding itself on it attention to detail and outstanding, personal service.
Its excellence and appeal were confirmed when it became a European Tour Destination whilst its staging of the 2014 Volvo World Match Play Championship and the 2016 Brabazon Trophy reflect the superior quality of its golf courses.
Thanks to its long-standing affiliations and connections with America and its people, Golf in Kent offers added appeal and interest to visitors travelling from the US who are looking for something more than just a golf holiday.
The Golf in Kent partnership between Visit Kent and some of the county’s premier golf courses and hotel providers has led to the promotion of the Garden of England as a golfer’s paradise, thanks to the quality of the courses, accommodation and off-course attractions.
Whilst Kent is first and foremost known as the ‘Garden of England’, the county is also home to over 100 golf courses many of which have hosted world-class, international championships such as Royal St George’s, venue for The Open Championship on 14 occasions and most recently in 2011.
Neighboring Royal Cinque Ports also hosted The Open Championship in 1909 and 1920 whilst Prince’s staged the event in 1932 when it was won by Gene Sarazen.
Hidden championship links, Littlestone, and the clifftop gem at North Foreland can also be found on the east coast of Kent. Testament to the quality of these courses, both clubs have been selected as hosts for Final Qualifying for The Open Championship, North Foreland in 2003 and Littlestone in 2011.
The London Golf Club is another of Kent’s premier clubs. The club, which boasts two downland courses designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, recently hosted the 2016 Brabazon Trophy as well as the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2014.
The picturesque parkland courses at Hever Castle and Leeds Castle are also part of the Golf in Kent offering as are the downland courses of Boughton just outside Canterbury and Etchinghill near Folkestone.
The Partnership is also supported by Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame, which has a variety of pubs and coaching inns ideal for golfers, Hand Picked Hotels as well as accommodation at The Lodge at Prince’s, Hever Castle, Leeds Castle and the Tudor Park Marriott.