It was 30 years ago in 1986 that the first real golfing encounter, pitting invading Inseadean continentals against the native Britons, took place, very near the point that Julius and his Roman army are thought to have landed some 2,000 years earlier. On October 6, 2016, we were somewhat less, at just over three score, nevertheless spanning 51 promotions, 1963 - 2013.
Sandwich itself, a maritime centre since time immemorial and one of the original Cinq Ports, is redolent in history, as its narrow mediaeval streets with timbered houses, and its fortified walls and moat testify. Many chose to arrive to explore on the Thursday - our dinner on was held in the King’s Arms, a 500 year old public house, which had housed Henry VIII and other notables over the centuries, and which in the days of Elisabeth I was named the Queen’s Arms. As befits a coastal town, the dressed crab was quite remarkable.
Our first (golf) course on Friday was the clifftop club of Kingsdown, not far from the better known one at Deal, but offering a superb view of the seaside resort of Walmer as we munched our bacon sandwiches. The Channel is visible from almost every hole, with the shores of France looming in the distance, providing consolation for those seeing their balls sliding off the steeply inclined fairways and greens to oblivion. Despite this, some creditable Greensome scores were recorded, and hearty appetites greeted the welcome dinner in the Bell afterwards
Saturday brought the real match, with the valiant teams, twenty strong on each side, teeing off on the Princes’ links at the early hour of 8h30. The format was the same as that inaugurated in Medoc last year – a pairs competition, 4 ball better ball match-play. No fewer than 10 pairs were fielded by each camp, their composition kept secret and only announced the previous evening. In the final analysis, while the Islanders retained the Cup for a record 6th successive time to go 3 up in the series, it must be said that each match was fiercely contested and each result very close.
Doubtless the heavy shower during the second nine must have dampened Continental spirits, and in one match, where the score at one point was 5 up with 6 to play, the victory which had seemed certain finally eluded that pair. The drama of the afternoon was eloquently captured in the speeches that evening from respective Captains Edouard and Torquil, unfortunately lost to posterity due to the absence of recording equipment.
Those with sufficient energy remaining after the round were treated to a walking tour of Sandwich in the late afternoon, as the non golfing ladies had been in the morning. Many followed on to the Turner exhibition in Ramsgate in the afternoon, which had conveniently opened that day.
Another early start on the Sunday morning followed the festivities of the previous evening, but the sacrifice of sleep was amply rewarded by brilliant weather and fantastic Turner-like skyscapes enveloped the course as we meandered our way along the links and into the rough. The scramble format meant that notwithstanding play proceeded at a good pace, and we returned to the Princes clubhouse before the Sunday roast lunch could become too overcooked for continental tastebuds. And so, sadly, we all departed, apart from Richard whose car had expired, exhausted (geddit?), perhaps like Richard himself who had almost carried off the feat of defeating a continental pair single handed the previous day.