The Ryder Cup is the most special team event in all of golf. It is the one event that truly brings in non-golfers as they know which team they should be supporting and get drawn into the atmosphere of the contest. Every two years, the golfing stars of the US and Europe push their games to their limits to try and get picked to play in the great event.
The week of matchplay golf allows players to really open up and play risky shots to win holes. They take on risks they wouldn’t normally and when it comes off you see true golfing drama. Over the years we have seen storming victories, tense draws and emotional comebacks, it really is a treat for sports fans.
The Ryder Cup is an event that all golf fans must attend. The cheering crowd getting involved more than usual and a whole gallery of fans following four matches, this is a competition like nothing you will have ever experienced on a golf course. Below we look at some of the venues that have hosted the historic tournament and why you have to visit them.
The idea that became legendary
In 1920, Golf Illustrated wrote to the PGA of America suggesting that they assemble a squad of elite professionals to sail over the Atlantic and try to win the Open Championship for the US for the first time. The magazine funded this endeavour and eventually 12 men were chosen to make the crossing.
It was decided that they would play a warm-up tournament, The Glasgow Herald 1000 Guineas, which would take place at Gleneagles before The Open at St Andrews. This became a 12-man international match between Great Britain and the USA.
In 1926, another match was announced to take place at Wentworth as Walter Hagen brought a team of Americans for another warm-up match before The Open Championship. Eventually, it was decided that 10 men would represent each side and they would play foursomes on the first day followed by singles the day after. Samuel Ryder donated a trophy for this event and at the time it was supposed to be an annual affair.
At Worcester, the following year, a far more formal and recognisable version of The Ryder Cup was played. The rules of the event were finally written up and it was decided that an annual event was not feasible. From then on, the event was played every two years (with certain unforeseen exceptions) and the rest is glorious golfing history.
L’Albatros at Le Golf National is the most recent Ryder Cup venue was opened in 1990 but plans were put to paper in 1984 to create a course that could one day host the biennial inter-continental showdown. A piece of flat land was chosen close to Paris and Versailles and the idea was to build the greatest stadium course in the world. Anyone who witnessed Le Golf National during the Ryder Cup will fully agree that they pulled that dream off perfectly.
As Thomas Bjorn’s Europe went on to a 17 ½ vs 10 ½ victory over Jim Furyk’s USA, a huge gallery had the perfect view of the unfolding drama. There have been few Ryder Cup venues as good as Le Golf National. The closing holes with the huge influence of large water hazards make for drama right until the final hole. It is a course that requires accuracy and provides plenty of risk versus reward decisions to be made, the perfect matchplay course. Just make sure you drive the ball better than Phil Mickelson did.
Next year’s Ryder Cup venue is one of the best links-like courses in the US and a course that has given us drama in the past. Whistling Straits has hosted three PGA Championships and was the site of a dramatic loss of a trophy for Dustin Johnson in 2010. This is not the usual wide-open and lush course that Team USA favour during the Ryder Cup, it is long though at 7,800 yards. Here we will see Steve Stricker vs Padraig Harrington.
This Pete Dye course is decorated by over 1,000 bunkers and winds can get up making it even more links-like. One of the most spectacular holes on the course, and there are many, is the 7th. This 220-yard par 3 sits snug to the coast and is just so pleasing on the eye. The green sits on a ridge with many bunkers below the green to the right. Anything right of that is in the lake and the terrain on the left just draws your eye to the green. A wonderful hole and an outstanding course.
As you can see, The Brabazon Course at The Belfry is the unofficial home of the European Ryder Cup team. This was a Ryder Cup venue for three home events in a row and a course that saw the home team take home the trophy three times out of four. The Belfry is one of the finest parkland courses in the UK and a course that will test your game. Having hosted more Ryder Cups than any other venue, many of the events biggest names have produced some magic here.
The Americans had been making the event very one-sided and hadn’t lost the Ryder Cup since it was expanded to Europe rather than just Great Britain and Ireland. 1985 was the breakthrough year and Sam Torrance was the man to hole the winning putt. It is no wonder they kept coming back here. The course was designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas and is an exhilarating round of golf. No hole captures the essence of the Belfry better than the 18th and who could forget Seve taking on the water and the corner and greening it from the tee in 1985?
One of the most famous Ryder Cup showdowns of them all, this was to be known as ‘The War on the Shore’ as the US team won 14 ½ to 13 ½. Bernard Langer actually missed a short putt that would have sealed another victory for Team Europe who had been on a run since winning at The Belfry in 1983. This Ryder Cup saw some real tension between Paul Azinger and Seve Ballesteros as claims of breaking rules during the Friday doubles was met with counter-claims of gamesmanship.
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island was a wonderful Ryder Cup venue near Charleston, South Carolina. This course is just packed with shoreline holes and is a joy to play. Pete Dye did a wonderful job when he created this course. There is an old-fashioned links feel to the course and it even has a sort of nine out and nine back type layout. Dye uses risk vs reward on holes like the 2nd and 7th to test you early on this magnificent course.
This was the 32nd playing of this great match and a special one as it was the first Ryder Cup venue out-with the UK and Ireland. Like the event at Kiawah Island, this match was 14 ½ to 13 ½ in favour of the home team. Seve Ballesteros has always been the hero of Team Europe, here he took his charisma as a player and became a winning captain. Amazingly, Europe have not lost at home since this wonderful week.
Real Club De Valderrama has been refurbished since that Ryder Cup and it is arguably the greatest course in Continental Europe. This is a testing course that will challenge even the best players. It is such a fun test though, you want to be pushed. The closing holes are really tough but this is a course you have to think your way around. It takes good tactics and solid ball striking to score around here.
Another really close match at another wonderful Ryder Cup venue. PGA National is in West Palm Beach, Florida and saw a 14 ½ to 13 ½ victory in favour of the USA. There was a nice symbolism to the captains that year as Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus faced-off after the famous putt concession during their playing days in 1969. The shot of the week came from Seve as he hit a 240 yard three wood out of the bunker on the 18th that lead him to halve the hole with a par.
PGA National is a mecca for golfers and this Ryder Cup was played on The Champion course which now hosts the PGA TOUR annually. The most famous part of this Fazio course is the infamous ‘Bear Trap’. The stretch from 15-17 has ended the hopes of many a good round and will do many more. This is one of the finest courses in Florida and for good reason. The course has generous fairways and landing areas but the constant threat of large water hazards play with your mind and make them seem narrow. This is an outstanding course and a joy to play for any golfer.
For the 40th Ryder Cup and in fitting style with the love of tradition in golf, Gleneagles played host to the great event. Having been the first Ryder Cup venue, of sorts, this was a great place to bring the tournament on its special year. Jack Nicklaus had created the PGA Centenary course especially for the event which was also a nice nod to one of the great competitors of the tournament. A victory for Europe would be the result as Jamie Donaldson hit the shot of his life with a wedge on the 15th to seal the win.
The PGA Centenary at Gleneagles is one of the modern stadium-style courses with high banking all around the greens making it a spectacular venue for watching. Like all great matchplay courses, The PGA Centenary has many risk vs reward type holes and the par 5 18th is a wonderful example. The 513-yard hole snakes its way uphill and requires a bold second shot to a narrow and raised green. With large hollows at either side and deep bunkering, missing the green can leave you with a real short game test especially if you are under pressure to make a score. A great course with stunning views of the Perthshire hills.
The Ryder Cup is as good as golf gets. Every two years the individual nature of professional golf stops for one week and we sit captivated as a whole new dynamic takes over our sport. The Europeans have always been a great team who clearly love this format and play off each other. The US, who have struggled with this factor, have in recent years really become a great team and this has only added to the appeal of the tournament.
There is no golf event like it. Whilst other team events do exist, this is the one that matters most as the two biggest tours in the world compete for that beautiful golden Samuel Ryder Trophy. Who would have known in 1921 when this seedling concept was first attempted, that nearly 100 years later the event would be what it is now.
Importantly, this is the event that gets people interested in golf. If you know anyone who you think could take up our great sport then this is the one to sit down and watch with them. You will never see drama like you see during a Ryder Cup Sunday when 12 men wear their team colours with pride and take on 12 other men doing the same thing. The fast-paced ebb and flow of the red and blue on the leaderboard, the score moving closer and closer to that magic 14 ½ and the emotion of the players that can be a rare sight these days, this is what golf is all about.