When the 2016 Ryder Cup tees off it will mark 90 years of golfing history. In 1926, entrepreneur Samuel Ryder was schmoozing like the best of them at a golf event taking place at Wentworth. The cream of the golfing crop from Great Britain and the United States of America were taking each other on in the second event of this kind (the first held in 1921 at Gleneagles). After a swift one or two (who are we to say) in the bar later he is quoted as saying ‘we must do this again’. And that, as they say, is history.
This sporting rivalry between nations was coined The Ryder Cup. And the first official event took place at Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts in 1927.
Now, if the golf geek in your house knows that, they won’t be surprised by any of the British golf courses we’re about to put out there. But if you’re bored silly with all their bunker banter and the not-so-small issue of fitting golf clubs into the boot of the car when going on holiday, this is also for you.
Watch their jaw fall to the floor as you quote winners and Ryder Cup captains and championship golf courses at them. Might be worth trying just that as they’re waiting with bated breath to see if the ball drops in the hole.
13 golf courses to have hosted The Ryder Cup on European soil
One of just two Scottish golf courses to have hosted The Ryder Cup. It was also home to that very first match between Britain and the United States in 1921 known as the International Challenge. The foursomes teed off once more in Perthshire in 2014.
Today Gleneagles is a golf resort and spa. But it’s also outdoor pursuits heaven, whether you’re a golfer, like to shoot, ride or turn your hand to off-road driving. Yes, yes, we did say spa; there’s one of those too… Which is perfect really because there are four different courses to be played here, so if you’re not a golfer yourself, it could be serious golf widow time. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing here.
The Belfry, Warwickshire
Bit of a special one, this is. The Belfry has hosted more Ryder Cup matches than any other venue on either side of the pond. It might, had project management been a ‘thing’ back in the early 80s, have even hosted more than that (more on that later). The Brabazon course has some all mighty bunkers that anyone with a penchant for naughty words and a spot of alliteration will know what I’m getting at. The late great Seve Ballesteros is oft remembered for his epic drive onto the 10th green here in 1985 when the European team kept the cup on home soil.
As a holiday destination, Birmingham might not be top of your list. But The Belfry is superbly located for a break in historic Warwickshire or a city break with some hardcore shopping.
The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport
The one and only time The Ryder Cup came to Wales, it came here to the outskirts of Newport. 2010 was a successful contest for the European team led by Colin Montgomerie. From the foursomes, through the fourballs and on to the singles match play, the match took place on the Twenty Ten Course. It was a tightly fought contest, heralded as one of the best on British soil by the then PGA chairman.
While it took a team of 110 greenkeepers to get the course in shape for the match, you might be more interested in the spa or the three new restaurants that have opened here in the last year – all to critical acclaim. Go on, feast your way through a piece of Welsh history.
The K Club, Co Kildare
As luxe and exclusive as it sounds, it’s not synonymous with everyday golf. But it is as befitting the bling that surrounds The Ryder Cup these days as much as it does the glamorous wives and partners of the team players. Arguably, a golfing holiday in Ireland would be incomplete without a visit, but let’s assess your handicap before you get any grandiose ideas of glory. Like every other course in this list, it’s designed (in an encouraging way) to challenge your game.
The modesty of golf is long gone and the battle that took place here in 2006 was not memorable for its closeness. Moreover it cemented the friendly yet competitive rivalry of the modern day golf match. For Ireland’s first chance at hosting, my oh my, what a venue!
Walton Heath GC, Surrey
1979 was the first time European golfers joined what had previously just been Great Britain and Ireland. So it was here in 1981 that team Europe played on British soil together for the first time.
Surrey played host to this affair because the Brabazon at The Belfry wasn’t ready (now you know). The same might have been said about the European team that played that year. They lost the match a stonking 9 and a half points to the USA’s 18 and a half. But Team USA was frontloaded with on-form major championship winners of significant pedigree.
Moortown Golf Club was the first British golf course to host The Ryder Cup when the contest came to these shores with its new title in 1929. This was the first time that the £250 gold cup left US shores. The same cup is still played for today. The wee man atop the cup in mid golf swing is British golfer Abe Mitchell, golf coach to Samuel Ryder and one of the successful British players in that 1926 match.
Who knew that the lush countryside on the outskirts of Leeds was home to one of Britain’s most acclaimed golf courses. The course was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie who is famous for his creation of Augusta National – home of the US Masters – amongst plentiful other international championship courses. How’s that for a fact?!
Royal Lytham & St Annes, Lancashire
The glorious links course of Lancashire has hosted The Ryder Cup twice, once in 1961 and again in 1977. It remains an unassuming place, where the accolade of hosting such a prestigious event goes barely unrecognised. The glory has not gone to its head, the greats of golf still come, the tournaments and qualification rounds for major championships do too.
Just like its Lancashire home, this is a peaceful kind of place, few airs and graces beyond the traditional etiquette of golf. But don’t let that fool the ambitious (or dare we say arrogant) golfer in your midst. With some 200+ bunkers, you could be taking more than a touch of the beach home in the boot with you…
South Yorkshire welcomed the 12th Ryder Cup to its rolling landscape in 1957 and it was a home win. Three years later the course welcomed the Curtis Cup, which is the women’s amateur version of The Ryder Cup. (Although the Curtis Cup has yet to invite the Europeans to play…)
The heathland and moorland course proved too much for the Americans; it’s another of those iconic courses created by Dr MacKenzie. And what a precious win. Prior to this match, Team USA had won seven matches in a row. It’s also the last British golf course to host a victory of what was the original team make up: Great Britain and Ireland.
Wentworth Club is all lush greenery nestled in the mature and private trees of Virginia Water, one of Surrey’s most exclusive suburbs. They describe it as an oasis. They’re not far wrong. While you can also pack your tennis racket and your foodie’s palate, with three championship courses on offer, this is one of Britain’s legendary golf clubs.
After that jolly golfing event attended by Samuel Ryder, the club next hosted the established event in 1953. That when the second and last time the great Henry Cotton captained the GB and Ireland team. Bettering his first captaincy attempt, this was a close, albeit unsuccessful, match. Wonder what he’d make of the rumour that Wentworth’s new owners want to charge a whopping £125,000 member joining fee. Gulp!
See, we’re not the only ones with a place in our hearts for Scarborough. When the ‘stars’ of the golfing world came for a spot of match play here in 1949 there were high hopes for Team GB going into the final day, alas the Americans took the little gold cup home.
It was a victory for Team USA here under the guidance of the great American golfer Ben Hogan. Hogan was the first professional golfer to ever win three major championships in the same year. Tiger Woods was only the second some 47 years later.
Southport & Ainsdale, Southport
Things got heated here in 1933 in one of the closest matches in the history of the game. The final putts of the last match were the deciders and the British team held their nerve to take victory.
A two time Ryder Cup venue (it also hosted in 1937) that was designed by James Braid. This undulating links course is, like many coastal golf courses, a toughie. Sand dunes and gorse are not quite what seaside golfing dreams are made of, if you’re having a bad day. Probably not the place to drop your handicap, but if you’re feeling lucky…
Muirfield, East Lothian
Host to one United States win (1973) and one European team win (1987), Muirfield is a member of the old school of golf. It’s so old school in fact, that early in 2016 it was removed from the list of possible venues for The Open because the club still refuses to admit women members. Shock horror!
The club and its membership dates back to 1744, when the Company of Edinburgh Golfers was created. But it didn’t make itself at home at Muirfield until 1891.
Royal Birkdale GC, Southport
This championship golf course in Lancashire is home to a Ryder Cup legend of sorts. It was here in 1969 that the result of the contest was tied; the first time that had ever happened. And it’s only happened once since, at The Belfry in 1989.
This is Southport’s claim to fame with its accolade of Britain’s best golf course. It hosted the match in 1965 and 1969.
And there you have it – a tour of some of Britain’s most challenging golf courses. You now know that the United States has won 25 matches to Europe’s 13 (including when it was just GB then GB and Ireland). The next time The Ryder Cup comes to Europe, in 2018, it will be held in France. But for the 2016 event (which by the way starts on 27 September at Hazeltine National Golf Club), the European captain is Darren Clarke.
So once you’ve committed all of the above to memory, just cross your fingers and hope Europe wins!