Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ryder Cup venues

Celtic Manor hosts the 2012 Ryder Cup, Gleneagles hosts it in 2014 and Germany are favourites for 2018. Germany aside, how is it possible that no Ryder Cup has been held on a links course? Simple: money. The K Club pumped in ten years' worth of money hosting the European Open, in order to be top of the list to host the competition when it came to Ireland in 2006. The full page review in the Irish Times (20/6/06), by American golf writer Bruce Selcraig, was scathing and dismissive of the course. As a venue it's very impressive, but as a course the writer compared its Disney World charm with the Rembrandts and Cezannes we have elsewhere. It's a fair point.

But, at the end of the day, every competitor is playing the same venue, so it's going to be exciting whether it's played over a links or one giant field. It's one of the reasons I don't understand why the professionals complain about a course; the pin positions at this year's British Open at Turnberry have resulted in a number of compaints by the pros, claiming they are unfair. But they're unfair for everyone, so use your head and play course management. Maybe that's why Tom Watson is leading after three rounds.

Back to the Ryder Cup. Wales in 2012 is a concern for many in the world of golf as there seem to be all sorts of problems at Celtic Manor - from worrying if the course is going to be ready/playable on time, to worrying if players will fall asleep mid-round due to the course's dullness. The same may be true of Gleneagles in 2014. The Ryder Cup won't even be played over the 'first' and premier course (King's), but over the PGA Centenary Course, which is generally acknowledged as being the weakest of the club's three courses. I played King's in 2007, paying £130 for the privilege, and I was disappointed - as were my playing partners, and when it started to rain on the back 9, there was little hesitation in walking in.

Money is the big driver in the Ryder Cup. The same can be said of any sport - look at the Olympics in China, a country that is allowed to get away with human rights abuses at every turn because of its size and global influence - but surely when you have two sides competing against each other, the 'home' nation would choose a venue that would give it the best advantage. But money is money and it is used to influence everything. Smurfit has the financial clout to get his own way, while courses like Ballybunion and The European can only offer the brilliance that comes from an exceptional links course... and not the money to entice the sponsors, the golf unions, tourist bodies and all the other hangers-on.

This is a shame because watching a Ryder Cup played over a true links would be a fascinating spectacle. With Tiger Woods missing The Open cut, and Tom Watson trying his best to make today's professionals look like spoilt children, it would certainly throw up a few interesting Captain's Picks for the US captain.

1 comment:

  1. Can't believe you played 300+ courses in Ireland, there's only 38 great ones on, what are they missing, here's a link: