5. Royal Birkdale -- England (1965, 1969) Many of the game's elite consider this course to be the finest of all Open rota layouts. Checking in at No. 30 in the world, Birkdale boasts towering sand hills and no blind shots. Host to nine Opens, most recently Padraig Harrington's win in 2008, it might be best known as the site of the Concession, when Jack Nicklaus conceded Tony Jacklin's two-and-a-half footer to preserve a 16-16 tie, one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship in golf history.
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4. The Country Club -- Massachusetts (1999) Home to the history-making U.S. Open of 1913, where Francis Ouimet stunned British titans Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the course now informally known as Brookline provided even more drama in its Cup debut, thanks to Justin Leonard's heroic 45-foot bomb at the 17th. It also focused renewed attention on Rees Jones's game-changing restoration, one of history's best, which explains its ranking of 37th in the world.
3 of 10Courtesy of Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort
3. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort -- South Carolina (1991) The "War by the Shore" took place over a brand new Pete Dye course that played so hard that Ryder Cuppers such as Raymond Floyd and Nick Faldo wondered aloud if they might not break 80 -- or even finish the round -- if the event were stroke play. Ranked No. 45 in the World, Kiawah's Ocean Course may not be a textbook links, but it dished out a thrilling match play test that windy week, when Bernhard Langer's missed six-footer returned the Cup to the U.S.
4 of 10Chris Condon/PGA TOUR/Getty Images
2. Muirfield Village -- Ohio (1987) Jack Nicklaus' dream course currently ranks 52nd in the world and is a favorite of U.S. PGA Tour players. Even a home game couldn't stop the U.S. from dropping its second straight Cup, thanks to overwhelming efforts from Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, who handled the superb risk/reward par 5s and the wonderful drive-and-pitch par-4 14th better than the Americans.
5 of 10Warren Little/Getty Images
The jury is still out on Medinah, so we'll reserve judgment for now on where it ranks as a Ryder Cup venue. Here is our pre-2012 ranking for best and worst Ryder Cup sites, based on architectural merit, course ranking status and the excitement the design yielded during the actual competition(s). -- Travelin' Joe PassovBEST1. Muirfield -- Scotland (1973) Ranked No. 9 in the world, site of 15 British Open Championships and host to the 2013 Open, this exclusive Harry Colt redesign was recently feted by Gary Player, who stated, "It gives you so many options to play so many shots. Muirfield has stood the test of time and that's the mark of a great design." Jack Nicklaus paired twice with Arnold Palmer and twice with reigning Open champion Tom Weiskopf to lead the U.S. to a 19-13 win.
6 of 10Andrew Redington/Getty Images
5. K Club (Palmer) -- Ireland (2006) To be honest, this isn't a bad course, especially with superior risk/reward holes such as the par-5 16th and 18th. However, it makes our list not only because the Emerald Isle boasts so many outstanding links courses that would have made superior hosts, but also because there are better parkland courses within 45 minutes, such as Druids Glen and Mount Juliet. The lush fairways and totally Americanized bunkers and water features added to the disappointment for course connoisseurs.
7 of 10John G. Zimmerman/SI
4. Eldorado -- California (1959) Others cast their vote in this spot for Thunderbird, its Palm Springs neighbor that hosted the 1955 matches, but this then-year-old Lawrence Hughes design looked as immature as it played, with its smattering of resort-style palm trees and shallow bunkers. A further quirk involved the course setup, where players practiced from the tips but found the tees moved up to the front of the boxes once play began, presumably to promote dozens of birdies. Alas, the dull encounter saw the U.S. trim Great Britain, 8 1/2 to 3 1/2.
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3. Southport and Ainsdale -- England (1933, 1937) Some might nominate the 1957 site, Lindrick, for this spot, which was a short, inland, parkland course twice crossed by roads. It was picked on the strength of one quality, according to David Feherty, "a rich benefactor." Yet, S&A, as the locals call it, wallows in its own sort of mediocrity. It boasts dunes, but they aren't all that dramatic, and the one celebrated hole, the par-5 16th, was once dismissed by Tom Doak as "a letdown, like the rest of the course."
9 of 10Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images
2. East Lake Golf Club -- Georgia (1963) I could toss in Portland Golf Club, which was a soggy, sodden mess for the 1947 match, but special mention has to go to this version of Bobby Jones's home course, which had been transformed (they called it "modernized") by architect George Cobb from the Donald Ross edition into something much less noteworthy. Somehow, Arnold Palmer lost a singles match to Peter Alliss, but the U.S. routed Great Britain 23-9. Today, a Rees Jones redesign/restoration has put the "classic" back into East Lake.
10 of 10David Cannon/Getty Images
WORST1. The Belfry (Brabazon) -- England (1985, 1989, 1993, 2002) Let's be fair: The Belfry managed to produce serious drama over the years, thanks to a thrilling risk/reward par-4 10th and a long, watery par-4 18th fraught with three-putt possibilities. And yes, they did improve the course over the years. But what a tragedy that we had to endure four Cups at this reformed potato field with American-style design accents and a collection of holes that mostly ranged from forgettable to deadly dull.
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